April 28, 2010

Change your packing sequence to boost productivity

By DC Velocity Staff

Changing the sequence for placing products, sales literature, packing slips, and labels in and on shipping cartons can lead to a huge boost in productivity. By doing that in a distribution center that handles online orders, one large retailer tripled throughput.

The company, a customer of PSI Engineering, which manufactures packing machinery and systems, had been picking orders (mostly one or two line items) into totes, then sending them via conveyor to packing stations. Like most shippers, the retailer was inserting literature and packing slips, adding void fill, sealing the cartons, and applying labels at the very end of the line, just prior to shipping. PSI suggested inserting the literature and packing slip first, applying the shipping label, and then picking orders directly into the cartons. The result: The distribution center boosted throughput from approximately 20,000 orders per day to 60,000. To make the new procedure work, the customer had to make other changes, such as reprogramming the warehouse management system (WMS) to release order-specific documents before the order is picked and reconfiguring conveyors.

Flipping the order of packing required the customer to adopt the "perfect order" mindset advocated by Supply Chain Visions founder Kate Vitasek, said Account Manager Tom Napier. Instead of treating activities like document insertion as an afterthought or something that required little attention, the perfect order mindset considers each step in the process to be of equal importance and value. The result is an order delivered to the customer accurately, on time, in perfect condition, and with no errors or waste.

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