Labeling is Half the Battle

One of my earliest lessons in barcoding and warehouse management is how important labeling is. This lesson was brought home from the first sale I made for the company I worked for back in 2001. I had worked with the customer for a while and consulted the process flow, discussed needs, went onsite and performed a demo of the system and then arranged for the install. The owner of my company then went onsite to install the system. He called me within the first hour and asked me how they were going to print barcodes? The topic never came up. I assumed wrongly that they already were printing them. Now I am almost paranoid in talking about barcode label printing.

When looking into automating with a warehouse system (WMS) or an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) product, barcode labeling is the backbone and half of your battle. Why? For a number of reasons:

Speed – Scanning a barcode is up to 1000% faster than writing down the information

Accuracy – Sometimes when a person writes things down it is hard to read. Scanning is accurate

Useful – You can scan the barcode for many things: PO Receiving, Inventory Moves, Physical/Cycle Counts, and Shipping etc.

I have consulted with many companies that have their inventory already bar-coded. The product is labeled with a barcode by the manufacturer or supplier. The manufacturer/supplier does it for internal purposes and leaves the barcode on. Why not use it? Even if your SKU (Stocking Unit – How you have items setup in your accounting or ERP system) is a different number than your vendor, most systems allow for an alias, cross-reference or like number where you can use the incoming barcode.

Just a thought.

I will be writing more about barcode labeling soon.

If you have any questions about Warehouse Management, Bar-coding, RFID or Supply Chain, give me a call at DCA LABORATORY at 330-858-3782 or email me at cbenedum@dcalab.com. You can also go to our website at www.dcalab.com. At DCA LABORATORY, you will be working with a group of Warehouse Management professionals with over 50 year of cumulative experience in Barcode, Warehouse Management and Supply Chain.

It Starts and Ends in the Warehouse

I work with many small and medium sized businesses, every day in fact, who are looking to automate their warehouse or labor process for efficiency and savings. When I start discussing automation and warehouse management, or do a demo, I often take a “cradle to grave” approach where the cradle is the receiving dock, which is the first point in your businesses supply chain (and often where the headaches and problems start), through the warehouse to shipping, which is “the grave” and now becomes someone else’s headache or “cradle”.

When I talk about the cradle to grave approach, my first topic is labeling because of how important proper labeling is in making automation efficient – and it is. But I am saving labeling for a future post because, before we look at any of this, we need to first consider the warehouse in general. What I mean is, we need to consider how your warehouse is currently laid out and how that might need to change in the future.

We need to look at:

Is our business in a growth phase or a steady state?

Which leads to

Does it appear that the size of our warehouse is sufficient or are we going to outgrow it?

IF

Our warehouse size is OK now but we will outgrow it at some point

Can We

Change the warehouse layout now for efficiency or add-on to it if needed?

OR

Will we need a new warehouse at some point?

The reason this is important, especially for a growing business, is that if you do some of the planning now, you save headaches in the future.

Here is an example: There is a concept in Warehouse Management called Directed Picking. With Directed Picking, the handheld that your user in the warehouse would be using, directs the picking of items in the most efficient manner. Most businesses just starting out don’t have the need for directed picking. But that could change, so you want to think about the logical layout of the warehouse for the future, even if you don’t intend to use Directed Picking starting out. It also makes it easier on the warehouse personnel in to pick items if everything is laid out for ease of picking.

The following diagrams come from a Warehouse Layout Guidelines document I put together at Scanco.

For the setup and numbering of your bins, you may want to look at this type of sequence:

Numbering Scheme Explanation
100-100-10 Aisle-Section-Shelf
10-10-10 Aisle-Section-Shelf
A10A Aisle-Section-Shelf
A-10-10-10-B Zone-Aisle-Section-Shelf-Bin

If you use barcode labeling you will want to create a bar code for every location in your warehouse.
A company will need to consider all shelving in setting up the logic for the picking sequence as far as number of:

Aisle-Sections-Shelf-Bins (see diagram below)
chart1

The diagram shows a sequence that can be used for Wave or Zone picking.
DirectedPicking1

Wave Picking is directional picking for a warehouse and Zone Picking would be directional picking within a zone. Either method would have a route that would look serpentine if viewed from overhead. I will follow up with more information in a future post. If you would like a copy of my Warehouse Guidelines document, email me at cbenedum@dcalab.com or call me at 330-858-3782.