Digitizing the Warehouse Stock System
“Work practices define processes, which are analysed, evaluated, supported by software and then improved”.
Many people associate this quote with an acronym, “PDCA”, or, “Plan, Do, Check, Act”. PDCA defines a continuous cycle of change in processes and software and is a principle that’s led to essential improvement in how we locate stock in our warehouse.
When we took a closer look at our warehouse onboarding process, we realised that training a new employee takes a very long time. Even experienced employees often have problems finding products in the warehouse.
To solve this problem, we extended our warehouse system to allocate precise positions to all of our products. The introduction phase was the most critical part of the project, as some areas of the warehouse still used the old system, but had to be compatible with the new system, due to overlapping products.
First, stock locations in the warehouse were saved in the new system, allowing us to precisely locate products. To define our stock locations, we used an approach very similar to an IP scheme, using periods in our sequences to illustrate the different areas in the warehouse. The sequence “S.01.12.02.01”, for example, defines the location of a shelf at our headquarters in Saaz. The “S.01.12.02.01” location describes a product found on the first floor of our warehouse, twelve rows of shelving back, on the second shelf.
As we implemented this change in our warehouse system, location related tasks, or “transfers”, were also introduced. Now, products in the warehouse cannot be moved without using an official transfer, meaning that the flow of goods in the warehouse is visible at all times. The “pick lists” for picking products to fill orders have been converted to the new warehouse system. Now, “pickers” can see exactly where to find products on the warehouse shelves.
Changing our warehouse system took several months, and the entire transition took two years. Nothing changed in terms of our workflow, but software support was implemented to support existing processes.
Conclusion: A Better Overview
Due to our rapid growth over the past few years, it became clear that our warehouse structure needed to be updated to match our growth. By applying the PDCA principle, we developed a new, clear system. We realised the true value of this change during the lockdowns of 2021; it enabled us to quickly train new staff to cope with skyrocketing demand.