The Infosys global supply chain management blog enables leaner supply chains through process and IT related interventions. Discuss the latest trends and solutions across the supply chain management landscape.

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August 29, 2012

Utility of iPads on Shop Floor

Today,  manufacturing companies have adopted software in major part of their supply chain. In order to compete in today's environment, companies have realized the importance to shrink manufacturing and transportation lead times through effective planning and logistics management which is possible only through integrated systems. The ipad can be a wonderful tool to be used in shop floor because of its mobility, mobile internet access and touchscreen abilities.

One of the bottlenecks in today's shop floor manufacturing techniques is the incapability of shop floor supervisors to move across the shop floor and see real-time information on production and make intelligent decisions. This means that if a shop floor supervisor has a tool that enables him/her to track a particular part, subassembly, finished good  anywhere in the shop floor by looking at the real time data, it would allow the supervisor to remove system bottlenecks more efficiently.
The ipad can be a wonderful tool to be used in shop floor because of its mobility, mobile internet access and touchscreen abilities . Also its light weight makes it a very useful hand held computer on which the shop floor employees can view real time data and reports. A company for example has stated to anticipate savings of around $100000 an year in time and paper for all its invoicing, signature capture and credit approval process. Also the capability to carry less paper makes the job of shop floor employees more interesting. Not only in the shop floor, but the terrific capabilities of iPad can be leveraged in retail outlets, warehouses as well as hospitals.
The habit of constantly monitoring real time manufacturing process through iPad and take real time decisions can drastically lead to waste reduction and optimal inventory. Not only this, but the iPads can effectively be used by transporters to optimize their milk runs and use the principle of cross-docking more effectively by timely and real time access to data
Also, since the paperwork, such as job sheets don't move along with parts, supervisors have to constantly leave shop floor to look for the missing part or they have to go to their desktops to track the part in their ERP system. Having the job sheet in front of them at any time that updates the part movement and the inventory in real time gives a real time picture to the supervisor. There are instances where the job steps need to be updated/changed due to parts/sub assembly having defects.  Such cases involve a lot of physical movement and unwanted paperwork. This reduction and hence saving can be brought about by use of iPad in shop floor. This is also anticipated to bring about better communication and interaction among the employees even if they work in isolated zones. This in turn helps bring about better quality, reduced rework, increased on-time delivery and reduction in lead times

August 21, 2012

Enabling individual item picking in tomorrow's warehouses

Warehouses of today are facing increasing challenges in their picking operations. On one hand, they are required to support the growing e-Commerce sales where picking happens by unit (individual item or each picking). On the other, they continue to support existing store operations, where items have to be handled either in eaches or cases. Also, they are now forced to strike the right balance between the high-order-volumes-and-less-order-lines scenario of the e-comm world and  less-order-volumes-and-high-order-lines scenario of stores.

 This diversity in operations can be aggravatingly slow and inefficient because of manual picking processes, workforce management; travel involved within DC, accuracy of picking & the inability of the existing system to handle changing volumes. Aberdeen research estimates picking activities operating cost to be 35% of the operating budget and over 50% of the direct labor1. Companies experience tremendous pressure to reduce operating costs while optimizing resources. Picking therefore is a very important activity for improving productivity and customer service.

In next 2-3 blogs, I will lay out the various picking methodologies and system capabilities and present the right combinations of methodologies and systems that warehouses must adapt.

Picking Methodologies:

A.  Discrete Order Picking

Picker starts one order and completes entirely by visiting all the required locations. Picker will also operate any vehicle that might be required to pick specific item. This type of picking is used when orders are with low order volume distribution centers. 








As one picker is fulfilling the order, order accuracy can be easily tracked back to the picker. On the downside, it may be inefficient method as picker has to travel entire warehouse to pick the order. This method becomes less viable when order volumes are more.

B. Pick & Pass Order Picking (Zone Picking)

In this process, pick locations are classified into different pick zones. Each picker is assigned specific zone and he/she is responsible to pick the items located in that zone. Once the picker is done with picking all items from the specific zone, (s)he passes it to the picker in the next zone.

Pick & Pass Picking.png












This process allows the total travel distance to be minimized for pickers and they become more familiar with items located in their assigned zones. This familiarity can reduce pick time and can also balance the workload across pickers. Order accuracy can be tracked back to the picker as in discrete order picking. This process becomes more preferred when order volumes increase.

