Order Consolidation, Staging and Buffering

Order Consolidation, Staging and Buffering

Order consolidation, staging and buffering is often used in a parallel pick environment, as opposed to a pick and pass environment. There’s the necessity of bringing all the component orders together from different areas within a warehouse or a distribution center, and having them staged prior to preparation for packing, shipping, and truck loading. Oftentimes, this is referred to as a buffering system.

A buffering order system is where the picks are completed for a given order or a pick route out of a particular area so that they can be joined up with the other component parts from other areas.

Order consolidation, staging and buffering is an application that exists both in warehousing and distribution, but also in manufacturing environments where component parts are combined together for a kit or a manufacturing item.

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Vertical Carousel

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Horizontal Carousel

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Automated Staging

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Supports Partial Picks

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VLM

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WES and WCS

Benefits of Order Consolidation, Staging and Buffering

Order consolidation is the physical aggregation of parts typically kept in a staging area. For example, an order can have parts coming from three or four areas, those parts are typically picked into some kind of a tote with a license plate identifier. Automation can be used for consolidation and staging such as put by light, put by mobile device, or put into a carousel system. Staging is the accumulation of the SKUs or parts until the order is completed and it is pulled. There are different forms of staging locations and automation that are used to support staging such as flow rack, put wall, carousels, and standard racking.

Sometimes the staged parts are inducted and pulled with only a mobile device or inducted with a mobile device and pulled with light directed operations, or sometimes a hybrid such as in and out of a horizontal carousel system, a vertical carousel, a vertical lift module etc is used.
Order consolidation, staging and buffering capability is important to an organization because in a relatively high volume, high SKU count, large operation where picking is in multiple areas, it’s not always practical to perform pick and pass.

Pick and pass can inherently be slower and slow the entire process down. In a parallel pick environment, picking is done as fast as possible, but bringing all those component orders and order lines together for shipment to the customer is still required. Without the proper system direction and automation, that can be a rather significant and inaccurate process that incurs a great deal of labor and its typically being done in an extremely concise and small timeframe.

To optimize the order consolidation, staging and buffering process one can review how the identification of the product by license plate identifiers, coming from different areas is being attached to orders. 

Manual identification of parts from various areas is time consuming and prone to errors. Automation with some form of pick to tote or license plate identifier to identify what’s been picked in a particular area is normally employed.

The automation of the process requires a WES or WCS solution to manage the process. The physical part then is whatever manual or automated storage system that is used to perform the staging buffering and then the pulling process. It can be shelving for a put wall, flow rack, carousels, etc.

The benefits for optimized order consolidation are greater warehouse throughput and reduced labor. By the time all these orders and the component parts of the orders are all picked there is a very, very narrow window of time in which they need to be assembled for shipment and or truck loading. If automation is not used for order consolidation than large amounts of peak labor needs to be applied. It is very difficult to manage this as it is hard to workload balance that labor across the shift. The work tends to arrive in a huge peak towards the end of the shift.

ERPs and ERP WMS modules, such as SAP and Oracle, rarely if ever handle the consolidation, staging and buffering process well. They don’t handle the automation of it whether it is pick by light put by light or any form of vertical or horizontal carousel.

A WES or WCS software manages not just the communication to light directed operations and or carousels, it manages the workflow and process improvement functionality to identify all the different component parts from the various areas in an automated fashion, without manual verification. A WES or WCS can pull all of these together and integrate them with automation, these variations of pick and put by light, to ultimately bring the entire system together.

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