Management of manual warehouse. All warehouse employees are online, receiving orders via personal iPads. They are picked directly to be packed for shipping. Picking and packing is consolidated into a single operation. Calculation of the volume of orders specifies the size of the packaging.
av form is one of Scandinavia's leading suppliers of creative resources for education and creative expression in schools, institutions and kindergartens. A large proportion of orders are received via av form’s web shop or via email and telephone. The market is highly competitive and characterised by price pressure from public customers.
They made the decision to optimise the warehouse and other procedures in recognition of the fact that an increasing number of orders and a rapidly increasing range of products in a short time frame were going to provide a logistics problem. The company’s objective was also to achieve a better bottom line by departing from a traditional paper solution and introducing new technology to provide better overview, and to streamline working procedures in the manual workshop.
The situation in the workshop was such that everything from beads and drawing pencils to hula hoops and carnival drums were handled by 12 permanent warehouse employees, supplemented in the high season by up to 20 extra temporary workers. They picked on the basis of traditional printed pick slips.
The company conducted an analysis to throw light on the challenges. It clearly indicated that av form had a low utilisation rate of the warehouse premises, because they were laid out inappropriately. This resulted in inefficient working procedures, in which employees were spending too much time picking and packing orders.
The analysis kick-started a major warehouse turnaround consisting of a new warehouse layout, optimisation of processes and flow, new technologies etc. In essence, it was all about exploiting the warehouse’s structure and resources in the best possible way.
After careful consideration about automation, voice control technology, and a warehouse management system, av form decided to enter into cooperation with Logimatic to implement a scalable warehouse management system, which would improve efficiency and reduce costs in the manual warehouse.
Now paper pick lists have been replaced by the LOGIA WMS and all warehouse employees are equipped with smart iPads, in which online information about warehouse data, processes and stocks is presented simply and clearly.
The layout of the warehouse was changed within the existing structure. Partitions were removed and shelving repositioned, so flow in the warehouse is optimal, providing flexibility related, for example, to seasonal variations.
For example, there is a warehouse area for dynamic picking areas, which are used for goods, which are sold in large quantities at certain times of the year (e.g. materials for Christmas cut-outs and carnival and promotional items). In these cases it is inappropriate to place the items in question in picking locations several times during the day, only to pick them immediately. The dynamic picking area can accommodate large amounts of current products, and on his/her picking route the warehouse employee gets guided to the dynamic picking area.
Overall, the manual warehouse consists of an area of pallet shelving for pallets and an area of shelving for packages. All items have fixed picking sites and the placement of items is primarily determined by the item's characteristics in relation to the packaging process, and then by the item’s alphabetical categorisation.
At av form, an automatic order machine compiles picking rounds as batches with up to six orders at a time.
The automatic order machine is based on a queue of orders, classified according to the orders’ shipping times. Orders are not activated if there is insufficient stock in a picking area.
When an employee is ready for a new round of picking, s/he is assigned the next picking round from the queue.
Picking routes follow the optimal package sequence and ensure that goods are picked in an order that is aligned with how they will be packed in the shipping packaging.
In the ‘old’ warehouse, the time spent looking for items and picking and packing them was disproportionately long. Today, the time and the actual handling of items has been cut down to a minimum. Orders are picked in batches of up to six orders at a time and the goods are immediately transferred to the shipping packaging, which is included on the picking cart.
Naturally, this operation depends on the master data being valid and containing the dimensions of the goods. With the right information, the system can calculate volume and specify the most suitable shipping packaging for each individual order. The volume calculator suggests the smallest box with volume greater than the calculation.
When a round of picking starts, the employee receives information about the sizes of packaging s/he needs to take on the picking cart and the specified position of the boxes on the cart. Labels for each order are printed automatically, and then attached to the packages.
Throughout his or her picking round, the employee is guided to the right picking locations and the iPad displays the number of items to be picked, the shipping packaging the items need to be placed in and where the packaging is places on the picking cart. It is efficient and ensures a minimum of error. Orders containing picking from both storage areas are consolidated before they are transferred to shipping.
When the picking round is finished, the employee transfers the picking boxes on a conveyor belt to the shipping area. The packaging operator scans notifies completing of packaging, the delivery note is printed and the cargo is directed via the interface to Consignor. The shipping label is printed and the order is ready for pick-up and delivery.
av form care about their employees' well-being. When it came to the warehouse project it was important for employees to experience the changes as an obvious improvement. For the same reason, av form decided not to use voice control technology, because it would be too robot-like and too much of a cultural upheaval. av form prefers to have satisfied employees who communicate with colleagues rather than a device.
In terms of investment, iPads are far cheaper than traditional warehouse terminals, and the stock at av form is suited to the slightly more fragile media platforms. Employees are guided through all working processes and report back to the WMS, which is integrated with the company's ERP system.
This provides an overview of the warehouse, but other departments in the company such as sales and purchases can keep abreast of the current status and take into account status of orders, stock, product placement, staffing etc.
av form's culture is defined as “standstill equals decline.” They work constantly to optimise and improve their logistics. For example, they are considering utilising the warehouse space even more efficiently and optimising the logistic processes by combining the manual warehouse with an automated warehouse.
The option of uniting the whole warehouse and managing the manual and automatic warehouses via the same WMS was one of the reasons that av form chose the Logimatic solution.
"We constantly attempt to develop our business and strengthen our position in the market. It has been pretty successful, but has also imposed major challenges on the warehouse. LOGIA WMS has now given us control, streamlining our processes and providing us with better use of our storage space. Our goal was to improve efficiency by 20%. We have already achieved that."