In a world where everything is going increasingly faster and where warehouse space costs a lot of money, it is crucial to reduce to a maximum waste of time and space.
SAP TRM & Warehouse Tasks Optimization
To help solve issues such as waste of time, SAP ECC 6 comes with a module called SAP TRM (Task and Resource Management); this module allows optimizing warehouse processes by:
- Creating optimal picking and storing tasks;
- Optimizing task allocation to warehouse resources (forklift operators, handlers, aerial lift operators);
- Controlling task completion to avoid bottlenecks from arising among the warehouse resources;
- Ensuring the visibility of all warehouse processes;
- Supplying tools to correct errors to warehouse management personnel to simplify the management of issues before and after they arise;
- Proposing functionalities allowing resources to complete their tasks using task-specific mobile devices.
LES: Logistics Execution System
SAP TRM continuously analyzes every request, open at any given time (T), related to movements in the warehouse; this enables it to assign the appropriate resources picking and storing tasks while taking into consideration several criteria including:
- The resource’s current position;
- The resource’s speed;
- The resource’s capability to reach storage spaces;
- The resource’s capability to transport specific types of stored items;
- The space in which operators must complete the picking/storing tasks;
- Optimal itineraries and priorities;
Appropriately configuring the SAP TRM settings will allow reducing to a minimum:
- Travelling empty to and from a destination;
- Wastes of time incurred by ill-planned itineraries;
- Wastes of time caused by assigning the wrong resource;
- Wastes of time caused by assigning a distant resource.
What Else Could Be Optimized?
At least two more issues of the picking and storing process should be considered:
- The speed at which the operator approaches the location;
- The use of warehouse space.
Forklifts’ Speed: the Driver Is the Weak Point
Forklifts are operated by humans, this is the reason why the speed of execution is clearly slower to what it could be if they were operated by a computer device. Notably with very narrow aisles and a layout that would allow using vertical space as well.
Rate of Use of Storage Space: Pallet Size Matter
In some cases, spaces are not filled to their full capacity because their size is too important when compared to the merchandise it contains. For example, niche or luxury products such as perfumes are seldom required to be stored on a pallet. Most are packaged in small to medium sized boxed. For that type of product, it would not be possible to use a traditional storage volume in a warehouse with single-reference locations.
A good optimization strategy would be to redesign the spaces by increasing their density and reducing their size. Yet, that strategy alone could not make up for the important loss of space due to the width of the aisles, from one aisle to the next. Those aisles are traditionally designed to accommodate operators and machinery to complete their tasks and travel back and forth.
VNA - Very Narrow Aisle: Space-Speed Optimization Is Now Something Real!
Ideally, the aisles should be as narrow as possible. That is what Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) means. It allows creating additional storage spaces on the existing floor space. So, it is possible to quickly and safely travel narrow aisles.
This is the project that Createch carried out at the L’Oréal Canada distribution centre in Saint-Laurent.
VNA consists in changing a high-bay warehouse’s structure with aisles only 167.64 cm (66") wide. It allows the transit of a single forklift while keeping minimal distance on each side (a few centimetres only from the shelves). The loading/unloading operations in such a restricted space are made possible using lift trucks manufactured by A German company.
Forklifts are guided by several RFID chips, cemented into the floor, containing a comprehensive plan of the VNA area of the warehouse. In other words, they are able to recognize the x, y, z coordinates of each location.
Using SAP TRM to Communicate With the Forklifts
How does it work? First, SAP TRM sends a picking or storing order to the worker operating one of the automated lift trucks. At the same time, through a real-time communication system using a TCP/IP protocol, it sends the lift truck the name of the location to be reached. Since the lift knows the name of every location as well as their coordinates, the only thing the operator needs to do is to give the “GO” command to the lift truck. This way, the lift will reach in a completely autonomous way, the requested location by continuously managing and optimizing its horizontal and vertical speed. This allows reaching the targeted location as fast as possible without any safety issue for the operator, who will safely and automatically find him or herself at the selected location. He or she will then be able to pick the order sent through SAP TRM without having to worry about the driving aspect of his or her task, that is: speed, trajectory, start of climb/descent of vertical operations, etc.
Optimization of L’Oréal Canada’s Distribution Centre: What About ROI?
The VNA project will allow L’Oréal Canada to:
- Increase their productivity by 25%;
- Considerably increase and optimize storage space (from 1,180 to 13,122 spaces, without any increase of floor space). The Warehouse architecture change will generate a 15% reduction in storage costs;
Together, these two factors will allow L'Oréal Canada's Distribution Centre achieve substantial savings.
You would like to learn more on SAP TRM or, on how to optimize your warehouse operations, contact Createch's experts.
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Sources: SAP Task and Resource Management (LE - TRM)