Although recent UK productivity figures were promising, they showed only a slight growth, meaning UK productivity is still one of the lowest in the developed world – and a major issue for UK distribution businesses.
To halt stagnation and reverse decline in productivity, distribution companies need to invest in their operations. In a previous post, we examined 5 steps to increase supply chain productivity. One of recommended actions was investment in warehouse technology, notably in warehouse management systems. WMS can help warehousing operations to make substantial productivity gains, and one of the features that helps significantly with this is directed putaway.
What is Directed Putaway?
Directed putaway is a feature of some WMS platforms. Usually only found in the most sophisticated software systems, it has a number of benefits that mean it can significantly improve productivity in the warehouse.
Based on a pre-defined algorithm, operatives are directed to store stock in the most favourable positions. The algorithm is programmed so that it optimises putaway locations according to a number of criteria that the distribution company can pre-determine. These typically include parameters such as predicted sales volume, price, size and weight, but can also include more specialised aspects. For example, a warehouse may need to segregate hazardous materials or need to store perishable goods under certain conditions, such as refrigeration. Storing items that are often ordered together is also beneficial.
A system will first attempt to put away stock in the optimum location – according to the strictest set of defined criteria. But if that location is not available, then the system will search for another location: one that matches less strict parameters.
Here are four benefits of directed putaway that will boost productivity in the warehouse.
1. Optimising the Warehouse Layout
The WMS will choose the putaway locations that optimise the layout of the warehouse. This will mean improved travelling times and optimised routes through the warehouse so that picking speeds are improved, optimising the picking and fulfilment processes.
2. Boosting Stock of High Volume Products
With directed putaway, high volume products can be allocated to be put away as soon as possible, so that they are always in stock. This avoids searching around for stock that’s just come in. With minimal disruption and delay, therefore, popular products are always available for picking.
3. Location of High Volume Products
Directed putaway can ensure that popular products are directed to be stored in high traffic picking areas. This means that popular stock items are all located near each other, minimising travel time for pickers and again speeding up the picking process and boosting operative productivity.
4. Expediting Putaway
The directed putaway feature in a WMS can direct staff to put away straight to a final location, rather than using a staging area to unload deliveries first. This means less congestion in the warehouse and a more efficient use of space. There’s also less handling of the product, which means that fewer errors are likely to occur. With expedited putaway functionality, product is ready and in stock for picking as early as possible.
Directed Putaway for Warehouse Productivity
Directed putaway takes what may have been a quite complex manual decision-making process and automates it, using pre-agreed rules and logic. In this way, any guesswork on the operatives’ part is eliminated, enhancing their work rates.
With an optimised warehouse layout, and a better utilised workforce undertaking fewer steps and covering less ground while picking, the warehouse is more efficient, more productive, and ultimately more profitable.
We have many customers running many different directed putaway set-ups, and as a result our software consultants have a rich understanding of configuring the rules that optimise warehouse space based on a business’s specific needs and processes.
If you’d like to consider directed putaway as another means of boosting your distribution productivity, call us on 020 8819 9071 or get in touch and we’ll give you a demonstration of directed putaway in action.