Does your logistics and warehousing operation use WMS and, if so, do you have it set up to support warehouse task interleaving? If not, you might be shocked to know that you could be missing out on warehouse productivity improvements of up to 30%.
Warehouse Task Interleaving in an Existing DC
However your DC space is laid out, your operation can probably benefit by implementing warehouse task interleaving. However, far greater productivity gains can be made with a warehouse layout that’s optimised to support interleaving. The traditional warehouse layout, with goods-in located at one end of the building and dispatch doors at the other, is not really optimal for warehouse task interleaving.
Of course, if your warehouse has been built according to traditional design, you probably can’t do too much about it without substantial structural modifications. However, there is still a lot you can do with the layout of storage locations within the warehouse space, to enhance the effectiveness of interleaving.
If you are considering the implementation of warehouse task interleaving, remember to carefully consider how you can change your layout and flow to maximise the benefits. Be prepared for those changes to be substantial and for a period of lost productivity, while your workforce adapts to new ways of working.
Warehouse Task Interleaving in a New Distribution Centre
If you are in the fortunate position of starting from scratch, one way in which you can really optimise your DC for warehouse task interleaving, is to eschew traditional design and locate goods receiving and goods dispatch doors in adjacent sets. So for example, you might have a set of five dispatch doors, then a set of five receiving doors and so on.
This configuration places the put-away activity very close to the loading activity for dispatch. As a result, operatives’ travel distances between tasks are reduced, making interleaving much more practicable and effective. This type of layout helps to “close the interleaving loop. So an operative might pick some goods, transport them to a loading door, then move to the adjacent goods-in doors to pick up a pallet and put it away, before replenishing a pick face and then moving to a nearby storage location to pick some more goods.
When planning a new distribution center, you should certainly incorporate the potential for interleaving in its design. In this scenario, you have the most to gain from using interleaving within a well-designed warehouse space. Again though, keep in mind that change management will be needed to ensure your workforce embraces the process and commits to its success.
Technology and Design: The Secrets to Interleaving Success
Prior to the arrival of warehouse management systems with sophisticated task management engines, there was little opportunity to eliminate wasteful “deadheading” (moving through the warehouse without performing any useful task). Now that such software is widely available, deadheading need no longer limit logistics productivity—as long as you are prepared for the DC design changes necessary to make warehouse task interleaving a practical reality.