Using DMAIC to Improve Picking Process?

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    Is this even a project that I would use DMAIC on?
    I am in a new position, and trying to clean up the picking process that we currently use. As a team the assoicates are failing at hitting their KPIs. The rate is picking 120 units (books) per hour. They use carts, and are guided through the warehouse using tablets. What are some barriers that I should be looking for?



    Hi Brobbs,

    You can use DMAIC or PDCA. Very roughly I would approach it like this.

    – What is the current picking process and metrics.
    – What do you want them to be and by when? (Are they realistic?)

    – Conduct any measures of the process that you don’t already know of.
    – Map the process.
    – Watch the process.
    – Speak to the people working in the process.
    – Speak to key stakeholders.

    – Bring some of the people in the process together and drill down into why people are not hitting KPIs using things like Fishbone and 5 whys.
    – Look at 80/20

    – Brainstorm solutions with the workers
    – Analyse which solution or solutions would potentially help the most. Use Impact/Effort and other Ranking and Rating tools.
    – Setup a test environment for those solutions. This could be having some of the operatives using the new process for a period of time. Then comparing the results.
    – Review how the improvements worked and making any further improvements.
    – Create any documentation the workers may need to follow the pilot process.
    – Rollout new process.

    – Implement any control measures that you need.
    – Work with HR to ensure workers are trained in the new process and any new workers are also trained.
    – Set up a review date(s) to ensure process is still meeting needs.

    Barriers may include:
    – Workers not wanting to engage, so bring them into the improvement process
    – Workers not sticking to the new process, so ensure training is rolled out.
    – Political barriers or resource barriers, such as not being given the time to do the improvement work.

    Good luck :)


    Robert Butler

    I guess my first question would be – where did you get a KPI of 120 books/hour? That amounts to a minimum of 1 book every 30 seconds.

    Given your description “The rate is picking 120 units (books) per hour. They use carts, and are guided through the warehouse using tablets. What are some barriers that I should be looking for?” My personal guess would be the KPI came from wishful thinking… one book every 30 seconds and you are pushing(?) driving(?) carts through a warehouse guided by tablets trying to meet this requirement???!!!

    If we assume you have prior data – it should be hourly by operator since that is the unit of your KPI – the first thing you should do is plot the data. A good start would be boxplots (make sure you can include the raw data in the plot) for individuals for some period of time. Overlay the target (a target with, apparently, no tolerances by the way – not good) and see how the boxplots for each of the operators stack up (sorry about that).

    Next I’d get out there on the warehouse floor and really understand what the operators are facing – one book every 30 seconds…
    1. These books are distributed around the warehouse how?
    2. These books are all at the same level or are in tiers of racks running floor to ceiling?
    3. How does the picker pick the books?
    a. easy reach with hands?
    b. need for some kind of mechanical hand to reach books beyond human physical reach?
    c. If mechanical – how easy to use?
    d. if mechanical -availability of the mechanical picker – can anyone get one of these at any instant or do they have to go searching for them?
    4. “Guided through the warehouse” – and the warehouse floor plan is laid out how?
    a. rabbits warren – lots of dead ends, random blockage of passage due to various circumstances
    b. if isles of some sort – same questions…oh yes, can the carts move down the isle with ease? If two people are on the same isle can they pass with ease?

    …and so on and so forth –

    Do NOT just take some supervisor or some group of supervisors word on how thing go. These people mean well but the day-to-day gathering of books are not their field of expertise – you have to talk to the people doing the work and you have to spend enough time on the floor asking questions and observing before you try to do anything else.

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