It will surprise some to know that cotton warehousing is a science. We utilize the block-stacking method based on the research by Faulkner et. al. (BALE STACKING STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE WAREHOUSE EFFICIENCY AND MARKETING).
Block-stacking in a cotton warehouse was the most efficient method to assemble and load one 88-bale order. For the two marketing methods con- sidered, four-bale marketing was preferred if the facility was small and MILLNetTM for Merchants was preferred if the facility was medium or large. In a block-stacking warehouse, international ship- ments had the shortest order accumulation times regardless of the marketing method; baseline, four- bale marketing, or MILLNetTM for Merchants. The greatest time savings (50%-75%) were realized by using MILLNetTM for Merchants and pulling bales only from the front faces of the blocks. The greatest time savings (~ 75%) was realized with the smallest facility. However, implementation of MILLNetTM for Merchants will be limited by the capability of the warehouse to perform real-time tracking on the stack composition including identification of the outer bales. In general, four-bale marketing offered less savings but would be easier to implement in a block-stacked warehouse.
In aisle-stacked warehouses, four-bale market- ing offered no time savings over baseline operations. However, use of MILLNetTM for Merchants software did lead to time savings, depending on the size of the warehouse facility and the inventory to which the merchant had access. Within aisle-stacking, the use of MILLNetTM for Merchants resulted in time savings of between 2 and 17%, which equated to a savings of up to 54 minutes per load. Greater time savings (27%) were realized when only one or two sheds were used to pull the orders. The greatest time savings was realized with MILLNetTM by limiting the number of sheds from which bales were pulled.
Reducing the time required to accumulate bales in a cotton warehouse for shipment can improve the flow of cotton through the U.S. supply chain and has the potential to improve warehouse profitability. This work showed that in almost all cases the application of either of the two marketing methods to the order assembly process reduced order assembly times. Block-stacking in a cotton warehouse was the most efficient way to accumulate and load one 88-bale order and is recommended. For the two marketing methods tested, the shortest order assembly times were estimated when using the four-bale marketing method if the facility was small and the MILLNetTM method if the facility was medium or large. The ship- ping method used impacted order assembly times in block-stacking warehouses, where international shipments has shorter times for baseline, four-bale marketing, and MILLNetTM for Merchants methods. Shipping cotton overseas required less consideration of bale uniformity and allowed for greater flex- ibility when choosing bales for shipments, which subsequently generated greater time savings by re- ducing the number of sheds from which bales were pulled. Financial savings associated with the use of MILLNetTM for Merchants and four-bale marketing could incentivize warehouses to adopt a method that considers bale location as part of their order devel- opment. Overall, through the use of MILLNetTM for Merchants software or four-bale marketing a cotton warehouse can realize significant time savings with little effort on the part of the merchant.