How A DC Walkthrough Can Improve the Loading/Shipping Workflow

How A DC Walkthrough Can Improve the Loading/Shipping Workflow

A DC Walkthrough is an engaging assessment that includes discussions, observations, and interviews among workers, supervisors, and management personnel with the objective to document current business and operational processes and look at ways technology and process changes can be applied to make improvements. The DC Walkthrough can be an informal or formal review/audit conducted by the company or external third parties. 

At Honeywell we have the opportunity to conduct DC Walkthroughs throughout the world for every conceivable type and size of DC. The goal of our assessment is to validate logistical/operational processes relative to industry best practices focused on time savings, increased worker productivity, and improved accuracy. We focus on the identification of opportunities to both improve stand-alone general processes, as well as improve processes with new technology. 

When we review the Loading/Packing workflow, we ask questions like:

  1. How are products loaded? (fluid, pallets, etc.)
  2. What steps are performed in loading?
  3. Are any labels printed/applied at shipping?
  4. Are pallets consolidated at loading?
  5. How is loading performed? (paper, label, RF, voice)
  6. What verification steps are performed in loading? (container, door, trailer, etc.)
  7. Is container/asset tracking performed? How? (paper, RF, RFID, voice)
  8. What paperwork is produced? How is it recorded?
  9. How is the system updated at load close?

Loading/Shipping Walkthrough Observations and Recommendations Example

Conducting a DC Walkthrough is done with “fresh eyes.” Fresh eyes is defined as looking at the workflow with the intent of learning and understanding the current state of operations without bias or preconceived conclusions, and then applying industry knowledge and best practices to recommend ways to improve upon the current performance.

The following is an example of a DC Walkthrough Honeywell did for a medium-sized DC in North America for the Loading/Shipping workflow, which includes observations with associated recommendations.

DC Walkthrough Observations

1. Load Types

  1. Parcel
    1. UPS
      1. Truck leaves 8 p.m.
    2. After manifesting loaded via fluid load into staged trailer with telescoping conveyor
  2. LTL
    1. Scan products and build LTL pallet
    2. Packer overpacks boxes with corrugated
    3. Completed pallet sent to Manifesting (AFS) system
    4. Build BOL and apply placard (color coded)
    5. Loads married visually by looking at pack slips
      1. No current scan or application of traveler LPN
      2. Scan Yellow sheet barcode
      3. Enter weight and other data
      4. Print 2 copies of BOL
        • White and Yellow
        • Apply Pro # to each
        • White is company copy
        • Yellow goes with driver
      5. Place colored placard in printer
        • Add Pro # label
    6. Moved to pre-stage for wrapping
    7. Moved to load stage
    8. Loaded into trailer as needed
    9. Lane 1
      1. User Priority
    10. Lane 2
      1. Regional
    11. Lane 3
      1. User Regular
    12. Trucking company stages trailer for last pickups
      1. Also, do some live loading
    13. Once paperwork finished, PGI order in SAP and decrement inventory
  3. Specials
    1. Will Call, Hazmat, FedEx, Exports
      1. Exports
        • UPS Next and 2 Day
        • FedEx Express
        • Some USPS
    2. Process includes both Packing and Manifesting at same station
    3. Manual measuring for Dim/Weight
    4. Prints destination label
    5. Place to Staged Carts
      1. One customer for one cart
        • Observed multiple while visiting
        • Could produce errors or missed Will Call pickup
        • Not currently barcoded carts and scanned into stage
    6. 40-order / 100-line average
  4. Staging
    1. No placard skids staged between doors 11–16
    2. Placard skids staged between doors 5–11
    3. Have some instances of missed skid loads and wrong skid loads

DC Walkthrough Best Practices Recommendations

The loading process in any DC is another area where errors can be rampant and cost the operation a lot of money. Errors can occur due to multiple reasons. A loader can grab the proper material for the load he/she is working on, but load it onto the wrong trailer or in the wrong door/bay. Another error point in loading is not loading all product destined for that delivery. These errors become very costly as extra delivery routes are usually created to meet the customer’s satisfaction.

