image of someone using hand sanitizer

How the Coronavirus Changed Warehouse Management and Design

COVID-19 seemed to have come out of nowhere. In fact, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, warehouses were pressed to keep workers safe. They needed to stay open, but they needed to do it safely. In the beginning, no one knew how hard this pandemic would hit, but there was time to learn what worked and what didn’t work and warehouses are now better able to design a system that keeps inventory flowing and workers safe.

Warehouses across the country, including KACO Warehouse in Arizona, have had to rethink their business models to stop COVID-19 from spreading in the workplace. For example, warehouses have altered their design to accommodate social distancing. Without these measures, warehouses would not be able to stay open. Other ways warehouses are staying safe is by mask-wearing, temperature checks, and taking a fresh look at sick leave policies. This safety issue has been going on since March and since then, warehouses have implemented a number of safety precautions, one of which is rigorously cleaning tractors and forklifts, something that will likely continue once the pandemic is gone.

When it comes to redesigning warehouse space, it is all about how the workers navigate the warehouse and maintain six feet of social distancing while they’re working or on break and technology is helping. There are algorithms that know when employees are maintaining social distancing in warehouse aisles, along with cameras that are linked to a central hub. This technology is not there to spy on workers but to use algorithms to create safe routes for workers to follow when storing or accessing inventory. This technology goes so far to know when an employee is not working up to their capacity, which could be a sign they’re sick.

All of this came at a time when e-commerce began to skyrocket and that’s even before the holidays hit. With people in lockdown and not out shopping, we saw a huge spike in demand in 2020. In order to keep up with this demand, warehouses needed to implement safety measures and quickly. E-commerce sales before 2020 even ended jumped from 80 million to over 200 million. And the trend is not slowly down. Purchasing online is now the first option for many people locked down and needing supplies.

With no sign of the pandemic slowing down, the new safety measures implemented in warehouses across the country will remain for the unforeseeable future. There’s no reason to scrap them anytime soon. For most warehouses across the country, these new business models have worked. Consumers have no idea what has had to go on behind the scenes to make sure they received their delivery. Warehouses have had to make a lot of changes to stay in business, but it has certainly been worth it both for the companies and or consumers.

 

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Dynamic vs. Static Storage

When planning the warehouse design of your facility, it’s important to take the time to determine the best layout. The warehouse design plays a critical role in operations. It can mean the difference between profit and loss. You want the design to be conducive to improving productivity and efficiency. You may even want to consider using a professional to assist you in the planning of your warehouse design. Distribution and warehouse center layouts include four elements: static storage, dynamic storage, receiving and shipping. Typically, these elements are laid out according to the space of the facility. Handling equipment and product are also considered in the layout of a warehouse.

The static storage space in a warehouse is where products are stored. And products are generally stored on pallets. The dynamic storage area is called the “forward pick.” That’s because this is the area where products are picked for fulfillment. Once items in the dynamic storage area are selected, they are quickly replenished.  Several factors of the dynamic storage area often include different types of racking to lessen overall pick time. It’s also called the pick module. The pick module is designed o the material handling equipment. For example, first-out pallet storage may be accessed by forklifts. Within this configuration, a selective rack may be included.

Also known as the reserve storage area, the static area is used to reserve palletized storage. For products that need higher selectivity, a drive-through rack may be a good option.

It’s important to take into consideration both static storage and dynamic storage when planning the layout of your warehouse. And the through-flow needs to also be considered. U-shaped warehouses are very common/ In this layout, receiving and shipping docks are right next to each other. I-shaped and L-shaped warehouse product flow layouts provide larger sorting and storage areas for both receiving and shipping docks.

Racking System Types for Dynamic and Static Storage Areas

The types of racking systems that you choose for the dynamic and static storage areas will be dependent on the needs for product flow. These systems come in two groups, “first-in, first-out” and “last-in, first-out.” The racking types that you use for both the dynamic and static storage areas of the warehouse or distribution center should be chosen for your product operations. Racking systems can be separated into two groups: “first-in, first-out (FIFO)” and “last-in, first-out (LIFO)”. The FIFO rack system works well when rapid stock rotation, high turnover rate and products with an expiration date are used. For example, food storage would require FIFO racking systems. Options of this racking system include pallet flow, drive-through, carton flow and selective. LIFO racking systems work well for an inventory that has a long shelf life. It also works well for items stored in large quantities. Options of this racking system include push back, double-deep selective and drive-in.

image of designed warehouse

The Reasons to Hire a Professional Warehouse Designer

Even though you may think you can design your own warehouse, there are many good reasons to use a professional warehouse designer instead. It’s unusual for anyone to who’s not a professional to have all the skills and knowledge to do this. Let’s take a look at the reasons why using a professional warehouse designer is a better option.

