How do we increase velocity without increasing traffic jams? The concept of warehouse zones is nothing new.
But you can double-leverage the concept by using an ascending-descending approach to zone picking. This picking method allows for faster picking of large and/or multiple orders, reducing the time needed to get an order fully processed from rack to dock.
This approach gives managers, planners, and workers the ability to provide concentrated attention to the highest priority orders and improve overall service. The setups are simple and can easily be applied to virtually any picking operation using Microsoft Dynamics and the mobile device functionality (2012r3 or D365).
The primary setup will be in the areas of Work templates and Mobile device menu items.
Directing the picks to a specific mobile device menu item will require creation and application of a unique work class for each zone. Once this is complete, the work template must be created for each zone, with the query set to allow only picks from the desired zone. It will also be important to set sorts and corresponding work breaks on the work template(s). Break by location and by order (also by item, if multiple items are allowed in one location).
In this instance, we will use two zones, BULK and FLOOR. The work template set to create work for picks from zone BULK has a corresponding work class of BulkZone, where the work template for picks coming out of zone FLOOR has a corresponding work class of FloorZone.
Mobile device menu items
The introduction of unique work classes provides the option of creating multiple menu items set to “system directed” picking at either the sales order, shipment, or wave level. With one user, a single menu item can be used to pick ascending or descending by either sort code or location.
With two menu items, User1 can pick ascending and User2 can pick descending. This is accomplished in the system-directed sorting orders. Since WorkID is already sorted by location, the menu items can then be sorted by WorkID to allow for ascending and descending paths.
When the wave has been processed and released, the pickers will go to their assigned menu item and begin to pick. As they continue with the picking, one of two things will happen. If solo, User1 will get to the end of the zone. If teamed, User1 will meet zone mate User2 in the middle of the zone (give or take, based on pick distribution and picker efficiency).
As a bonus, all of this can run right along-side any existing setups you may have. By assigning an attribute to the wave and referencing that same attribute in the query of your work template(s), you can create a “hard-charge” menu for handling large or quick-turn orders. Imagine the last truck of the day hasn’t been started yet and it's 15 minutes to closing time. What happens if you put two, four, six or even eight people on knocking this out? It gets knocked out. Four zones, eight pickers: 1-Up, 1-Down, 2-Up, 2-Down, 3-Up, 3-Down, 4-Up, 4-Down and go!
In this blog I've detailed the setups required to pick by zone with the ability to add another user to the same order/zone without creating conflicting traffic patterns. It's a simple yet effective way to build a relief valve into your picking process. Faster and safer within the same solution does not have to be a myth. But it will forever remain a myth if it is not actively engaged.