A warehouse management system (WMS) requires the warehouse bin locations to be barcoded for efficient usage. Barcoding eliminates the manual entry of data and the inherent risk of typing mistakes; scanning barcoded data is much faster than typing.
The naming of the bin locations should be designed to give a ‘grid map’ of the warehouses / yards / storage areas so it is clear where each bin location is situated within each branch.
Any ‘guidance’ that will be given during picking operations in the WMS will normally use an alphanumeric bin sequence. Therefore, when designing the bin code format, thought also needs to be given to the most efficient ‘walk’ around the warehouse when typically picking stock.
Two common examples of a naming convention are described below.
The first part of the bin code should identify the primary location within the branch / site. So for example the main warehouse area at Ashford might be considered to be designated as W1; the plant and garden area as G1; the shop area as CS (or perhaps C1); with the Trade counter being CT or C2; etc.
Then the bin ‘mapping’ requires further examination and coding. Perhaps for ‘aisle’ positions in the shop and warehouse areas. Note: an aisle may be the ‘work space’ between two separate racks, etc. Ends of aisles should be clearly labelled.
The example (Fig 1) below shows two racks along the outer walls and three back to back racks. It may be considered as a generic layout for a warehouse with pallet racking or for shelving in a shop area. The example shows four ‘work’ aisles. A suggested naming of the racks in the aisles is shown below. This would be suitable for guiding picking down one side of the rack and then back up the other side.
However, if the ‘walking’ is to be done from ‘side to side’ in a ‘work’ aisle, the racks would be labelled as in the following example (Fig 2).
The next element of the bin name convention is used to identify the ‘column position’ in the aisle i.e. how far down the aisle is the bin location.
Expanding the example in Fig 1, the columns would be labelled from 1 to nn going one way down the aisle and 1 to nn coming back up the aisle. See Fig 3 below. The number / name sequence for this convention is shown by the arrows.
Expanding the example in Fig 2 where ‘side to side’ direction is more efficient, the column numbering would be as shown below in Fig 4.
The final part of the bin name / code needs to give the rack level or ‘tier’ or shelf level etc. once the correct column location is reached.
If the levels / tiers are labelled A (being the floor level); B (the next level up); C etc., this would give a full bin location code of;
W1-A-01-A W1-A-01-B W1-A-01-C W1-A-01-D . . .
W1-A-02-A W1-A-02-B W1-A-02-C W1-A-02-D . . .
W1-A-03-A W1-A-03-B W1-A-03-C W1-A-04-D . . .
W1-B-01-A W1-B-01-B W1-B-01-C W1-B-01-D . . .
G1-A-01-A G1-A-01-B G1-A-01-C G1-A-01-D . . .
G1-B-01-A G1-B-01-B G1-B-01-C G1-B-01-D . . .
A simple test to know if the naming convention gives good guidance is to be able to describe the layout to someone who does not know the warehouse and to then give them a bin location and check that they can instantly find it.
Names / codes should include leading (significant) zeros where applicable because a computer sequence (such as Sage200 will use) without leading zeros give results such as 1, 11, 21, 31, etc., whereas with leading zeros the computer sequence would give results correctly: 01; 02; 03, . . . 09, 10, 11 etc.
Labelling pallet racking and shelves is generally best carried out by the racking specialist suppliers who can provide solutions that use labels that are permanent; not easily damaged and possibly colour coded to identify the racking tier levels etc.