Maxing Efficiency

Efficiency is a critical factor in warehouse design. The better the efficiency of your warehouse design, the better the revenue. Designing a warehouse is not a one-size-fits-all task. No two facilities are the same. The layout of a warehouse design will affect efficiency. Everything from equipment to type of storage systems plays a role in warehouse design. A design professional can analyze the unique and specific needs of your warehouse to develop the best storage system for both vertical and horizontal space that is available in your warehouse. Plus, a warehouse designer professional will determine the best rack systems and equipment to use in your warehouse. The end result is that you get the best plan to maximize space for efficiency.

The Latest Technology

Professional warehouse designers use the latest technology to yield efficient handling, operational flexibility and maximum product storage. In addition, they can advise you of the latest software and technologies to optimize loading, reduce handling, ramp up communication, streamline picking processes and optimize shipping.

A Current Operational Assessment

There’s more to warehouse design than just planning for space. It entails a deep analysis of your current operations along with a plan for future growth. An experienced warehouse designer will consider the current growth rate of your facility and plan for expansion and overstock storage.

Sustainable Design Initiative

With a professional warehouse designer, you’ll get an environmentally sustainable design. This will help the environment and also save you money in the long run. Design professionals can help you select eco-friendly options to conserve water, reduce waste, minimize energy usage and optimize the facility for eco-friendliness.

The Right Permits

Professional warehouse designers have experience with all the permits that your facility will need. They also know how to get the job done quickly to avoid costly delays.

All around, a professional warehouse designer can make all the difference in developing a system to meet your operational challenges. With all the benefits of a professional warehouse designer, you can’t ignore the fact that it’s better to hire one than to try and do it yourself.

 

image of designed warehouse

Key Factors in Warehouse Design

When it comes to warehouse design, there are a few key factors to think about. You’ve got to think about outbound logistics, what happens in the warehouse and outbound logistics. Whether your company has one warehouse or multiple warehouses, the choice of location will influence costs, efficiency and service. If fast service is a part of your service, you’ll want to have the warehouse located close facilities of your carriers or close to where your customers are located. In addition to lead time and supply chain velocity, you’ll also need to think about the processes in the warehouse, storage, receiving and dispatch volumes. The goal is to focus on network optimization. How quick are your inventory returns? What’s the strategy for the best customer service. Also, there are physical requirements. Is your process manual or automated? And when it comes to inbound logistics, you’ve got to consider these questions. What are the lead times for incoming deliveries? Where are your supplier located? How reliable are your suppliers?

All About the FAST Concept

The FAST concept is the acronym for flow, accessibility, space and throughout. You can apply this concept to the layout of your warehouse design. The objective of FAST is to enable smooth workflows with an emphasis on warehouse location and service. It’s a tried and proven concept that you can use when designing a warehouse.

Once you know how many warehouses and their locations, then think about structural design and capacity. In order to focus on structural design and capacity, as yourself these questions.

  • What takes place in the warehouse? What are the daily operations? What areas do you need for intake, storage, packing, picking and dispatch? Where will you locate any value-added services?
  • What are the characteristics of the products? What types of products are stored? Are these products fragile or hazardous? Will you be using cartons or full pallets for storage? Are there rules and regulations for the storage of the products? Is any type of control needed in the environment, such as temperature control for frozen goods?
  • Does the season affect the storage? If volumes vary depending on the season, you’ll have to allow the proper capacity for this. Does your warehouse handle returns from customers? If it does, you’ll likely need extra space for this processing and storage.

Applying the FAST Concept to Warehouse Layout Design

Let’s begin with F for flow. Here, the concern is the uninterrupted flow of movement, including people, products and traffic. The goal here is to ensure there are no cross-flow clashes in the operations of the warehouse. There should be a logical sequence of operations inside the warehouse. A smooth flow of operations includes no disruption and a limited amount of movement. Time is money. With uninterrupted flow, you’ll be maximizing revenue.

