ProModel AutoCAD App for Warehouses and Distribution Centers

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Steve Courtney, ProModel Sr. Consultant

I have several years of experience in supply chain and logistics modeling helping clients who have large warehouses and distribution centers.  These models are often very large (thousands or tens of thousands of locations), which can be very time consuming to model.  I’ve found the old adage to be very true: “Necessity is the Mother of Invention”, so I developed a ProModel App that is used from within AutoCAD which enables us to quickly build the graphical portions of the model using OLE automation.  This capability is also very useful when experimenting with several different layouts.

The types of Warehouse / DC modeling questions that can be answered include:

  • Slotting questions – where should my SKUs go?
  • Racking questions – which type of racking is best (flow rack, bin shelving, single pallet deep, double pallet deep, drive-in racking, etc.)?
  • How high should our racking go 5 levels, 7 levels, etc?
  • Which material handling devices are best – narrow aisle, forklifts, single/double/triple pallet jack, reach trucks, side loaders, clamp trucks, electric/propane/natural gas, etc.?
  • Staffing questions – how many of each type and when?

I recently gave a webinar on this topic which you can view here

The requirements for using the app include:

  • Current AutoCAD drawing
  • AutoCAD not AutoCAD Light
  • Know where each location is physically on the drawing
  • Location levels 2-X should be mapped to the level 1 location
  • Build indexed location file in the order you plan to add to the drawing
  • Know which material handling device accesses each location

If you would like to discuss this further, or have other ideas that can help us all improve warehouse and distribution center modeling, please comment below.  Thanks and Happy Modeling!

Thanks, Steve Courtney

 

Retail Has Transformed – Has Your Distribution Center?

It seems everything changes so rapidly these days with technology leading the way.  What is interesting, though, is how technological changes create a ripple (tsunami) effect in other industries.  Take retail as an example, there is no doubt online purchases have increased and the negative impact that has had on certain retailers is evident.  After all, when is the last time you went to the mall?  Chances are if you are over 18, you can’t remember.

OnLine Purchases Rising

Online purchases are on the rise as demonstrated in the chart above. The impact on some retailers has been bankruptcy filings and the closing of retail brick & mortar locations around the country; Aéropostale, JC Penney, and Sears just to name a few. http://time.com/money/4386499/retail-stores-closing-locations/

What’s the Difference?

Because so many purchases are now online, retailers are facing shipping smaller quantities of goods more frequently.  These shipments will go either direct to stores or direct to customers. Retailers must make accommodations for these changes and adjust their strategies in order to remain successful.  Those retailers who make the appropriate adjustments will have a higher chance to succeed.

So just how do you adjust your existing distribution centers to accommodate these changes? Shipping individual orders to customers or retail stores requires greater speed and accuracy. Distribution operations managers have realized that in order to achieve these greater speeds with more accuracy they must add high-speed conveyors, high-speed sortation systems, robotic palletizers, different picking & packing solutions, etc.

As distribution operations managers make these adjustments and choose the right equipment for their facilities, it also becomes very important to optimize the use of the chosen equipment.  Often, it is not until a state-of-the-art facility is up and running until management really understands how it works and how all of the complex parts and pieces come together.

What Can You Do About It?

This is where predictive modeling can be valuable.  As with any complex system, it is difficult to see and understand all the interdependent cause and effect relationships and overall system behavior.  For example, the tote size and number can affect high-speed conveyor performance, which in turn can affect the packing and shipping processes.

Enter predictive modeling.  A predictive simulation model of your DC can help you understand many aspects of system behavior including:

Order Mix:

  • What percent of orders use full pallets or full cartons?
  • What is the percent of single unit shipments?
  • What is the typical order size?
  • How many line numbers in each order?

Service Level Performance:

  • Do we need to offer overtime or use seasonal staffing to handle seasonal volume?
  • How do we balance the shipping docks to evenly load the work for the stores we service?
  • How do we balance the stores that each distribution center in the network services?
  • Do we have enough people or equipment to complete the day’s work?
  • Do we have items slotted correctly so that the fastest moving products are closest to the shipping doors?

Additionally, a predictive model can help you identify areas for improvement:

Picking strategy:

  • Single order picking or multi-order picking?
  • Order consolidation?
  • Should you use pick waves?

Which in turn will help you determine the design of your pick line. 

  • Straight line
  • Branch or pick zone
  • Serpentine line
  • Pick to conveyor
  • Pick to light
  • Automated conveyors or carousels

Wrapping Up

This shift in retail shopping behavior and delivery expectations is not likely to end anytime soon.  If anything, it will continue to become even more individualized and immediate.  Has anyone had a drone drop off a package yet?   It will be hard for retailers to keep with us overly demanding customers. Maximizing the performance of your DC’s, warehouses and delivery network will likely have to be part of the equation.

Teaching Supply Chain Management with ProModel

profshannonPatrick W. Shannon, Ph.D., is a professor of operations and supply chain management at Boise State University. He taught graduate and undergraduate courses in business statistics, quality management, lean manufacturing and other areas of operations and supply chain management. Professor Shannon developed a curriculum for his supply chain class, using ProModel Simulation which he used for over 10 years.

To provide you some insight into how you can use ProModel in the classroom, Professor Shannon was kind enough to allow us to share the materials he used.

Attached are PDFs of his course materials.

  1. Tri-Star Manufacturing: A Case Study in Lean Implementation
  2. The Tri-Star Simulation Model
  3. Project Requirements and Rules
  4. ProModel Instructions

Dr. Shannon served as dean of the College of Business and Economics from 2008-2014 and has lectured and consulted on statistics, lean manufacturing and quality management, project management, statistical modeling, and demand forecasting for over thirty years. He has co-authored 11 university level textbooks, and he has published numerous articles in such journals as Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, Business Horizons, Transportation Research Record, Interfaces, Journal of Simulation, Journal of Production and Inventory Control, Quality Progress, and Journal of Marketing Research, Quality Management Journal, and The International Journal of Quality and Reliability Management.

He completed his BS and MS at the University of Montana and his Ph.D. in Statistics and Quantitative Methods at the University of Oregon. In 2015 he presented at the National Kidney Registry (NKR) Symposium in New York City. The presentation, authored by Shannon and Phil Fry, professor of operations management, is titled “Kidney Life Years” and describes the research Fry and Shannon have conducted with the NKR. The purpose of the research is to develop a statistical model to identify the donor characteristics that impact the length of time live donor kidney transplant will last.

Click here to view his LinkedIn Profile.

If you are a professor interested in learning more about ProModel’s Academic offerings, please email cbunker@promodel.com for more information.  You may also check out the following: www.promodel.com/industries/academic

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