SCDigest Editorial Staff
The following article was taken in part from a recent edition of The Supply Chain Digest Letter on Advanced Order Picking Systems. To download a copy of that Letter and access other information, please see our Resources Page: Advanced Order Picking Systems Resources Page.
There are a wide range of potential picking system options, from manual, paper-based systems to highly automated approaches.
So how do you select which option(s) are right for you? For many companies, the question is: where do you begin? The smart answer for most companies: SKU and order activity profiling.
What is Activity Profiling?
The process of gathering and analyzing data is about both order profiles (orders per day/shift, lines per order, items per line, etc.) and individual SKU activity (volumes, breakdown by unit of measure, etc.).
Let’s state right up front that although order and SKU profiling is key to order picking system design and technology selection, few companies seem to have the data readily available, even in this age of ERP, WMS, data warehouses and other software systems, which one would think would contain the required information. In some cases, the data is available or largely available, but is in different software systems. The data from these different sources must be merged. In other cases, key data is not available or is very hard to get at. Examples of the former might include product dimensions and weight; examples of the latter might include order line detail, which can be obtained but only after a decent effort by the IT department to massage archived data.
In all cases, companies must carefully look at both what data is available and how accurate that data is.
Data Needed for Picking System Design
According to Cliff Holste, SCDigest’s Material Handling System Editor, to determine order picking strategies and technologies, companies need to obtain and analyze the following types of data:
- Order mix distribution (family mix, handling unit, order increment)
- Lines per order distribution
- Cube per order distribution
- Lines and cube per order distribution
Analysis should, in part, develop a SKU velocity profile, similar to the chart below. The analysis will then also typically involve breaking this data down into movement by different handling/ picking units, such as full pallet, full case and split case volumes.
(Distribution and Materials Handling Article - Continued Below)