We recommend all items dropped at pre-wrapping stage or loading stage be scanned to maintain visibility in the WMS. It is a best practice to scan between stage points. This occurs in some places in the DC but not in the loading and staging areas of the dock. A printed LPN traveler label would be more productive than the paper-based method and provide constant visibility. The use of mobile computers on the loading dock can greatly enhance accuracy and productivity over paper-based operations.

For loading, scanning the product/pallets on the dock will prompt the system to direct that pallet to a specific load in a specific door/bay. There is a subsequent scan of the correct door to ensure the product is on the correct trailer. System directions can be as specific as requiring the loader to scan the pallet, the door/bay, and the trailer being loaded to ensure accuracy, or any combination of the above steps. The system can also prompt the loader that all pallets for that load are not loaded and direct them to the staging locations for retrieval. 

Scanning the product on the dock and loading it as it arrives would enhance the efficiency of the loading process as well for staged trailers and enable the dock to turn faster and reduce any associated congestion. Direct system loading should also support the loading of multiple trailers at one time by a single loader as well as support multiple loaders working the same trailer or trailers. 

Another common use of mobile computers in the loading process is for image capture of the outbound load condition utilizing the camera feature. This protects the facility from unwarranted damage claims.

We recommend that hanging overhead placards are used to identify stage locations so that product delivered to any dock staging requires a scan into the location and the retrieval of product for loading requires a scan out of the stage location. This is a best practice and provides not only visibility to the product but eliminates missed product on loads. All load information is also captured on the mobile device, thus eliminating the need for handling paperwork. Allow the WMS to maintain the load information supplied by the scanning of barcodes.

In the Specials area, we recommend barcoding the staging carts/pallets and scanning the finished packages onto them as we observed mixed customer carts/pallets. Scanning them off for Will Call pick up can complete the order in the system.

Our Intelligrated team can be engaged to address future opportunities to auto-bundle packages for shipping savings. The team can also provide extendable conveyors used in the fluid unloading and fluid loading processes.

Recommended hardware and software for these processes includes:

  • Loading
  • Intelligrated extendable conveyor
  • Intelligrated auto-bundler solution

All mobility recommendations are Android™ capable.

Technology Improvements in the Loading/Shipping Workflow

According to the 2018 WERC study1, technology within the supply chain is becoming increasingly important. Many companies are beginning to focus on digital transformation by focusing more on mobile technologies, cloud-based services, and big data practices. 

The study also points out that a majority of distribution centers use no other technology beyond a warehouse management system (WMS) and mobile devices with RF/barcode scanners. In terms of adoption plans, over 90% of warehouse managers expect to be using mobile technologies within five years (which is just over 50% today). Eighty-six percent expect to be using big data and real-time analytics within five years, which is a 60% increase over the percentage of people using the technology today.

Honeywell brings a wide set of solutions together that can influence positive outcomes in the Loading/Shipping workflow throughout the DC. They include the following:  

