Assuming that your business is growing, you’re probably looking for a solution that optimizes or streamlines your order fulfillment process. If that’s the case, warehouse slotting could be the strategy for you.
When done right, it can offer you the efficiency boost you need to take your business to the next level.
What is Warehouse Slotting?
Warehouse slotting is the task of organizing a warehouse for optimal order fulfillment efficiency. It seems simple at first. However, there are some key strategies to making this process work well.
This is because warehouse slotting involves a lot of planning; as well as arranging products in a way that makes sense for your business. Ultimately, warehouse slotting can improve productivity and storage capabilities which will directly affect your business’s bottom line.
The Purpose of Warehouse Slotting
Slotting can have a real impact on how your warehouse team operates. This is because it can improve productivity by reducing the time and energy it takes to select items which; in turn, saves on labor costs.
With a clearly defined and thoughtfully organized slotting system, the process to pick items for shipment becomes much easier. Pickers know where to find each item based on your system; they don’t have to spend time wandering around to locate items. It’s like having a roadmap that helps each picker optimize their time looking for each ordered item.
Furthermore, rearranging inventory into a more efficient storage system can open up space in your warehouse; additionally, saving on storage cost or allowing you to expand.
Warehouse Slotting Optimization
If you are considering using warehouse slotting, you’ll need a slotting strategy. This means having a system to follow in which items are organized by specific categories. It’s all about planning. You should thoughtfully decide how to group products in a way that makes sense for your picking needs.
Consider the items in your inventory. Which ones often get sold together? Are there more popular items? Which are easy to move and vice versa? Considering aspects like these is an important first step in creating an effective slotting strategy. There are many ways to optimize slotting based on your business needs, and below are a few suggestions to consider.
Rank Slots by Priority for Easy Accessibility
Assigning items to slots in your warehouse becomes an advantage when you understand which items go in each slot. Ranking slots by priority is one way to make things easy on your warehouse team.
Group inventory by SKU rapidity or item size and match the items with higher SKU velocity; you can also do this for items bigger in size to the slots in the front pick zone. Doing so will enable fast-moving or big in size items will have a shorter travel distance to the loading dock.
By matching your SKUs to the proper storage method, you can greatly improve picking efficiency.
Review Your Facility Flow, Often
Growth requires periodic changes and improvements to your workflow. The more orders you get, the more streamlined you will want your process to be. That’s why it’s important to review your facility flow often.
The flow should make sense: flowing in one direction from receiving, to stocking, to picking, then shipping. As you grow, you’ll want to keep on top of your facility flow; making sure your process stays seamless and intuitive. This way, your team will continue to be productive during their shifts.
Strategize a Picking Sequence
Following a picking sequence can ensure that items are picked in the most efficient way possible. It helps determine the order in which items are picked to help with; speed, accuracy, and optimal pallet building for shipping. Picking sequence and warehouse slotting strategy are very closely linked. When slots are organized in conjunction with the picking sequence and vice versa, workers can easily execute their picking routes.
Figuring out the right picking sequence and slotting strategy is a balancing act. You may have competing priorities when it comes to which products to place where and in what order they should be picked. For example, it can be wise to place heavier, bulkier items in a choice spot near the loading dock and pick those first. This is because it’s a shorter distance to move and the “heftier stuff first” philosophy makes for sturdier pallets during shipping. However, bigger, heavier items may not be your fastest movers, and you may find yourself also wanting to place your fastest moving products in a prime slot making many of your orders fast and easy to select.
Productivity, speed, and proper shipping practices are all things you want to consider. Moreover, it’s really about striking the perfect balance with your slotting and sequencing that will allow for optimal warehouse operation.
Know Item Attributes
You’ll want to know the key characteristics of each item in order to slot them appropriately. The below characteristics are vital to know when implementing your slotting strategy:
- Unit dimension: You’ll need to know how wide/long/deep an item is; so that you can assign it to an appropriately fitting slot.
- Item Data: Knowing how often an item is purchased in comparison to other items can help you determine its slot. Popular items tend to work well in prime slots. Otherwise, products that get less action can sit further back or may belong in ASRS.
- Unit Weight/Slotting Unit Weight: For quality assurance purposes, weight should be known for each item and slotting unit so that any stacking done in the warehouse does not compromise the quality of products below.
- Pallet Building: Make sure you determine how many of each item will fit on a pallet and how they will stack to make building the pallets for storage or transportation easier.
- Ergonomic Picking: Understand which items will require picking tools (such as a forklift or cart) to increase the ergonomics of the picking task.
- Pick Path Number: Each item will need to be assigned a pick path number to ensure they are correctly incorporated into the picking flow.
- Lines/Frequency: Determine the number of visits the item gets in a certain period of demand.
- X, Y, Z Coordinates: Identify the x,y,z coordinates which can be helpful for locating an item when looking at a birds-eye-view map of the warehouse or storage area.
When It’s Time to Reslot the Warehouse
As your business grows and starts selling more products, it is a good idea to look at re-slotting to include any new inventory into the fulfillment process.
However, sometimes it is hard to determine if it’s really worth spending the entire warehouse to move things around. While desiring efficiency, some businesses can’t see how this process will actually be worth it in the end. The reality is, products evolve with time—maybe one didn’t do so well, or you need to scale up, or a new product was just launched for the new season—and without each product optimally slotted, you run the risk of losing your optimized flow.
Avoid Reslotting with Maintenance Moves
While re-slotting is necessary at times, but it can be a real pain and very time-consuming. If you don’t have the ability to do it at any given point, another solution to re-slotting is a maintenance move.
Utilize Warehouse Slotting by Outsourcing with a 3PL
If you’ve tried slotting, or have started to think about slotting your warehouse, you know it is a lot of work. It takes intensive planning, then the actual labor to do it all. Many growing businesses simply don’t have the time or can’t afford a break in their workflow to invest in warehouse slotting.
The good news is that you can outsource warehousing and inventory management and say goodbye to the stresses of slotting for good. Having a third-party company handle everything warehouse-related, from slotting, to handling, to shipping, allows for you to focus on growing your business without the distraction of warehouse logistics.
By outsourcing your warehousing, you save time on slotting as well as picking, packaging, and shipping. All these things are done for you, allowing you to pour more time and energy into other areas of your business that help you grow.
With a third-party logistics company (3PL) you’ll be able to manage your; incoming orders, shipments, and product returns. In addition, you can save money on things like labor costs, handling, and storage space. Picking and processing orders can be one of the most costly parts of order fulfillment due to the complex nature of warehouse processes. However, with an experienced 3PL doing this for you, you know it will be done efficiently and cost-efficiently.
Partner with the Best 3PL
Print Bind Ship is a full package 3PL partner. We do everything from apparel print, to multimedia and book printing, to order management, packing, handling, and shipping. Managing orders from start to finish is a marathon, and Print Bind Ship has years of experience helping businesses grow by taking care of all of their order fulfillment needs. Contact us today for a free quote. We would love to work with you!