From its 72,000 square foot distribution center in Vernon Hills, Illinois, Zebra Technologies processes and picks more than 16,000 items comprising printers, RTLS equipment and accessories every day. The location serves customers and partners across North America and Latin America.
Zebra's North American operations recently initiated a multi-year program focused on systems and processes to support its overall business transformation. As part of that, the company deployed Oracle, allowing it to connect many stand-alone systems into one and drive operational efficiencies. With the deployment, Zebra identified opportunities in its North American distribution center to enhance operations.
"With our Oracle implementation we improved our operational efficiency and capabilities from a business process perspective, but we still lacked visibility into the actual actions taking place in our warehouse," said Ashley Ford, Vice President & General Manager – North America.
With the move to Oracle, Zebra had to change its process for consolidating orders. When pickers move products from the warehouse to staging areas, they often need to combine items with other picked goods before they are ready for shipment. Items remain in a staging area until the entire order is complete.
However, in Oracle, orders are "blind" to the size of the area required for staging. At times, they would relocate an order multiple times before it was complete and pickers frequently had to search through products already in the staging area to complete an order.
"It was very difficult to locate individual items to pair up orders," said Daniel Larkin, Warehouse Control Board Manager. "It was taking one to two minutes to find where to put the material we had just picked."
Pairing reconfigured products with the rest of orders presented another challenge. Reconfigurations refer to customizations of printers and other accessories for specific customer needs.
Team members would stage completed reconfigurations in the aisles until the finished goods were moved to the shipping area. Yet, they had no way to notify the shipping staff when it was time to remove items from the aisle. Goods accumulated in the narrow aisles, blocking picking, creating a safety hazard, and slowing order completion by up to 15 minutes – several times a day.