Alignment of distribution with other order fulfillment strategies

Order fulfillment a complex process in today‘s fast-paced business climate. Customers demand and expect more from their warehouse and distribution centers, as their orders are more frequent, contain more diverse SKUs and require more custom-tailored solutions. All the while, there is simply no margin for delay, delivery of a low-quality product or order error – and that‘s not even
considering the logistics of distribution and transportation.

To meet these demands, distributors and manufacturers are under pressure to fulfill orders within a shorter time, while maintaining the highest level of service, reaching a broader range of customers and remaining competitive. However, successful order fulfillment begins with the design of the warehouse and picking process. Integrating an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) with warehouse materials handling systems drastically simplifies the picking process to improve order fulfillment. Using robotics, an AS/RS can systematically help pick products, layers and cases from the inventory to palletize and ship to the customer. Today‘s most advanced AS/RS can virtually accommodate any order-picking strategy – it is possible to incorporate pick tunnels within the rack structure to operate with pick-to-light, pick-to-voice technologies, etc., as well as to configure the system to handle products of various shapes and sizes, high movers and slow movers, and even non palletized items. With an AS/RS, organizations can establish efficient picking processes, routes and sequences to enable better overall performance of the warehouse.

One of the chief advantages of an AS/RS in the picking process is labor reduction, especially when it comes to travel time between pick locations. An AS/RS brings the products close to the shelves with high velocity, while the storage and retrieval machine assures that the picker always has product available in the right position. There is no redundant or repetitive manual material handling, and the probability of human error is minimized. So, on top of greater productivity and faster picking, distributors experience increased order accuracy and can reduce product damage. This translates into cost savings that the company can pass on to their customers. Also, it is a common practice that companies utilize accuracy, together with on-time delivery, as customer service key performance indicators (KPIs).

Classifying your inventory from fastest moving to slowest moving helps ensure rapid handling. Grouping your inventory helps to ensure that you always have the right stock levels on your most important items. Put the most popular items in a centrally located area of your warehouse to ensure that they can be picked, packed and delivered to the shipping dock in a minimal amount of time. Slower moving items can be stored in a separate area. This more logical arrangement can really cut down on the time it takes to process and fulfill orders.

Integrating systems for more visibility into all aspects of order fulfillment helps in quick fulfilling of orders. Visibility is needed in demand forecasting, sales, inventory, and logistics. At a minimum, this requires some level of integration between the sales order management system where the order is placed, and the ERP system that maintains financial data, as well as the inventory and logistics systems that that handle the processes for picking, packing and shipping.

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