Monday, October 24, 2016

Warehouse Productivity - Efficiency Improvement

Productivity Improvement and  Warehouse Optimization Techniques


Industrial Engineered Labor Standards

Industrial engineering has human effort engineering component. It consists of motion studies and design incorporating research of ergonomics and work measurement.

According to industrial engineering principles, the output of individual operators in a group can differ by 100%. Also, in a non incentive fixed payment system, operators work at 67% of the industrial engineering standard output.  That means the average worker produces output at only 67% of the standard. So a warehouse or DC operating without a formal labor management program that includes labor standards and incentives operates at about 65-70% of its potential output. This means that by adopting labor standards and payment systems that compensate workers for their productivity compared workers in other establishments, warehouses can improve  labor productivity by 30-35%, without burdening workers.

Motion Studies

While the mere act of measuring workers has proven to increase performance, the real productivity gains come from getting everyone doing the right tasks the right way. For example, if you have 100 workers in your DC, you will have 100 different ways in which the workers will do their jobs, if you have not specified particular methods. What are the chances that every one of them is the most efficient? The answer is ZERO. Motion study attempts to record the way motions are performed to do various tasks in the warehouse, and evaluates them to find out best practices of the operators. Then the best practices can be specified as standard methods. Apart from that motion studies can assess even the best practice in terms of certain principles of motion economy. When there is a need they improve the present best practice further. Thus motion studies improve productivity.

Motion study based job design and the development of standards is not necessarily something a warehouse management system will do for you. System-directed work from the system can accomplish the "right tasks" part, but getting everyone to do their tasks the "right way" is more complicated. It requires good motion design, and creating fair and accurate labor standards to measure the workers against these methods.

Man-Machine Task Improvement

Motion study has its focus on the motions performed by a worker. But is he doing task with proper tools, machines or equipments and machine movements?. Operation analysis and process improvement methods of industrial engineering contribute in eliminating waste in man-machine tasks.

By using experienced industrial engineers to study your jobs, equipment, and environment, the single most efficient method for completing each job and task can be determined. This critical steps of developing preferred methods, motions and engineered standards, along with proper training and change management, provides a quantum jump in productivity in companies.

Assigning Right Tasks to Reduce Time Taken to do Multiple Tasks

 Task interleaving:
Once you know how long it should take to complete each task based on preferred methods and engineered standards, you can leverage this information in a number of ways to improve labor productivity and utilization. System-directed task interleaving, also known as dynamic task management, is an automated function that allots tasks to workers by optimizing total time taken. Workers waste time if they have to travel back and forth from a central location to pick up their next assignment. By utilizing task interleaving, workers are directed to their next task from the location where they completed the present task,  based on priorities, proximity and their qualifications. With system-directed work, workers receive their next assignment on their mobile devices as soon as the previous task is completed, eliminating wasted travel. For example, a forklift driver replenishing an item in racks might be directed to pick a nearby pallet and take it to a loading dock or return a stack of empty pallets to a palletizer as the next task.

Also, by intelligently grouping picks into "batches" modern warehouse management solutions can significantly increase picking efficiency by enabling workers to pick multiple orders at the same time. This reduces travel and order fulfillment times.


In warehousing, slotting is the intelligent positioning of merchandise for the purpose of optimizing order fulfillment efficacy. Slotting involves identifying the most efficient placement for each item in a distribution center or warehouse.

If the inventory in your DC has any degree of seasonality, if you support weekly/monthly campaigns for promotional item fulfillment, or if you have a fair amount of new SKU introductions into your facility, you could benefit substantially from placing them in forward racks or pick areas. Proper slotting of high velocity SKUs can significantly reduce pick travel time as well as minimize pick-line congestion, thus making pickers much more productive.

Slotting tasks can be handled  by the warehouse management solution, such that any re-slotting is minimum and decisions related to reslotting are also taken in an optimal way.                    


No one process or system will single-handedly maximize your productivity.

Could your DC layout better facilitate your current and future operations? Do you have industrial engineers trained in developing preferred methods and engineered standards? Who will handle the critical change management process?

Warehouse Industrial Engineering - Warehouse Efficiency Improvement - Bibliography


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