In theory, it’s never been easier to streamline warehouse operations. After all, virtually every operation, no matter the size, output, or the capital behind it, can afford to invest in an effective warehouse management system (WMS). When WMS software is deployed, a whole new world of efficient and accurate processes reveal themselves. Some of the many benefits that comes with these systems are heightened end-to-end visibility for more robust supply chains, better demand planning, automatic replenishment functions, and, when implemented correctly, reduced operational expenses.
Ostensibly, warehouse management systems are a no-brainer investment for most warehouses, but operations will not reap the aforementioned benefits (particularly the ‘reduced operational costs’), if the software is not implemented alongside the creation of a comprehensive warehouse location numbering system.
A warehouse location numbering system is, essentially, just what it sounds like: a series of numbers that denote the various locations within a warehousing operation. It may seem like a relatively simple task, but the uninitiated have a tendency to attach numbers in the simplest manners, ones that do not support the strategic processes already built into the WMS.
Here are the steps you should take before deciding upon a warehouse location numbering system for your facility:
- Embrace Numerals
- Keep the Codes as Short as Possible
- Identify Unique Location Elements to Formulate a Strategic Number
- Be Smart about SKU Placement
- Complete Your Warehouse System by Attaching Specialized Labels
Keep reading to learn how to put these tips to work to create a foolproof warehouse location numbering system.
In an article written for Material Handling & Logistics, retail, wholesale, and manufacturing consultant, Don Benson, PE, says that location numbering systems should only include numerals. This is because, as Benson puts it, the system usually isn’t effective beyond the letters ‘E’, ‘F’, or ‘G’. So, if you do use alphabetical characters, stick to using them for situations with only five or six options. He also suggests attaching numbers to the elements of the location, like the levels of shelving, rather than just the aisles. By doing this, you will be creating a sub-system that is unique to each aisle, creating heightened accuracy that prevents human error as processes commence.
Keep the Codes as Short as Possible
Whether your warehouse processes for a tiny mom and pop shop or a large corporate entity, it’s key that you keep your location numbering codes as short as possible. When codes are short, there is less of a risk for confusion and the warehouse becomes much easier to navigate for those who are new to the facility. Additionally, the longer the code, the higher the chance that your scanners, or the associates operating them, may make a mistake when in a rush.
Identify Unique Location Elements to Formulate a Strategic Number
As mentioned, it is more fitting to assign numbers based on the elements of the location, not the aisles in which they are situated. To do this, you will have to take a number of factors into account:
- The section or zone (within your warehouse)
- The location’s aisle
- The section or bay
- The shelf level (always start from the floor and count skyward)
- The positioning (always work from left to right)
- The positioning on the pallet rack, if applicable (double or triple the locations depending on the complexity of the racking system)
When formulated correctly, you should come up with a sequence similar to this one:
Zone: Dry Goods, Aisle 01, Rack 01, Level 1, Position 1
Because it’s uncommon for racking systems to have more than nine levels, this system should work well for most, but there are certain accommodations that can be made for operations that make use of drawers for small items. In this case, Benson recommends using two digits that describe the location, using a 9×9 grid locator (for row and column).
Be Smart about SKU Placement
Although it may not be possible for all, some experts recommend against placing more than one SKU in a location at a time. If you were to do this, you could compromise the efficacy of the numbering system, leading to confusion during times of picking and replenishment, which could result in packing errors. For more help in strategizing your SKU placement, use data compiled by your WMS to assess the fastest-moving items and organize those into the areas that are most accessible.
Complete Your Warehouse System by Attaching Specialized Labels
Now that you have gained a better sense of how your operation can best assign location numbers, it’s time for you to display these numerals on customized warehouse labels. At Camcode, we offer a wide range of options designed to fit the systems, technologies, and various environmental conditions that affect your daily operations. To see which types of labels will fit your warehouse best, reference our 3-Step Guide for choosing the right warehouse labels.
And, remember warehouse automation is your friend, but it’s systems like these that show that careful planning and communication is a key piece in building the most efficient warehouse possible.