Warehouse in a warehouse

July 10, 2015

Timely processing and shipping of customer orders for all worldwide destinations is highly critical and generates a lot of different deadlines in the warehouse. Meanwhile, reducing internal lead time is crucial to decrease “Time to Customer”. This is how it was done in Airpower Service Center in Belgium.

The Airpower Service Center warehouse in Wilrijk, Belgium, has experienced a tremendous growth over the last ten years. The initial warehouse was developed on the operations principles “customer first, reliability, flexibility, quality and efficiency”. This resulted in a storage strategy with parts being stocked in different areas based on their physical properties.

Radical change of mind

The challenge of implementing LEAN in a warehouse environment required a radical change of mind. The LEAN warehousing strategy has been based on three pillars:

All warehouse processes have been reviewed keeping in mind the daily strong fluctuating workload. By definition, a small warehouse is more efficient than a large warehouse. So the main strategy in lean warehousing is to apply the advantages of a small warehouse in a bigger warehouse. The starting point is the “customer order profile” defined by the parts regularly ordered together (“product affinity”) and the timeslot per customer (“cut-off”).

The following steps have been taken:

  1. The warehouse has been divided in zones maximizing the number of order lines to be picked in one zone. The assignment of orders to pickers and the routing changed. Order lines will be combined in a minimal number of zones in the warehouse. However for time critical orders the traditional indicator “time slot per customer” is maintained. As a result, travel distances have decreased with 40%, compared to the pre-Warehouse in a warehouse situation.
  2. Non-value adding actions have been excluded during the “put away” process; only three sizes of storage boxes remain available. Floating pick-locations have been created, reducing the number of replenishment handlings. The result is an extra increase of 5% in productivity in the picking.
  3. The supplier delivers the parts directly in these boxes, minimizing material handling and taking into account the ergonomics (weight/height) of warehouse employees.

“Thanks to the sustainable efforts of all warehouse employees we have been able to maintain our current strengths, add lean principles and finally service the customer better,” says Jeroen Meeusen, Warehouse Manager Airpower Service Center.

Operational excellence Other Europe LEAN Services and utilities Belgium Value creation