Virtual simulation has the ability to predict outcomes by using a complex set of variables that control the supply chain simulation model to provide meaningful and realistic output data as scenarios. Each simulation scenario provides your business more opportunities to implement improvements to create a more responsive supply chain for your customers.
Any function, process or task can be simulated. Within a 3D warehouse simulation model behaviour change is caused by the input you provide the model over time, these changes are analysed to further improve upon by changing the simulation model. The objective is to minimise inefficiencies throughout the entire supply chain. Take a loot at some of the typical functions of a warehouse where simulation can add value.
The Receiving function, is improved by controlling workflow processes and resources to reduce cycle time for supplier order processing in your warehouse facility. You can redistribute resources to manage the increase in deliveries from suppliers and free up stock quicker to fill customer orders.
Imagine being able to manage and utilise forklifts movements for loading/unloading supplier deliveries in your warehouse. As vendor deliveries can be erratic, allocating resources from other parts of the warehouse improves how labour is utilises. Yard management is improved by managing the arrival, loading and unloading of shipping containers by modifying the layout on your site.
Ask anyone who works in a receiving department or any warehouse if more space is needed. Most warehouse operations tend to suffer from a lack of space in the receiving department for a number of reasons. Some are a result of poor site planning and configuration, while others are poor processes or a lack of planning for managing the volume or frequency of deliveries,
A dynamic warehouse simulation improves the flow of inventory for your receiving department by managing supplier deliveries against available space and time. By simulating the flow of deliveries into the warehouse, opportunities will be created to remove process delays and non value added activities. Warehouse resources can manage customer returns more regularly, which assists in reducing stock piles of unprocessed inventory returns.
This process is generally quicker than the initial order breakdown and identification of stock before its booked into your facility, though it is still not available to fill customer orders until the putaway cycle is completed. As all deliveries are unique, some can be navigated as a direct bulk or discrete part pallet for immediate putaway, while other pallets are mixed and require considerable effort for breakdown.
By constructing an inventory based simulation model, the opportunities for improvement are endless as all of the moving parts within the putaway process can be modified to achieve the most optimum level of performance. If your focus is on speed to market, then the layout and putaway flow must be developed to ensure that you can maximise resource and equipment utilisation while products are moved along their ideal travel paths.
The replenishment function in most warehouse operations is supported by dedicated resources that spend hours moving inventory from bulk pallet locations to drop zones, multiple bulk pick faces or discrete pick faces. Other warehouse operations tend to undervalue the importance of stock replenishment as the process is not resourced correctly as staff are focussed on receiving and despatch functions which are considered more important. Reallocation of staff to support replenishment is typically because the picker has an empty slot and cannot fill the order, its reactive rather than proactive.
Simulation will provide the ability to balance site resources against immediate demand for either customer orders or replenishment work orders. By being able to predict when a pick face or bulk pick face requires replenishment, most erp and wms can handle this extremely well. However, other tools are required to load plan and balance demand with resource availability to meet a time deadline.
Our aim is to ensure that stock is available on time, every time. Simulation will balance labour against work order volume and timeframes to achieve the right fill rates for replenishment and the lowest cost.
In many respects, the picking function of a warehouse is similar to the receiving process, only its the reverse and is generally more time consuming and resource intensive. Depending on the size of your warehouse, the scale of the picking operation will vary both in size and distance travelled. Both are governed by the nature of your business, the product profile, the type of storage equipment use and the service proposition to your clients ie same day or next day.
A perfume and cosmetics picking operation will be completely different to a wine pick operation. The former being prodominantly split case while the latter is primarily bulk pick.The real value of simulation is not dependant on these factors, it is able to identify the best pick paths to support the demand of customer orders within set delivery timeframe. Resources, equipment and size of the pick zone are all taken into account when modelling the desired outcome for your business. Whether you are using wave picking, voice picking, RF picking or paper picking, these are all tools and can be incorporated into the model as variables utilised to achieve the optimum pick rate targets.
Benefits of simulation for your warehouse operation
- Real time operational decision making capability
- Ability to change your supply chain model to support variability
- Add additional resources to support order demand patterns
- Visual representation provides greater awareness of your supply chain
- Identifies the real cost of each operation in a warehouse model
- Change management implementation is improved through virtualisation
- Improves the flow of inventory throughout the warehouse operation
- Reducing cycle times in receiving, replenishment, picking and despatch processes