Most warehouse activity involves filling outgoing orders.  An effective WMS system has the potential to minimize time and material losses associated with order filling activities.  Features that lead to savings include:


Product Verification.  The bar code or voice recognition features of a WMS system verify that the item being pulled from stock is the one called for on the sales or transfer order.  Time is not lost in correcting situations where material was picked in error.  Lost sales resulting from disappointed customers are also minimized as the correct quantity of the right items is consistently pulled from stock to fill orders.


Lot Tracking of Material.  It is imperative that items with expiration dates be filled on a FIFO (i.e., first in – first out) basis.  A “lot” contains quantities of a product that were produced by a manufacturer at the same time in the same production run.  A WMS system will direct the order pickers to the locations and the lots that contain the quantities of products with the shortest shelf life.  The result:  the elimination of overlooked quantities of now expired products that must be liquidated. The tracking of lot numbers by a WMS system also allows a distributor to easily meet government or industry product tracking requirements.


Directed Order Picking.  A good WMS system directs an order picker along the most efficient path through the warehouse when picking orders.  To minimize order fulfillment time, the system will send the order picker to the location that has the oldest stock or contains the entire quantity needed to fill the product.  Backtracking and “dead head” time (i.e., the amount of time workers spend traveling through the warehouse without material) is minimized.


Wave Picking.  Wave picking is the process of an order picker filling multiple one or two line orders in one pass through the warehouse.  The WMS system provides a single packing list with the total quantity of each item that must be pulled from stock as well as how it must be allocated between the orders being filled.


Zone Picking.  Many warehouses contain hundreds of thousands of square feet in storage space.  Others are comprised of multiple floors or buildings in which material is stored.  It doesn’t make sense to send a single order picker through the facility to fill a single order.  To alleviate this problem a WMS system can utilized zone picking.  When utilizing zone picking, the system creates separate picking documents for each area of the warehouse.  The picker in each area fills the items stored in his or her section and sends the material by conveyor to the shipping and staging area where the material on the order from each section is consolidated, verified for accuracy and packaged for shipment.


Next month we will explore how a WMS system can help ensure that you maintain an accurate inventory.  In the meantime, if you have any questions let us know!