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When designing an automated material-handling system, it's important to "take a holistic approach," says Boroff. "I like to put myself through the whole process in the position of the customer. Their requirements often dictate how the system is designed, and may go against typical material-handling type applications."
Budget, return on investment and scalability are all additional considerations, Boroff says. Companies must factor into their design plans the anticipated return from any project.
Elements of a distribution-center design include the manner in which trucks enter the facility, the number of dock doors and the procedure by which product is received and placed into storage. The handling of returns and replenishment is also a critical activity to consider.
A well-run D.C. needs to have enough pickers on hand for a given product, while avoiding stockouts and potential bottlenecks in the process. Products with seasonal demand must be allocated the proper level of staffing. There are numerous opportunities for optimizing picking, using such technologies and procedures as pick-to-cart and batch picking.
Computer simulations can help designers to test whether their plan will work in the real world. They can try out a number of scenarios before settling on the one that best applies to the product and customer in question. "There's not one set way," says Boroff. "Each customer will be different."
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Keywords: supply chain, supply chain management, inventory management, inventory control, logistics management, warehouse management, warehouse management systems, WMS, supply chain systems, warehouse design, distribution center design
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