Accessibility not only includes being able to get to the product, but to the packaging unit. Can the product be assessed via a truckload or a pallet load? How do the products in your facility get from one place to another? You’ll need to think about whether or not the strict policy of first-in-first-out (FIFO) applies to your product, since you’ve got to be certain that you’re in compliance.  In the case of bottled water, you may have to access inventory in a store stock room. For example, with pharmaceuticals, access may be needed to fast-moving stock area, and that takes space.

Let’s move on to space. Warehouse space should always be maximized for stock processing reasons and for operational storage. All space should be planned and utilized wisely. Keep in mind that you’ll need space for offices and working areas. Be sure to make optimal use of the cubic capacity of the space and not just the floor area. Build flexibility into the operation by using the best storage media that can evolve. This way, when your operations grow, you’re in place strategies can grow with it.

Throughout entails the nature of the product and its velocity. Characteristics like size, dimensions and shape have to be taken into consideration. The velocity of the product will depend on the volume of what’s moving in the warehouse. Use data media to assist in the layout of the design, and get the facts.  The better the data; the less the risk.

Without a doubt, there’s a lot to think about in warehouse design. It’s not an easy or simple task. Planning and designing is an important undertaking that requires a lot of thought. The main point is to understand that flow, accessibility, space and throughout must be in place for maximum efficiency. If you’re not certain on how to do this, consider consulting a specialist with plenty of experience in warehouse design. A specialist will be able to ensure that your warehouse design and operations work for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warehouse Safety Notice for Post-Covid Return

Post-Covid 19 in your Warehouse: Top Safety Priorities

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed a lot about our world, particularly in the way companies do their business. Many consumer are choosing to stay away from businesses to prevent exposure and more companies are allowing their employees to work from home. When it comes to working in warehouses, it’s no different. However, many of your employees will still need to physically do their jobs, which is why it’s important for companies that use warehouses to take the proper steps to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees. The following practices will help you give your warehouse employees peace of mind when they head into work each day.

Review Risk Assessments

While your previous risk assessments may have worked just fine, there’s a new normal so they need to be reassessed by today’s standards. First and foremost, you need to determine how to minimize or eliminate the risk of contracting the virus in your warehouse. This includes reducing the possible routes of transmission that may exist in your current processes. While PPE equipment can help, wherever possible, it’s better to provide Plexiglass partitions and the ability to socially distance wherever possible. Your employees’ input can be an invaluable part of this process. It’s also a good time to review and revamp cleaning processes, using the right cleaning agents, particularly on high-contact surfaces.

Check Supply Chain Safety

In the warehouse industry, it’s not just about your warehouse; it’s also about your supply chain. Talk to your vendors about their own precautions surrounding Covid-19 and make sure they’re taking the appropriate steps as well. Let them know what you’re doing to keep everyone safe and how that applies to their interactions with you. This will prevent more serious discussions down the line if something goes wrong.

Ensure Safety on All Shifts

Many warehouses have fire marshalls and employees trained in first aid to ensure the safety of all workers. When choosing who to furlough or allow to work from home, make sure you have these qualified individuals onsite during each shift. You may be able to reduce their numbers, but there should be someone present on all shifts so those who are still working at your physical location are protected.

Control Goods Going In and Out

Whether you deal with customer returns or it’s simply the delivery process, reducing points of contact is a must. While this isn’t fully possible for warehouses, limiting interactions and putting precautions in place will help keep everyone safer. Social distancing, proper cleaning and protective barriers are just part of this process. You may also have to isolate any goods coming in for 72 hours to ensure they’re free of the virus before going to the next point in the process. Remote drop-off from your supply chain can also be useful in reducing contact points.

Map Out a Response Plan

Even with all the proper precautions in place, someone in your warehouse could test positive at any point. Rather than being surprised and having to scramble to figure out what to do, haivng a response plan in place ahead of time can save a lot of time and money. Remember, one of the best ways to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is contact tracing. Having an effective way to map out where each employee is throughout the day can help make this process easier.

