Making sure product is in the right place at the right time
What are your habits when it comes to filling your car with gas? Do you fill up before reaching 1/2 empty, wait for a “low fuel” warning light, or wait until you need gas for a trip? Do you adjust your habits for different driving conditions? What kind of driver are you when it comes to replenishment in your warehouse? What kind of controls do you use?
Your objective is relatively simple – make sure product is available in location so that orders can be picked as efficiently as possible while minimizing replenishment labor.
Replenishment efficiency is primarily a factor of SKU velocity, slot capacity, and replenishment parameters. At one point your warehouse may have had optimized replenishment processes. However over time order profile, personnel, SKU velocity, units-per-case, layout, and other changes have likely eroded the integrity of your optimization equation.
So how can you improve your replenishment efficiency? Your Exeter WMS baseline supports 4 types of automated replenishment:
Online – User defined % of capacity automatically triggered by picking activity. The system automatically generates a replenishment directive once the picking slot falls below a set percentage of capacity. This is generally the most common and effective form of replenishment for pallet slots.
Batch – User defined % of capacity triggered by user request to top-off ranges of active locations. This is a particularly effective replenishment process for case refills minimizing the number of trips between reserve and forward pick locations.
Wave – Based on shipping order demand and triggered during wave generation. Wave replenishments must be closely coordinated and completed before initiating picking. Wave replenishment is defined at the zone level and is exclusive of other replenishment methods. It works well in environments with long (at least 24 hour) planning cycles. A good example is retail where picking is based on the shipping schedules for stores. Waves are pre-defined and executed in sequence. This gives you the opportunity to compare available inventory with forthcoming demand and to adjust your replenishment timing and volumes appropriately. Wave replenishment may also offer advantages for SKUs with volatile demand. If the replenishment might exceed the pick slot capacity in anticipation of higher order volumes, access to a nearby overflow space will also be desired.
Combination – A Combination of batch and online replenishment works well for static shelf and case-flow active areas. Scheduled batch replenishment would be the primary method complimented by online replenishment for when inventory gets low before a scheduled batch refill.
Of course a customized replenishment process is also an option. We do have customers that run unique replenishment processes to accommodate their specific requirements.
So how can you determine whether your replenishment processes are tuned for maximum advantage? By monitoring replenishment activity and identifying your top exceptions. Your Exeter WMS natively contains the data to report exceptions. You’ll want to look at average velocity, cycle times, capacities, and other factors to identify your outliers. You can view that data using spreadsheets, reports or dashboards. Our preference is dashboards for their ease of use. They are a great way to make sure your warehouse doesn’t “run out of gas”.
Your Exeter WMS is a powerful tool. Replenishment management is another example of how you can use it to drive process improvement and productivity gains. If you think your replenishment routines can use a review, give us a call. We’d be happy to speak with you about your processes and tuning options.