In an era where supply chains are getting digitized to meet customers’ expectations, it is imperative to improve all the allied functions for synergistic output. WMS is one such cost center that can impact profits if not managed strategically.
In an era where supply chains are getting digitized to meet customers’ expectations, it is imperative to improve all the allied functions for synergistic output. Warehouse management is one such cost center that can impact profits if not managed strategically. Order picking is a warehouse activity that deals with picking products from stock keeping units to ship them to customers. It needs to be streamlined efficiently to create a positive effect on service levels and operational costs. Modern warehouses that deal with thousands of orders in a day need intelligent features like pick path optimization built into their warehouse management software to reduce the cost incurred and time taken during order picking.
Concept of Pick Path Optimization
Pick path optimization is an intelligent process of finding the most optimal route for order pickers to navigate through a warehouse, as they fulfill the order and get it ready for shipping. With pick path algorithms, the warehouse management system (WMS) intends to reduce operational cost and turnaround time while increasing the accuracy of the order picking process.
With ever-increasing consumer expectations of speedy delivery, supply chains are heavily relying on smart algorithms that calculate the fastest and cheapest route to accelerate the pace of order fulfillment.
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Identification of optimal path depends upon the solution of two problems – the Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP) and the Shortest Path Problem. The TSP refers to the problem of finding the shortest route between various locations in the warehouse while visiting every site once and ending the journey at the point where it started.
The shortest path problem focuses on finding the quickest and cheapest path between the current location and all other locations mentioned in the order form for a warehouse.
Impact of Pick Path Optimization on Supply Chain’s Performance
The use of pick path optimization greatly benefits a warehouse management system. WMS is an integral subset of supply chain management; thus, warehouse efficiencies create a positive impact on the overall performance of a supply chain. And, the more a supply chain is streamlined, the higher will be the level of customer satisfaction. Thus, supply chain executives recommend leveraging smart tools to reduce operating expenses and protect profit margins, thereby strengthening the bottom line of business.
According to National Retail Foundation (NRF), modern retailers have started appreciating the importance of supply chain visibility, as supply chains are the source of earning and losing profits. Companies are considering order fulfillment as an opportunity to engage with customers, as delivery significantly affects the brand image.
To keep a handle on inventory and its movement for profitable results, pick path optimization is a valuable feature in their warehouse inventory management software used by companies these days.
How Pick Path Optimization in Warehouse Management Software Improves Stock House Efficiency
Algorithms for optimizing pick paths through a warehouse can be applied to different picking strategies, including wave picking, batch picking, cluster picking, and zone picking.
- Wave Picking: Wave picking is the process of gathering multiple orders on the run to reduce the number of picking trips. Every order is placed in a serialized carton.
- Batch Picking: Batch picking refers to the process of picking multiple orders in batches instead of placing each order directly into the carton. Location, priority, or shipper defines these batches.
- Cluster Picking: As the name suggests, cluster picking involves grouping of multiple orders into small clusters. A picker can pick all the orders under a wave on one-run while placing each order into individual carton similar to wave picking.
- Zone Picking: Under zone picking, every order picker is allotted a physically defined zone in a warehouse. The picker is responsible for collecting items from all stock keeping units placed in a zone.
How Warehouse Efficiencies are Achieved Using Pick Path Optimization
- With optimal routes to traverse in a warehouse, order pickers can save enormous walking time as confusion and duplicate efforts are eliminated.
- Pick path optimization ensures that pickers can access accurate coordinates of items placed across thousands of square feet of the warehouse.
- It improves order fulfillment times and reduces wasted costs on labor and distribution and also handling charges.
- Revenue stream gets expanded as the company can process shipments speedily, correctly, and timely as more items are processed per hour/picker.
- Pick path optimization directly impacts the throughput of the warehouse, which is the ratio of shipped inventory to inbound inventory.
- Pick path optimization supports WMS software to configure the location sequences in different variety of warehouse layouts and handles complex batch orders. It can help to manage the workflow to optimize the system performance.
- Pick path optimization helps in superior inventory management with accurate demand planning in peak seasons.
- With efficient labor allocation and optimal planning, employee morale is also boosted, as they can work with autonomy and higher accuracy.
ASDA, a British supermarket retailer giant, now a subsidiary of Walmart, was facing an acute cost of fulfillment annually until it adopted machine learning and metaheuristics for picking optimization in 2018. The results are visible as pick speed has increased, walk time has reduced, and better utilization of trolleys has been observed.
Industries that can benefit from Warehouse Management Systems that have Pick Path Optimization
Intelligent path-planning is a strategic process that improves the overall productivity of warehouses, where hundreds of orders of different sizes are processed in a day. All types of warehouses, including retail and packing warehouses, cold storages, railway, and canal warehouses, face the common challenge of optimizing designated paths to cut down operational costs.
Companies dealing in but not limited to consumer packaged goods, pharmaceuticals, service parts, electronics, footwear and accessories, stationery, packaged food, cosmetics and personal hygiene products, appliances, groceries, perishable products and apparel can expedite picking productivity by using pick path optimization. They can stay ahead of competitors in delivering products faster and economically to their customers.
A study reveals that the order picking process includes activities like traveling, searching, extracting, and paperwork, of which 55% of the time is spent on traveling. Thus, the optimization technique proves to be a boon for modern warehouses.
Most Suitable Warehouse Management Software for Pick Path Optimization
Warehouse Management System software is equipped with sophisticated pick path algorithms to offer streamlined solutions for order picking processes in all types of warehouses with different layouts. Celero WMS, a product of Katalyst Technologies, is an advanced Warehouse Management Solution offering effective and efficient warehouse operations such as picking, packing, shipping, and cycle counting along with AI capabilities in wave picking and the allocation process.
Celero WMS is driven by an optimized pick path A* algorithm, an elaboration of Dijkstra’s Algorithm to calculate the optimized route between different stock keeping units (SKUs). It is remarkable to note that the results of A* optimized algorithm are better than either the S-shaped heuristic (serpentine path) or the largest gap heuristic. The cost of traversing through a warehouse is minimum (78 units) as compared to 107 units in S-shaped path and 114 in Largest Gap path when Celero WMS powered by A* optimized algorithm is implemented.
Warehouse efficiency is one of the elements that directly affects supply chain performance and customer satisfaction. Katalyst Technologies helps businesses achieve customer delight through end-to-end implementation of WMS software.
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