4 Ways To Be More Efficient In Your Warehouse

It’s important for warehouse owners and managers to keep an eye out for their efficiency levels. From knowing how to increase productivity to decreasing energy consumption, achieving higher efficiency can limit waste and boost revenue at the same time. To increase efficiency in a warehouse, you will likely need to invest in new equipment and machinery. This type of investment can make the warehouse more efficient in more ways than one. Keep reading to learn four ways your investment in increasing efficiency throughout the warehouse can have a huge payoff.

Track Power Consumption

You need equipment that tracks your energy consumption. With the data you collect, you can pinpoint which tasks require the most energy and time. You can even identify which days of the week your warehouse consumes the most energy. With this knowledge, it becomes easier to see where and how to reduce energy consumption. Take for example the data reveals the heating and cooling system accounts for the largest percentage of the warehouse’s overall consumption of energy. This knowledge indicates a need for upgrades throughout the warehouse’s HVAC system.

Increase Your Recycling Activities

There are likely several nearby recycling companies that you can partner with to increase your warehouse’s recycling activities. Some of these companies remove and recycle waste for you while others can even help you make a profit off of recycling. With the right equipment, though, you can easily recycle internally. This means you can take the warehouse’s waste, recycle it, and use it again. Take for example you want to recycle the warehouse’s garbage and use it as compost. This is completely doable with the right equipment, an excellent way to increase efficiency, and is also very friendly to Mother Nature.

Boost Productivity

Making a warehouse more efficient becomes quite simple when you figure out how to increase its overall productivity. Some of the best ways to increase productivity are to tinker with the systems you have to make operations more efficient, get rid of workplace distractions, and ensure you have managers in place who prioritize efficiency. It’s also highly suggested that you provide workers with a comfortable break area. This is another reason to invest in new equipment and machinery for the warehouse, even in the break areas. You want to make sure workers have access to drinks, food, and a place to sit and stretch.

Reduce Maintenance Fees

Lastly, improving efficiency is a great way to reduce maintenance fees, particularly when you use modern equipment. Today’s modern equipment uses advanced technology to deploy the latest green practices and reduce energy consumption. This results in fewer instances of necessary maintenance, which translates into reduced maintenance fees.

Final Thoughts

Increasing efficiency in your warehouse should be a top priority. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to have an operations manager solely devoted to this task. This ensures you have someone at all times working to make sure the warehouse is using the most up to date methods for decreasing energy consumption and increasing efficiency.

Reduce Packaging Costs and Plan For Every Part

Packaging is one of the most essential parts of manufacturing. An inefficient packing process not only wastes time, but it can also be a waste of valuable resources. When looking at the plan for every part, or PFEP, there are some simple ways you can optimize the supply chain and work toward using less packaging, which will reduce your manufacturing costs. When you implement PFEP into your manufacturing process, you will reduce your costs related to receiving, producing, storing and even shipping your parts and products.

Design and Develop a PFEP Template

It can be beneficial to appoint a team to work on creating a PFEP template that works best for your business in particular. These individuals will look at how to optimize the packaging within your plant, as well as how to optimize the packaging on the materials and other products that come from your suppliers. For many companies, it’s easier to start with implementing a plan for your internal processes first since you have more control over these processes. The good news is there is automated PFEP software available that can help streamline this process and guide your team in making the right decisions. This software clearly defines your inventory, keeps track of inventory usage and recommends supply chain adjustments. All of this is done automatically with little or no input from your team, freeing up their time to focus on other aspects and allowing for fast adjustments that start saving money faster.

Gather and Organize Data

It can be time-consuming to gather data on packaging processes, especially when you’re dealing with multiple systems. This is particularly difficult at the beginning of the process, which can lead to frustration and a lack of motivation. You can help motivate your team by celebrating the identification of accurate data sources and tracking the overall data input the team makes. One of the ways you can improve the effectiveness of this process is to utilize formulas designed to calculate pull signals and planned maximum inventory costs, levels and days. Your goal is to better understand your inventory, particularly the parts purchased. It’s unnecessary to plan or act on the data at this stage in the process.

