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Cliff Holste

Supply Chain Digest
Material Handling Editor

Logistics News - Sorting It Out

Cliff Holste is Supply Chain Digest's Material Handling Editor. With more than 30 years experience in designing and implementing material handling and order picking systems in distribution, Holste has worked with dozens of large and smaller companies to improve distribution performance.

December 7, 2016

Sorting It Out : Improve DC Efficiency With Alternative Storage & Picking Methods

New Technology For Managing An Old Problem


Many shippers maintain dedicated picking positions for slow movers. Unfortunately, this takes up valuable pick-face space that is being poorly utilized while at the same time increases order picking paths. Some have found significant improvement through the adoption of Goods-to-Person (GTP) technologies.

A good GTP example utilizes mini-load AS/RS for managing slow-moving SKUs. In this scenario, when a slow-moving SKU is required, the crane-like multi-shuttle system retrieves that item from its high bay storage location and creates a temporary pick face for it. When order fulfillment is complete the AS/RS places that SKU back into storage. This eliminates the need for a dedicated pick face for each slow mover, while improving picking efficiency.

Holste Says...

Many shippers maintain dedicated picking positions for slow movers...Some have found significant improvement through the adoption of Goods-to-Person (GTP) technologies.

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A semi-automated version of the above utilizes dynamic slotting functionality of your WMS. In this scenario when an order is released that includes a slow moving SKU without a dedicated pick face, a temporary pick slot is created by the WMS. That slot is then filled via order picker truck with the required amount of product from reserve storage.

Another well established alternative GTP utilizes horizontal and/or vertical carousels to handle slow movers. For example – one of the world’s largest fragrance companies found that while its 900 slowest moving SKUs amounted to only about 2 percent of total volume, they led to substantial bottlenecks in order processing. They implemented two 65 foot long, five-shelf, light-directed horizontal carousels, which led to much more effective picking operations and storage density for those slow movers.

It is noteworthy that carousels are used extensively in service parts distribution – an environment often characterized by huge numbers of mostly slow moving SKUs.

Final Thoughts

The above provides just a few examples of managing slow movers with GTP methods. No doubt SKU proliferation will continue which will require shippers to process and manage increasingly differentiated products with shorter life cycles and low volumes. Therefore, it may be time to re-think traditional storage and picking methods in order to better support an increasingly dynamic marketplace.

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