In our previous blog post introducing the Maturity Matrix, we explained how this method aids in the current state assessment of a company, allowing for a clear improvement strategy to be identified. As the next post in the series on the Matrix, we will be discussing the Warehouse and Fulfillment Process, more specifically addressing the improvement area of material handling and putaway.
What is Material Handling?
Material handling is defined as the management of the movement of a product throughout a warehouse. There are a few tangible items that make this movement possible, those being lift trucks, pallet jacks, and fully automated systems.
Lift trucks require the use of RF terminals and portable devices carried by employees. These devices are an essential component, as they boost productivity while reducing data entry errors. Pallet jacks are necessary in lifting and moving pallets. Customized conveyer systems, automated guided vehicle systems, and automated storage systems are three specific fully automated systems that are necessary for a smooth shop-floor environment.
Housekeeping and Safety
Another essential piece to the warehouse process is housekeeping and safety measures. A good housekeeping strategy must be part of any best-in-class warehouse, as best-in-class processes cannot succeed in a workplace that is cluttered, disorganized, or dirty. More importantly, workplace conditions can lead to several undesirables, including:
- Product damage
- Safety issues
- Extra motion to avoid obstacles
- Time spent searching for things
- Delays due to defect
- Machine failures
Types of Material Handling
There are two specific types of material handling in the warehouse – cross docking and directed putaway. Cross docking occurs when you move specific products to support an open order or replenishment request. This process has a very minimal handling delay. On the other hand, directed putaway is the process of moving material from the dock to the pick area or inventory location.
There are a few different types of receiving, or staging types with directed putway. Along with items being put away directly from receipt to final location, they can also be received or “staged” by:
- Purchase order
- Product number
- Putaway zone
Warehouse Processing Metrics
The next aspect to consider in terms of warehouse processing is metrics. The four main metrics to think about in this stage are:
- Putaway errors
- Staging area utilization
- Equipment utilization
- Warehouse damage
The Best Way to Achieve Product Identification
Along with the metrics and varying types of receiving practices, another important piece to the warehouse process puzzle is product Identification. This step can be done many ways, but we find best practice companies identify products using some form of barcoded label or RFID tag. We think product identification, zone or location labels and pallet license plates should all be utilized throughout the putaway process.
What’s Next to Come in the Maturity Model Series
Material handling and putaway is just the beginning when it comes to the warehouse and fulfillment process as a whole. Slotting, storage & inventory control, and shipment documentation are just three other components to this process, and will be covered along with the others in blog posts to come. If you’re looking to see how our maturity matrix model helps you with your ERP project, contact Ultra today.