Efficient distribution centers are clean and well-ordered, and they have written standard operating procedures that reflect the DC's actual operation—so states a recent list of best practices compiled by Simon Bragg, senior analyst for ARC Advisory Group. If your DC seeks to join that august company, it's critical that you be able to answer "yes" to a series of questions included on the list, such as, "Can you handle multiple orders simultaneously?" Chances are, the answer will be "no," says Bragg. This type of multi-tasking requires advanced technology, he explains, adding that about two-thirds of mediumsized DCs and about one-third of large operations today are still paper-based.
"Im proving productivity by minimizing travel time in the [DC requires sophisticated pick strategies such as task interleaving, wave or 2-phase picking that are too complex to manage on paper," Bragg says." Radio-frequency and bar-coding systems let operators handle multiple orders together. Less than 1 percent of [ DCs] use voice-directed picking, which improves productivity where hard-to-handle items are concerned, though it may reduce inventory accuracy."