So, you’re a successful e-tailer and you need more space; what do you do? Before you start browsing the property pages, take a look upwards when you are in your warehouse. If there is empty space above your head then you might want to consider installing a freestanding mezzanine floor into your current facility.
Of course, the installation of a mezzanine floor needs careful planning and has the potential to disrupt your business. It will be, though, less disruptive and potentially much more cost-effective than moving to new premises. As with every significant business change, the key to success is in good project management and a careful consideration of all the implications.
One aspect of the project that is often overlooked until the final stages is the demands the new mezzanine will place on your Warehouse Management System. You should expect your WMS to be able to support your new business processes through configuration rather than custom development but it’s important to discuss your requirements with your WMS supplier at an early stage in the project and make it clear what you need.
If your WMS is unaware of your mezzanine floor, it will send pickers up and down the stairs without scrutiny. The result: significant inefficiency and very tired legs. With this in mind, the cost of not asking your WMS supplier if they have the tools and strategies to cope with a mezzanine floor, can be alarmingly high.
Take the following example of a mid-range e-tailer with a mezzanine floor looking to pick an order pool of 1000. With the right WMS software, it may be possible to identify 300 multi-line orders where all the items are located downstairs and 200 where everything is upstairs. Immediately you’ve halved the number of orders that involve running between floors.
Alternatively, consider a consolidation process. This allows picking from different areas to be performed as efficiently as possible before the items are brought together in a consolidation area. With a mezzanine floor in place, this means you can pick upstairs into a cart or tote that may be sent downstairs via lift or conveyor with a similar picking operation taking place downstairs. Your WMS needs to be capable of firstly identifying whether items are upstairs or downstairs in order to support an efficient handheld-driven pick and then automatically allocating the consolidation location according to the order being picked.
Effective WMS software can also tell e-tailers where to put away stock from incoming so that everything is geared up to efficient picking from the start. This putaway logic, also known as product slotting, should be able to enforce the new rules you define for the mezzanine, perhaps ensuring that heavy items are always held on the ground floor. The picking logic will therefore always be optimised for split-floor operations.
In short, E-tailers looking to increase their picking face by installing a mezzanine floor can avoid any potential pitfalls by making sure their WMS software is up to the job and their software supplier is part of the project.
Are you thinking of investing in a mezzanine floor? Please drop us a line – we’d love to chat and discuss your WMS needs further.
By Charlie Armor, Managing Director at Realtime Despatch Software Ltd