Maintain and Optimize the Data

The third step in the process is to optimize your packaging. For instance, you can work with a supplier to optimize the packaging on your inbound shipments to reduce those packaging and inbound logistics costs, as well as improve the inventory space in your plant and keep inventory at an appropriate level. When you input this information in your automated PFEP software, it will identify standard packs, container weights and inbound logistics costs, calculating your future state PFEP. Minor adjustments can then be made to identify where you can save money. When you work with your suppliers on this matter, you not only improve your own bottom line, but you can also help them save money in the process. It’s a mutually beneficial task that can help both businesses reduce costs and improve profits. Many companies can save up to 20% of their costs using this process.

Actively refining your PFEP should be a continuous process. While it may seem overwhelming and difficult to implement in the first place, once the above steps are completed, you will be able to more easily make adjustments and ensure your business is operating with lower costs for a higher rate of return.

5 Ways To Use Plastic Pallet Boxes

Warehouses and shippers all over the world have switched over to plastic storage options. For the past decade, plastic pallet boxes in particular have reigned supreme as durable storage containers that hold a wide variety of items and be easily cleaned in between use. Many people also prefer these boxes over traditional storage because they are easily stackable and are fairly light despite being able to hold a large amount of weight. Unlike traditional wooden shipping crates, they can be secured without being nailed shut. Needless to say, plastic pallet boxes are also the more economical option because they can be used over and over again.

The proof is in the real-life ways they are used —plastic pallet boxes have been used for an impressive range of purposes over the years! Here are just five of the most unique ways they have been (and continue to be) used:

1. Helping Plastic Bottles Reach Their Purpose

Before plastic bottles take their shape and hold popular liquids, they are shipped to factories all over the world as simple “preforms.” Plastic pallet boxes make it possible to ship these bottle preforms in amazingly large quantities at a time, keeping them clean and sanitized in the process. Notably, the preforms for a popular sports drink were shipped in these containers at an impressive 20,000 units per box for the 2012 London Olympic games. These storage containers were chosen both for their stackable design and for their easy-to-clean surfaces.

2. As Supermarket Produce Displays

Grocery store customers should look closely at the produce section next time they’re shopping. Forgoing inconvenient, less-durable wood stands, many stores have started placing plastic pallet boxes directly on the store floor to use as produce displays. Which makes sense, because these are the containers that a lot of supermarket produce and products are shipped in these days anyway.

3. Assisting Professional Fisherman

For those who fish for a living, keeping equipment dry and secure is a serious matter. Some major fishing operations now use plastic pallet boxes as equipment storage both in port and on ship. These containers provide reliable protection from the elements and also

4. Keeping Animal Food Fresh

Both zoos and pet food suppliers use plastic pallets to store large quantities of animal feed and prevent it from getting moldy or stale. These seal-able containers also make it easier to transport these food products to different locations without having to worry about them losing freshness.

5. As Reusable Construction Materials

Plastic pallet boxes can be used over and over agin as shipping and storage containers, but some groups are using them for even more creative purposes. Plastic shipping containers have been recycled into everything from office spaces to outdoor decking. In 2014, a student group in Lebanon even used hundreds of these boxes to build a durable emergency shelter.

What’s Next for Plastic Pallet Boxes?

If the current track record is any indicator, the future is bright for plastic pallet storage. The question now is not so much what “can” be shipped via these storage containers, but rather what “can’t” be. They are already used widely around the world, so it’s only a matter of time before even more versatile uses become known.

Nestable Pallets Can Transform Racking In Your Warehouse Space

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a major shift towards online-only sales and the need for fast, widespread shipping. Warehouses all over the nation are bustling, and many are struggling to keep up with both increased shipping demands and unsold store goods piling up in corners. But your warehouse space is as large as you make it. With clever storage solutions, you can double or even triple the amount of rack space as well as prevent things from getting disorganized.

Nestable Pallets Save on Storage Space

If you go back 100 years, wooden pallets were just starting to transform warehouses and making stackable storage efficient. Now, the next wave of innovation is here. Thanks to their lighter, slimmer, even more stackable design, nestable pallets take traditional storage to the next level. Warehouse workers can even them securely together when not using them and save even more space. In fact, stacking plastic, nestable pallets usually takes up only half the space of the same amount of stacked wooden pallets.

