What Is Warehouse Slotting Analysis and Optimization?
It should come as no surprise that warehouse organization plays heavily into your picking accuracy and efficiency. If you're like many organizations, however, your layout feels haphazard. The result? Constant bottlenecks and picking errors.
This can be avoided with a strategy known as warehouse slotting, which brings a more strategic approach to everyday organization.
What Is Warehouse Slotting?
The term ‘slot’ refers to any shelf or space on a shelf where an item might rest. In its most simple form, warehouse slotting involves the placement of items on or within these slots.
More specifically, this inventory management solution aims to keep items in the most optimal locations possible. The ultimate goal is to optimize warehouse flow and make the most of your space, no matter its apparent limitations.
Parameters such as height and location lead the way, ensuring maximum flow and functionality. This will look a bit different from one space to the next, as slotting relies heavily on customization.
Common slotting strategies include:
- Placing high-volume products in easily accessible locations
- Keeping items that are frequently ordered together near one another
- Grouping large products so they can easily be reached by forklifts
What Is a Slotting Analysis?
Because personalization is so crucial, modern warehouse slotting requires a lot of research and creativity. There's nothing cookie-cutter about it. Instead, the process begins with a slotting analysis — a careful evaluation that determines how, exactly, you can set your space up for success.
Slotting analyses can be conducted at any time and for a variety of reasons. It's a great option as you're first establishing a new facility. Later on, reslotting helps you address ongoing issues with order fulfillment, such as low throughput or a high error rate.
How to Do a Warehouse Slotting Analysis
There is no one right way to conduct this type of analysis. Like slotting itself, this process will largely depend on the current realities of your facility, as well as your unique goals for the future. That being said, the process typically incorporates a few key steps, as outlined below:
- Determine the type of loads. Does your warehouse setup primarily consist of pallets, partial pallets, cases, or individual items? This will form the basis of your warehouse slotting method.
- Consider the storage medium. Your approach to storage may be determined by the type of loads, the number of SKUs, or other unique considerations for your warehouse or distribution center. Selective, drive-in, push-back, and pallet flow racks are great options, as are industrial, rivet, and mobile aisle shelving.
- Plan for equipment. Do you expect to use forklifts, pallet jacks, or other lift equipment? These picking tools will play heavily into your final layout. Consider also the potential for building automation into the process down the road.
- Analyze SKU velocity. How frequently should SKUs be picked during a certain period of time? Known as SKU velocity, this metric will help you categorize products strategically as you designate proper pick paths.
- Choose fixed or random slotting. Like it or not, your warehousing needs will eventually shift. Depending on the seasonality of your business, you may need to consider a random slotting solution, in which items are assigned to temporary pick zones, rather than receiving permanent pick locations. Random slotting requires more space and frequent replenishment but can accommodate sudden fluctuations on demand.
Slotting Analysis Tips
Slotting analysis methods and findings vary dramatically between businesses, but it’s always prudent to make the process as thorough and personalized as possible. As you complete your evaluation, keep these considerations in mind:
- Make your warehouse more accessible. As you find tactics to boost efficiency, don't forget about the workers who need to navigate your warehouse on an everyday basis. New setups need to be accessible to all employees. Don’t forget ergonomics; if workers feel strained or uncomfortable, solutions that seem effective in the short-term will ultimately damage both productivity and morale.
- Don’t shy away from reslotting. Your enterprise’s needs will change over time, especially as you hire new employees, sell new products, or implement new tech solutions. When these changes arise, you may also need to adjust your warehouse slotting strategy. Regular adaptations will ensure that you continue to enjoy the benefits of a well-organized warehouse.
- Consider both macro and micro slotting. While many analyses take a big-picture approach, it’s worth your while to dive into specifics. Examine how individual items are placed, both by zone and on individual pallet racks or shelves. What works in one area of your warehouse may not be appropriate elsewhere.
Benefits Of Optimizing Your Warehouse Slotting
Optimized slotting can make a world of difference for your enterprise. Advantages worth considering include:
- Improved picking accuracy. Slotting ensures that employees always know exactly where SKUs are situated and how they can be accessed. Instead of constantly second-guessing themselves or scrambling to find poorly-placed items, they can navigate your facility with confidence. As a result, pick error rates will likely decline.
- Improved picking efficiency. Effective slotting prevents bottlenecks and limits travel time. Ideally, workers won’t need to constantly move back and forth through aisles or pass slow-moving items when they’re in need of faster ones. Time spent moving between locations can add up quickly, but small changes can expedite the process.
- Make the most of available space. In smaller facilities, there is no room for waste. Slotting can maximize limited storage capacity by revealing where underutilized spaces exist within your current warehouse layout.
- Improve warehouse safety. The ideal pick order will place heavy items near the bottom. As a result, the pallet is less likely to be top-heavy. This will limit the potential for accidents.
Slotting Analysis With Warehouse1
Slotting analysis should be a central part of your warehouse optimization strategy. An outside perspective from a team of experts can be helpful, as you might otherwise fail to spot key sources of inefficiency or inaccuracy.
As you seek the most effective slotting strategy for your facility, look to our team at Warehouse1 for guidance. Contact us today to learn about the role we can play in your warehouse's slotting analysis initiative.