Picking is the most frequent activity in a warehouse, and the one that takes most of the time so, if you want to improve productivity in your warehouse, the picking process seems the right place to start.
Operators are assigned a set of picking activities, that they perform moving from one place to another to pick the different items from every order. Even though the operators do not stop moving and may seem that the productivity is high, it’s usually far from perfect. There are many different ways of performing the activities, and infinite ways of assigning operators to tasks that, if selected wrong, can reduce your picking productivity drastically. Hence, optimizing these processes is crucial.
Activity item order
Usually, every activity that an operator performs consists on picking several items and then bringing them to a packing or dispatch zone, where it is prepared. Even though the Warehouse Management System usually suggests the order to follow in this picking (first item A, then item B, etc.), this plan is usually generated using simple, naïve strategies such as go from left to right, go first to the nearest item, or, in some cases, the order is only determined by the operator.
There are millions of ways to perform the picking, but only one that is perfect; using the best strategy reduces around 40% the distance that the picker has to travel to pick the different items. By reducing the distance the operators move, you can dedicate more time to manipulate the pallets, perform more activities and be more productive.
Even though minimizing the time spent on single activities is important, the warehouse day-to-day comprises thousands of activities. These activities are assigned to operators by either the WMS or even manually by a coordinator that is looking who is free in which areas, and uses intuition and experience.
In both cases, the strategy followed is not optimal at all. Moreover, having a person coordinating the activities is an incredible waste of time that could be dedicated to more strategic tasks.
When there are tasks to assign to operators, the best decision can be made only taking into account multiple factors such as distance from the operator current point, time to perform the task, deadlines for shipping orders, and, the most important, looking at the future tasks and seeing how assigning one task now would affect to the next tasks.
By leveraging Artificial Intelligence techniques, we are able to evaluate the millions of possible arrangements of items to pick and activities, taking into account not only the present, but also evaluating how each assignment would affect to future tasks, deadlines and performance. This is not possible with current WMSs that use traditional planning techniques or with a human coordinator.
With our warehousing solution, , we complement your current systems by giving the optimal plans that allow you to take the most out of your resources, be more productive and, as a consequence, reduce costs.