And while they are lighter and easier to move, a major draw is that nestable pallets are also more durable than their traditional wooden counterparts. While wooden pallets have a limited life span and are often damaged by weather and heavy use, nestable pallets can be used over and over again from production right on through packing and distribution. It’s also worth noting that they can also support more weight than wooden pallets. Even today’s light duty nestable plastic pallets can hold up to 2,200 lbs (when designated for dynamic use; static loads can hold up to 3,500 lbs). Heavy duty designs can hold 5,000 lbs while moving and even more when static.

How to Switch Over From Wood to Plastic

Another bonus of nestable pallets is that they can help bring down operational costs considerably. Plastic pallets cost less time and money to produce traditional wooden pallets, and so they tend to cost less individually. Nestable versions are even more affordable than standard plastic designs (usually a third of the cost). That said, you may need to spend a bit more upfront while converting your warehouse over to a plastic nestable pallet system. A lot of older shelving racks are slotted for wooden pallets only, so they will need to be converted. However, the good news is that forklifts can still work with both, and many packing assembly lines can already accommodate newer pallets.

It’s also worth pointing out that nestable pallets vary in design depending on your needs. For many, traditional vented (latticed) deck pallets are ideal, but other products may require solid decks. It’s important to evaluate your warehouse’s specific needs and order pallets accordingly. You may need a mix of plastic/nestable styles, but the good news is that many are cross-stackable.

Nestable Pallets are the Future of Warehouse Storage

Even if you choose not to switch over your warehouse at this time, it’s important to consider that you likely will have to in the future. More and more warehouses are converting over to plastic pallets in general, and many are well on their way to using all nestable options. Just as wooden pallets eventually took over the industry a century ago, this is the next level in storage and distribution design. The future is here!

7 Fulfillment Tips For Times Of Need and Demand

The novel COVID-19 virus has changed the economy as we know it. Many businesses have shut down entirely, while others have been forced to adapt quickly to changing demands. For those who work at warehouses and fulfillment centers, the sharp rise in online orders and the hastening need for essential items has caused unprecedented challenges.

Complicating things further, there is no telling exactly how long these current events will last, nor do most have the means of expanding their warehouse facilities and/or operations with such short notice. That said, there are various steps that can be taken to improve efficiency and meet growing demands.

While different business needs will vary, most can benefit by following these seven fulfillment tips in these times of great need and demand:

1. Promote Collaboration and Working as a Team

No one person is going to be able to take everything on by his or herself. Now more than ever, it is crucial that team members feel supported and nurtured. Leaders must be willing to go above and beyond, even if it means helping out with tasks they are normally “above”. Even if done virtually or from a physical distance, it’s a good idea to have regular meetings (at least weekly) to check in with team members and let their concerns and ideas be heard.

2. Make Health and Safety Guidelines a Priority

Since fulfillment centers are essential business, shutting down is not an option for most (and it would be financially devastating anyway). All workers will therefore feel more comfortable and driven to work each day if you make health and safety their top priority. Keep tabs on the ever-changing CDC and WHO guidelines, as well as local rules going into effect. Equip workers with face masks and gloves, and try to keep everyone at least six feet apart.

3. Reassess Supply Needs

Along with safety supplies for fulfillment staff, your other product needs have likely changed. You may need to reorganize supplies so that workers have quick access to everything they need. The types of packing materials needed may have also changed.

4. Look at Changing Customer Habits

The amount and type of products you are sending out have also likely changed. This is a prime opportunity for reorganizing and assessing your inventory and how it is stored, as certain products will likely need to be accessed much more frequently than they previously were. Going along with this, it’s also a good idea to re-prioritize your inbound items. Look at what is going out first (and landing first) now, and focus on getting those items processed and turned over to outbound as quickly as possible.

5. Starting Picking and Packing from Receiving Docks

In order to meet fulfillment demands faster, do what you can to trim down extra steps. Especially when you have a lot of packages requiring a variety of different items, you can save time by picking, packing and shipping right from the receiving dock.

6. Stop Doing Huge Orders, or Take Them Offline

Massive orders can bog down the entire system. You can both discourage them and make the process simpler by taking them offline and requiring customers to call directly for them.

7. Offer Full Cases and Ship Alone Orders

Many boxes consist of different SKUs with different inbound and outbound items. But especially when it comes to essential items that people need for daily life, this just won’t do. You can quicken the shipping process (helping both you and the recipients) by offering full, one-SKU type cases and even individual ship-alone orders that don’t wait for other SKUs.