Warehouse Replenishment

Warehouse Replenishment: Friend or Foe?

By Greg Kreis
Principal, Tompkins International

Warehouse Replenishment

Nobody likes replenishing pick locations.  It is a non-value added task that occupies labor and equipment resources without directly benefiting the process of completing orders.  Let’s not even talk about case replenishment which creates an additional touch for each case.  Actually, I think we should talk about it.

All too often we visit prospective clients who have made the decision to limit replenishment to pallet quantities or not replenish at all because it is viewed as a waste of resources.  However, willingness to increase replenishment means a decrease in the size of pick locations which translates into reduced travel distances for order selectors.

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What is the Right Replenishment Strategy?

What is the right set up for your operation? That depends.

Let’s look at a simple example to illustrate the type of evaluation that is necessary to make the right decision.  We have 100 items that each ship 6 order lines per day (600 lines per day total) which equates to 1 full case per item per day.  The product can either be picked from pallet locations or carton flow.

Replenishment Scenario #1: Pallet Replenishment

  • Pallet pick locations are 4’6” wide each for a total pick path length of 450 feet
  • In a set up such as this each operator can pick about 75 lines per hour so it would require 8 hours to pick the orders
  • There are only 4 pallets to replenish each day at a rate of 10 pallets per hour which will only take 24 minutes or .4 hours
  • The total man-hours required to pick and replenish in this scenario is 8.4 hours

Replenishment Scenario #2: Carton Flow and Case Replenishment

  • Carton flow locations are 12” wide stacked 4” high so the total pick path length is 25 feet long
  • With this picking arrangement an operator can pick about 200 lines per man hour which results in about 3 hours to complete the orders
  • Replenishment of the 100 cases is done at a rate of 35 cases per hour for 2.9 hours
  • The total man-hours to pick and replenish in this situation is 5.9 hours

You can see with the examples above that using carton flow pick location and replenishing in case units can result in a reduction of man-hours.  While, this is not always the case, it is certainly worth considering when deciding which type of operation you will use for the next 5 to 10 years.

The moral of the story is, sometimes tasks that look cumbersome or create extra touches can actually benefit the overall operation.  Replenishment of pick location is one of those tasks.

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