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Best Practices in Slotting – Just the Basics



Understand your operation, look for efficiency opportunities, measure what is to be improved, assign responsibility – all basics to good management. Throughout the event it was emphatically stated that implementing best practices in slotting relied on management commitment and insight.

"Best results were obtained by foodservice distributors that based their slot types on weekly cube movement."
To spotlight the how-to aspects, IFDA brought together Bob Schauer, president, Schauer & Associates; Gary Mills, director, warehousing services, Sysco Corp.; and Dan Peckskamp, vice president, operations, Performance Food Group Co., to present their experiences in increasing warehouse productivity through optimum slotting configurations.

Noted benefits throughout the commentary included: improving selector productivity, improving utilization of storage capacity, deferring capital investment in brick and mortar and increasing the likelihood of being able to absorb new products in a rational infrastructure.

It was made clear at the onset of the seminar that there were no cookie-cutter, quick answers. "Your" answer to optimum performance depended on your business, your warehouse, and your management's commitment to achieving increased warehouse performance through smart slotting.

Providing the background to tee up issues to think about for optimizing one's own warehouse, Schauer walked the web-cast participants through often used slotting patterns, like the Z pattern or the U-Bay pick slotting sequence. He led listeners through a methodology for slot numbering and noted what to consider when laying out one's slotting configuration.

Schauer emphasized that the best results were obtained by foodservice distributors that based their slot types on weekly cube movement and spoke to the various types of slots by movement, i.e. multi-deep floor slots, drive-in racks, push-back racks, and so forth. He cautioned the audience that it would be prudent to determine your own cube data whenever possible and verify the data even after they were collected and entered into a database. It was stated that it was possible to reduce operational costs by studying warehouse case and item movement and design an efficient slotting configuration, based on this study.

PRACTICAL DISTRIBUTOR EXPERIENCES Peckskamp complemented Schauer's comments by providing PFG's recent experiences. Sharing high-level numbers, he provided participants with a guide to think about product slotting, listing labor cost, service level impact and potential damage reduction as key elements to consider. Peckskamp emphasized the importance of devising a configuration that would minimize the number of times an item, case or pallet had to be "touched." An obvious factor to consider when thinking through slotting layout was travel time coupled with pallet building.

He made a comment to the fact that understanding and managing purchasing patterns as well as customer needs offered opportunity to reduce cost – if the warehouse slots were available to support optimal warehouse operations. Rack considerations were noted in this discussion again underscoring physical warehouse factors and movement requirements. Peckskamp also spoke to the importance of creating a slotting coordinator position.

It was apparent that charting and graphing had its place in endeavoring to put into place the optimum slotting design. Documenting pick errors and damage patterns in the warehouse layout by pick location provided insights to PFG that were used to correct errors that were waiting to happen. Slotting software was not used by PFG, although it was acknowledged that good software was available.

"An obvious factor to consider when thinking through slotting layout was travel time coupled with pallet building."
Sysco had automated its slotting to capture greater efficiencies. Mills noted that his company used a product called slotting optimization and it had indeed assisted the distributorship in understanding its product movement. Commenting that it was easier to train an IS person to understand slotting than to train a slotting expert to implement the software, Mills advised the seminar participants to invest in maintaining accurate data. He also stated it was prudent to test software enhancements before they were implemented in the day-to-day management of warehouse slotting.

Mills reiterated the necessity of obtaining top management's commitment to optimal slotting and the value of having a slotting coordinator. He spoke to the fact that the warehouse was not a static business component, which once set, remained cast in concrete. Sysco's slotting coordinator performed slotting evaluations on a continual basis ensuring the fast movers were placed in the designated fast mover slots and moved items out of the fast mover slots when they no longer warranted the position.

As the wrap-up speaker, Mills agreed with Peckskamp's comments. Improving space utilization, reducing any double handling of product, and making pick paths more efficient were the name of the game. He advised the audience to have clear objectives identified, know what you want to improve and keep your goals simple. He also acknowledged the importance of listening to suggestions made by the warehouse's pickers.

As a parting comment, Mills stated: A well-run facility will be maintained by good slotting.

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