Lets talk about your warehouse layout. So you have your shelving. Maybe you have an inbound dock and an outbound dock, a receiving station, a packaging station, and a workstation where you can manufacture items, or make bundles or whatever else. The first step is creating zones. Creating zones or areas helps organize your warehouse and increase picking efficiency. There are two clear zones in a good warehouse model. We have the, A zone and the B zone.
Defining Warehouse Rows
Next we define rows. Rows are intuitive because they follow the flow of your picking patterns. These are your locations. In this example, we define locations based on bay or column and row. There are nine locations. This location is zone A aisle or row A zero. Two bay one zero two row B. Within each location, you can have sub locations. So within this location, you have sub location one, two, three, and so on all the way to 25, whether a location or a sub location, this is where you put your bins.
We tend to think of bins as a physical box, but it makes more sense to think of bins as the empty space inside of the box. That is how the system views it. You fill the empty space with products, then you give the bin a number or a tag. The system then stores all of that information. That’s the SKU, the quantity, the expiration date, the lot number, the unit of measure and the product volume. When an order comes in, this is where your picker goes.
Within this location you have a physical bin where you store your products. There are two other kinds of bins. First, you have virtual bins. Virtual bins are for products like books that are already barcoded. The system counts. Each group of barcodes has a bin, but in reality, the books can be loose. This means that you can still track them without needing to actually put them in a box. Finally, you have movable bins. These bins are not fixed to a specific location, but instead are tied to a product.
Here’s how they work. Let’s say you have a pallet come into your warehouse. You look inside and see that it is a large shipment of Teddy bears. To turn this pallet into a moveable bin, you scan the pallet into the system, print out a bin tag and stick it to the pallet. Notice that the bin tag is just a number instead of a series of letters and numbers. This is because your movable bin is not tied to a specific location. So you’ve tagged your bin and now you can put it away. All you need to do is scan the bin tag and the location. Now the system knows where your palette Teddy’s is.
Scan, Scan, And Put Away
Now maybe you sell security equipment. And so you want to turn these bears into secret cameras. So you go pick up the palette and take it to your workstation. Grab the pallet, scan the tag, scan the new location. And you’re all set. Once you’ve worked on these bears, you can take them back to the same location or you can move them somewhere else. It’s the same process, either way, just scan, scan, and put away.
When orders come in, the system always knows where to send your team. To further explain, I want to give you an analogy. Imagine the city you live in or the city you grew up in. Chances are, there are different areas in your city. Maybe you have downtown the business district, Midtown, the dining district and uptown, which is mainly housing. These are your zones. So if someone wants to grab a bite to eat, you tell them to head to Midtown. You tell them there’s a great burger joint. They look it up and find an address. The address has a street name, also known as a row. There’s also a street number. Because most buildings contain multiple suites or sub locations. You will probably have a suite number. The restaurant is your bin and the burgers are the product or SKU.
You may cycle different products through your bin, but everything else stays the same. If a new restaurant moves into this building, nothing changes. The building is still at the same address in the same area of town.
What about virtual bins? Well, let’s say there’s a street vendor. The street vendor has a license to set up shop where he is, even though his business is not enclosed in a bin. He still technically has an address or a location. Recently we’ve seen a specific kind of restaurant pop up all over the place, the food truck. It doesn’t matter if the food truck goes to a different address or a different part of town, the restaurant is tied to the truck and warehousing. We call this a movable bin, which the warehouse supports with bin tags.