Zoning strategy: what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Warehouse management

The zoning warehousing strategy divides the warehouse into several zones in which it recommends storing goods based on their turnover. In practice, warehouse workers store the items with the highest turnover in the warehouse zone as close as possible to the dispatch, and conversely the goods with the lowest turnover in the zone furthest from the dispatch. The goal of this strategy is primarily to shorten the routes of warehouse workers when picking orders, or completing orders according to regulations and more.

The strategy is very similar to the ABC strategy, when the goods are placed on the shelves according to turnover and at the same time based on the Pareto rule. Goods A – approximately 20% of the assortment, which accounts for 80% of the turnover – is stored in positions closest to the dispatch. Goods B (30% of the assortment and 15% of the turnover) are stored further away from the dispatch by the warehouse workers. Goods C (50% of the assortment and 5% of turnover) will then be placed farthest from the dispatch.

There are also other perspectives on zoning: a warehouse can be divided into zones according to its physical structure (halls, racks, aisles), where a specific type of goods is stored in each zone. Zoning is very useful, for example, for food manufacturers who must meet the requirements of HACCP and other regulations. In such warehouses, zones are usually divided according to air temperature, with frozen goods in one zone, chilled goods in another, and so on. The warehouse system guides the warehouse workers to place the received goods in the correct zone as quickly as possible and prevent the meat from spoiling during the transfer because it waits too long for clearance at room temperature.

Similarly, zoning is suitable for companies storing dangerous goods such as explosives, adhesives or flammables and covered by the European ADR agreement. In the WMS warehouse system, you define zones for each type of dangerous goods, and the system then guides warehouse workers to the correct zones when storing the goods, so that a potentially fatal error cannot occur.

However, the original idea of the strategy is related to the turnover of goods.

Advantages of zoning strategy

The biggest advantage of zoning is reducing the time it takes to remove most items. Since the highest turnover goods are located closest to the dispatch, warehouse workers take the shortest possible route to handle most requests. Thanks to this, they unload goods faster and can process more orders in the same time. In addition, you can divide the goods from the order according to zones and efficiently remove several items at once.

If you divide the warehouse into zones, you will create more smaller warehouses and all the advantages associated with it. Each warehouse worker can then be in charge of only one zone, which they know very well and in which they work more efficiently. Zoning is useful, for example, in automated warehouses, where a robot or cart only moves in its zone (for example, its aisle) and picks goods on a conveyor belt in the middle of the warehouse. Similarly, zoning also enables multipicking, where a warehouse worker in one zone collects goods for several orders at the same time and then continues to the next zone.

In addition, you can assign your own storage and removal strategy to individual zones in the warehouse. So if you sell multiple types of goods with different storage requirements, you can remove with FIFO in one zone, while removing by expiration date in another.

Disadvantages of zoning strategy

The zoning strategy tends to be very dynamic and the layout of the warehouse has to change frequently depending on the season or current trends. Mass transfers of goods from one zone to another are logistically demanding, and it is necessary to reorganize the entire warehouse because of them, often including rearranging racks and shelves.

Another disadvantage is the uneven loading of the warehouse. The busiest zone can be congested, creating queues or collisions, while the aisles in the rest of the warehouse are empty. Thus, especially during peak times, the logistics manager must prioritize individual requirements and determine which orders will be processed first. This can lead to unnecessary downtime.

Given the frequent reorganization of the warehouse, it is advisable to implement a computer information system for warehouse management, for example WMS (warehouse management system), to effectively use this strategy. Warehouse movements are then recorded in this system and the system informs warehouse workers about the positions of the goods.

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