  • Mobile Computers with 1D and 2D Imaging. Utilizing mobile computers with imagers to scan product and label information as well as capture additional data is more productive (~25%) and accurate (~50%) than paper/manual-based methods. It helps ensure quality control, vendor compliance, and quantity-received information is captured in real-time.
  • Wearable Solutions. A growing number of companies have turned to hands-free computing solutions to streamline operations and improve productivity. The Honeywell 8680i wearable mini mobile provides a hands-free solution that offers increases in productivity and improved ergonomics over handheld devices.
  • Barcode Scanning. Superior durability and reliability, with water- and dust-proof housings and rubberized to reduce damage from falls. Choose from laser, linear image, and area image industrial scanners for fast and accurate scanning, the first time and every time. Can be used with vehicle-mounted computers for pallet landing.
  • Vehicle-Mounted Computer Solutions. Our vehicle-mounted computer solutions turn forklift- and vehicle-based workflows into information technology platforms. Roughly 25% of the average DC’s labor is spent on receiving and put-away tasks. Equipping your forklifts with technologies – such as computers, barcode scanners, printers, radio-frequency identification (RFID), voice, lights, and software – can reduce material handling costs, help optimize order fulfillment rates, and help increase inventory accuracy with real-time tracking.
  • Fixed and Mobile Printing and Media. As part of the loading workflow, printers are primarily used for creating outbound destination labels. Destination labels are usually required to be applied to the finished container (pallet, tote, etc.). This can be accomplished by placing fixed printers throughout the facility so that the picker can retrieve them either before or after completing their pick task. These fixed printer stations can, however, become choke points in high-volume operations. Mobile printers can also be deployed, especially in operations such as Convenience and Drugstore DCs that require a shelf or pricing label be applied to each item picked, or in each picking where tote or carton labels are required.
  • RFID.  Ideal for applications such as inventory cycle counts, omnichannel order fulfillment, receiving new product, and pick lists – lightweight yet rugged for tough DC environments.
  • Material Handling Solutions from Honeywell Intelligrated. We see many medium-size DCs exploring and adding varying degrees of material handling solutions to augment and/or replace manual portions of their DC operations with elements of the Honeywell Intelligrated offering such as:
    • Labor Management Software (LMS). Honeywell Intelligrated’s Labor Management software allows you to effectively manage your labor and staffing needs, helping you to maximize labor productivity and minimize labor costs. Actionable insights allow you to accurately evaluate worker performance. Patented algorithms help forecast when workers may be at risk for leaving, giving you the ability to take proactive measures. Our LMS provides an effective way to manage labor productivity while improving training, process compliance, and efficiency.
    • Sortation and Conveyor Systems. Sortation and conveyor systems are the critical conduits for transporting, directing, and routing product flows through busy DC environments. While conveyors are essential for moving product throughout a facility, sortation systems separate products for induction into individual lanes typically associated with an outbound destination. With the rise of ecommerce, sortation and conveyor systems have evolved from simply transporting cases for store replenishment to handling a variety of individual items and packaging types. Honeywell Intelligrated’s award-winning solutions cover the full spectrum of throughput requirements – up to 20,000 items per hour.
    • Palletizing and Depalletizing.  Keep your end-of-line packaging, distribution, and fulfillment operations moving at industry-leading speeds – more than 200 cases per minute or more – with Honeywell Intelligrated’s palletizers and depalletizers. Whether you’re a manufacturer or an omnichannel retailer, you’ll get the flexibility and dependability to stay at peak efficiency. Our engineers can install individual units, or set up complete systems fully integrated with your existing conveyor and other material-handling equipment.
    • Warehouse Execution Systems. Honeywell Intelligrated’s Momentum software helps improve efficiencies, automate manual processes, and fully help optimize fulfillment operations. This unified platform reduces unsupportable, one-off customizations and allows you to select only the functions you need to meet your unique operational requirements.
    • Robotics. Robotics enable high-performance material handling and fulfillment capabilities throughout your operations. We have more than 25 years of experience developing and implementing robotic solutions for dynamic, unstructured environments such as distribution centers. Backed by extensive knowledge of DC workflows, we offer warehouse integration expertise, innovative technologies, and a strong controls foundation to incorporate the benefits of robotics into your operation. From packet picking and robotic singulation to unloading and depalletizing, we have a broad portfolio of patented robotic innovations and strive to continually engineer new solutions.

Achieve Better Outcomes with Honeywell

At Honeywell, we have extensive experience in successfully solving complex problems for a variety of ecommerce and omnichannel businesses. We’re committed to solving your DC accuracy challenges through relentless innovation and a desire to deliver best-fit solutions. We provide access to the actionable insights and information you need to transform your business.


Our expert assessment teams will partner with you to understand your unique business requirements and identify where opportunities exist to optimize your workflows and increase efficiencies within today’s competitive business climate.

Take your DC to the next level. Contact a Honeywell Solutions Expert today! Call 1-800-934-3163.

Barry J. Ewell

Barry J. Ewell is a Senior Content Marketing Communications Specialist for Honeywell Industrial Automation. He has been researching and writing on supply chain topics since 1991.