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Inbound of complex shipments

One of our clients needed a week with 5 operators working two shifts to process the inbound of a specific supplier. This meant occupying a dock completely during that period, in addition to not having the goods available until one week after the arrival.

Why was this inbound different from the others?

It was a reception of a complete truck with one or several orders that included around 250 references, distributed both in full pallets and in pallets with mono and multi-product boxes. These pallets could contain up to 190 different articles. Furthermore, the articles were not grouped and the same article could come in different boxes and on different pallets.

How was it used to be done?

Full pallets were placed first. To process the rest, each reference was manually separated into trays: a box was opened and separated by article, being able to appear in different boxes and on different pallets. This led to the accumulation of as many trays as references in the receiving dock during a week and extremely high possibilities of error, since every time a reference was found, the operator had to remember if he had already found it previously and place it on the same tray. The search became more complex the more references were processed.

Processing this inbound occupied a complete dock for a week with up to 5 full-time operators and received references could not be sold until the end of the process.

What did we do?

The first step was to order by multiples of full boxes and to agree with the supplier on the form of preparation to facilitate a proper inbound. As you probably have already experienced, implementation of good intentions gets usually delayed.

Fortunately, this inbound was accompanied by the corresponding delivery notes and the packing list in Excel format, so we were able to find an operational solution: plan the reception, which would be done in 4 steps, manipulating the Excel file with the supplier’s packing list:

  1. Identify and generate an internal number for arriving pallets.
  2. Identify, receive and put away mono-reference pallets, as done before.
  3. Perform a reverse preparation for those pallets containing a maximum of 15 different references. A “picking route” is planned where the goods are located on the received pallets. Every mono-reference pallet is put away when the reverse preparation of each item is completed.
  4. Explode the rest of the pallets with some improvements, such as placing the trays by product in a roll assigned to one or more aisles, speeding up the put-away.

By implementing this new process, we have achieved the following results:

  1. Reduce the dedication of operators in this inbound process from 400 hours to 32 hours.
  2. Release the dock after a single day of work.
  3. Reduce the space required to process the operation by exploding a smaller number of pallets.

Finally, after carrying out several manual plans that allowed us to progressively improve the process, we documented it and automated the treatment of the Excel file. It would have been great that the process were 100% directed by the Warehouse Management System, but our client solution didn’t support complex processes.

Author: Inmaculada Battaglia
Publication date: 26 March 2020