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By Scott Simpson, November 27, 2018

We covered most of the different types of Replenishment in Part 1. Here we’ll finish talking about Top-off Replenishment and give examples and tips for using the methods that might work best for your operations.

When does it work best to use Top-Off Replenishment?

Top-off replenishment can be run on a set schedule or be batch released by area, product and line in order to add inventory to forward pick locations or areas before they reach their minimum threshold. These configurations typically follow or share a similar min and max threshold (often called a budget) to triggered or routine replenishment. Releasing a batch of top-off replenishment to a pick line will help prepare that line for the next wave of picks. Further, releasing a batch of top-off replenishments introduces new work to the floor to be performed. In turn, that creates an opportunity for greater task management and interleaving and allows your crew to work more efficiently by performing existing work along with the new replenishment tasks. This also decreases the amount of time that equipment is deadheading. You can also use this method as a means of creating work to consolidate partial pallets in reserve locations to a forward pick line. This creates more available real estate within the distribution center for putaway.

What’s an Example of an Operations Using all Three Styles of Replenishment?

Company Type: A multi-temperature controlled DC servicing a retail chain of grocery stores with several commodities and value-added services
Employees: Multiple shift operation

Incorporating a blend of static pick face assignment areas, dynamic floating pick face areas, tempered forward pick lines and ad-hoc, demand replenished pick areas might work best for this type of operation.

  • Routine
    • Set up static pick faces with well thought out min and max budgets for the staple items that are well-known and seldom see a change in economic demand. Routine replenishment tasks would sustain the pick locations and ensure the picking team always has enough product to fulfilled the forecasted orders.
    • Seasonal items such as novelty ice-cream may require a shorter-term duration pick face with the same parameters.
  • Demand
    • Goods with more dynamic spikes, like fruitcake, may be better accommodated with a demand replenishment configuration and a dynamic pick face.
    • Goods that have peak or routine tempering services where an item needs to be moved from a freezer reserve area to a cooler/temper location for a period of time prior to being picked and shipped.
  • Top-off
    • Could be released at opportune times between picking shifts or to bring additional work to the floor for the Routine replenishment areas. This would create more efficient workflows by introducing more interleaving potential.

What’s the right method for my operations?

Typically operations use all three styles but at different times in operations. Your best method may be a combination of one or two of these styles (or all three).

  • Take a close look at goals, real estate, throughput and pick density. These will help you make the best decision. You’ll want to tweak these methodologies over time, benchmark, fine tune, etc. Always look for opportunities to better slot pick lines.
  • Experiment with a combination of styles to determine what gets the best results. Never consider the work complete as everything changes from operations and team members to equipment, etc. Keep looking for those opportunities to improve.

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