C. Batch Picking (Multiple Order Picking)

This process is used when there are common items across multiple orders. There are 2 methods in which batch picking can be achieved. In first, the item required for multiple orders batched together is picked and placed in a container. At the end of picking, required items are then sorted to respective orders.












In the second, different containers for multiple orders batched together are placed on a cart and item sorting takes place during picking. Picker immediately after picking sorts the item into the respective container.

Both processes are used where there are large volumes of each picking.












Batch picking improves productivity since the picker makes one trip to pick a number of orders.

It must be highlighted that all the above methodologies can be accomplished using paper picking. However, as the order complexity and order volumes increase, it becomes imperative to use advance picking systems like voice picking, RF picking, Pick-to-Light picking etc.

In the next blog, we will look into various picking systems and the relevant business scenarios that support them.

1 - Refer - Aberdeen Group Research article - Completing the Journey to Voice and the Paperless Warehouse, July 2012



August 10, 2012

Rapid Innovation will Differentiate the Future of Retail Industry

Guest Post by Bob Ferrari

Bob Ferrari is the Executive Editor of the Supply Chain Matters Blog, and a periodic guest blogger on the Infosys Supply Chain Management blog.

In an Infosys Supply Chain Management guest commentary in March, I commented on the fundamental reinvention that is underway in the retail industry, which comes with significant implications to current and future supply chain organizational, process and information technology capabilities and investments. Online sales have been growing at double-digit rates and the implications profoundly point to the reality that consumers prefer online tools and have shifted their shopping and buying preferences. The "Clicks and Bricks" business model is rapidly unfolding as retailers counter the juggernaut of online retailers such as Amazon.  Online providers are disrupting the retail industry because of innovation, in the true spirit of the Clayton M. Christensen book, The Innovators Dilemma.

On the Supply Chain Matters blog we recently commented on Amazon's efforts to turn the challenge of the ongoing pressures by U.S. state authorities to collect sales taxes into an opportunity to deploy same-day shipping capabilities in the not too distant future, allowing consumers the same convenience and gratification that they would get by purchasing goods from a physical store.  In this same context of turning challenge into opportunity, as I pen this commentary, an article published in today's Wall Street Journal highlights current Amazon efforts to quietly deploy Amazon lockers within 24 hour grocery, convenience and drugstore outlets, where consumers can retrieve their Amazon purchases in a more secure and convenient manner. The initial U.S. cities with these lockers in-place are located in states that already collect sales taxes for online purchases. This path toward innovation fuses sales, marketing, online fulfillment and physical distribution capabilities together in innovative methods to seize market opportunities.
For their part, retailers in all dimensions are also starting to innovate by leveraging and further enhancing their bricks and clicks presence. Some stores are being turned into convenient pick-up locations for online purchases while online sites offer consumers various options for larger selection along with shipping and pickup options. That in-turn raises the challenge of the ability to manage inventories across cross-channel commerce, along with the ability to position and deploy inventory to the most profitable channel and associated store outlets.
The retail industry is indeed in revolution, and the important enabler of digital commerce capabilities will be the efficient and effective deployment of advanced information technology.
In our March commentary, the takeaway was that these rapidly changing retailer business models imply that organizations can no longer assume the same organizational structures of accountability where marketing and supply chain teams supporting physical stores and online fulfillment reside in separate organizational entities with conflicting metrics. In a matter of just a few months, that conclusion is ever more apparent that end-to-end digital and physical retail commerce is the key to revenue and consumer growth. I would recommend that retailers should be addressing three specific goal areas in the upcoming period:
• A cross-functionally aligned focus for delivering a holistic cross-commerce buying experience for consumers.
• Insuring that each function, including online marketing, store operations and supply chain have common objectives, metrics and aligned rewards for the coming year.
• That information technology budgets, both short and long-term, be evaluated and focused toward supporting one contiguous "bricks and clicks" fulfillment model for consumer purchases.
As retailers approach both the back-to-school and holiday buying peak periods in the latter half of 2012, information technology, timely decision-support and responsive organization across the cross-channel shopping experience will differentiate the winners.
Is your retail organization ready for this challenge?


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