How to Measure Warehouse Travel for Maximum Productivity

Posted on: February 2, 2015

Giving proper credit for travel can be an important factor when developing labor standards for accountability or Pay-for-Performance purposes. Calculating the exact number of feet traveled by each employee may not be necessary in most situations and therefore not worth the time and cost associated with implementation and maintenance. The key is to make sure that travel is taken into consideration and that an employee gets proper credit when an above average amount of travel is required.

There are 4 main methods of measuring warehouse travel, and the best method depends upon the size of the warehouse, the type of work performed and the variability in travel between employees.

Location-Driven Method

The Location-Driven method is the simplest way to measure travel within a warehouse. It is most appropriate for smaller facilities without much variation in employee travel or operations where travel time is a small portion of the work load. An example of low variability would be where employees follow a designated pick-path or do directed put-away. Location-Driven systems usually provide “credit” for the number of orders, lines, cases and locations for each process performed by a worker. Employees are given credit for the time required to travel between locations based on an average. Sometimes they may travel a little further than the average and other times the distance may be less, but over the course of the day it will average out. While this approach is very easy to setup and maintain, it is not recommended for situations where one employee may need to travel more feet per location on average than another employee, or situations like undirected put-away where an employee may choose to place a pallet in a nearby location simply to save on the travel time.

Zone Travel Method

For many facilities, the Zone Travel method is the right balance between accuracy and simplicity. In this approach, a facility is divided into 20-150 “zones” and then the average distance between each zone is calculated. Locations are then assigned to their appropriate zones using the Location Naming Conventions. Travel can then be easily calculated as the employee moves throughout the facility based on the WMS scans. The Zone Travel Method is easy to set-up and maintain, as remapping is usually not required when new locations are added or other changes are made. “In-zone” and “Vertical” travel can also be accounted for using this method

Discrete Standards Method (x,y,z coordinates)

The Discrete Standards method is considered the industry norm for measuring warehouse travel. With Discrete Standards, each warehouse location is assigned an x, y, and z coordinate – and each movement within the warehouse is given an ideal, fully-optimized path to travel. The system then gives the employee credit based on the expected ‘ideal’ path.

There are two main challenges with this approach: 1) Discrete Standards are complicated and time-consuming to maintain. Whenever a new location is added, the warehouse must upload new coordinates. 2) When a non-ideal path is taken within the warehouse, say due to a blocked aisle, the travel calculations do not automatically adjust for the additional time that is required. While Discrete Standards are a relatively accurate approach to calculating travel, the improvement in accuracy compared to the Zone Travel method usually does not justify the additional cost and time spent on set up and maintenance.

iWarehouse Method

The newest innovation in incorporating warehouse travel into employee labor standards is Raymond’s iWarehouse system. iWarehouse improves upon traditional methods by measuring the actual distance traveled by each employee (rather than an estimate), and correcting for “exceptions” when a lift truck can’t take the optimal path. Combining the iWarehouse data with the WMS scan data gives accurate and detailed visibility into how each employee performed on each task during the day. Due to the investment required, iWarehouse is usually best fit for larger, more complex warehouses where an accurate and easy to use approach to travel is needed or for facilities where the other benefits of iWarehouse justify the investment.

Accounting for warehouse travel is an imperative component in creating fair and reasonable labor standards. There are many methods available to measure warehouse travel, and the team at Easy Metrics is happy to support our clients in determining the best method of measurement for their facilities.

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