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Inventory Management 2.0: Automated Pick Planner

George Gulliford
By George Gulliford on Wednesday, May 05, 2018

Posted under: NetSuite

Did you know that the pick, pack, ship process is where 60% of a typical warehouse worker’s cost is spent? By improving this single process in your inventory management strategy, you could see improvements across your entire business. 

Understanding and optimizing your pick, pack, ship processes is the critical first step. Many warehouses have to process larger orders to corporate customers, smaller orders to e-commerce customers and then replenish their own retail locations. And there are different types of picking strategies to complete these. It is important to identify the best practices that will work specifically for your business, but one way to optimize this process is with an automated pick planner.

 
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How to set up an Automated Pick Planner

You must combine the knowledge of your warehouse personnel, with the physical constraints of your warehouse and an understanding of your order profiles to take full advantage of an automated pick planner. Let’s look at the three steps for implementing Pick Planner for NetSuite:

  1.  Identify Order Profiles - Order profiling examines the types of orders and the common qualities that allow them to be processed in a flow. This includes the number of items on an order, the types of items, shipping method, units of measure, etc. The number of order profiles varies depending on the size of your operations. Most small to medium companies have more order profiles because they typically have more sales channels operating out of one warehouse than large companies. 

    Once you have defined your different order profiles, you can map them through your current and future processes. It may take a few tries and revisions, but the time spent will greatly assist you in the configuration of the actual pick plans.  You may also uncover some physical limitations or process changes to address before implementing your pick plans.
      
  2. Configure Pick Plans - Now that you have identified your order profiles, you can move onto configuring pick plans for each profile. The order(s) created in NetSuite should match the pick plan criteria. This way you will know the expected result of the pick plan and assure the intended order profiles are being used.

    As you create each pick plan, verify the sequence these plans will run. You do not want an order/line to qualify for a different pick plan.  
     
  3. Run Your Pick Plans - As you add new pick plans and orders, you will have a better understanding of how the different pick plans will work with each order(s) and when the optimal time of day the pick plans should run. When these pick plans are set up on a schedule, they can even run prior to opening in the morning and employees can start picking immediately without having to wait for a manager to sort out the orders and assign them.

    You can also improve your same-day ship rates by running pick plans during the day, at specific times or on-demand.

Automated Pick Planner

Start Running Your Automated Pick Plans

Now that you are using automated pick plans, you can evaluate if features like using different picking strategies (units of measure, zones or totes for example), or assigning pick plan tasks to employees or employee groups, will benefit your operation.

While there is significant planning (and even potential process changes) involved in implementing an automated Pick Planner tool, the time you spend on it can save you 20% or more in labor savings and customer service improvements.

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