How to Improve Order Picking In Your Warehouse
Order picking is filling up customers’ orders from the inventory. Is considered to be an essential activity within a warehouse. Order picking accounts for over 50% of a distribution center’s operational costs.
Order picking has a more direct effect on customer satisfaction compared to the receiving, storage, and shipping stages so doing it with utmost speed, accuracy and efficiency can ensure reorders, which leads to bigger revenues. Every minute you can save in the order picking stage translates to faster product turnover.
Improving the Order Picking Process
- Put the popular items nearest. If half of the orders you get come from 10% of the products you have in the inventory, put these items nearest the entrance of the picking area. Sort according to popularity, putting least popular items at the back. This will improve the speed at which orders are picked.
- Check and replenish your inventory as needed. There’s nothing more frustrating than for a picker to find an empty slot where the customer’s order is to be picked from. There are computer applications available that can help you check the status of your inventory. This helps you to order more stock before your inventory becomes depleted.
- Tag items using a barcode. Cut one step from the verification process by tagging each item in your inventory with a barcode. This takes out the factor of human error.
- Reduce checking time by improving on accuracy. An item will go through a few hands from the time it's ordered until it goes out of the warehouse. The picking process should be accurate enough so that repacking, and extra quality checks are not needed. Less human intervention means faster processing and less error.
- Improve strategies on storage. The way the items are arranged inside the warehouse greatly affects the speed and efficiency of the picking process. Slotting, or grouping similar items together, can help in reducing product damage or accidents, decreasing congestion, and improving pick times. You may need to review your storage strategies regularly so they are aligned with the order demands.
- Embrace technology. Gone are the days of manual inventory and picking. In order to keep up with the competition, you must employ any technology you can get your hands on to improve the picking process. From barcode readers to robotic pickers, maximize the use of available technology to your advantage. Just keep return of investment or ROI in mind. Don’t go spending on systems that is clearly out of your budget.
- Check routing practices. The warehouse layout can have a positive or a negative effect on routing practices, depending on how it is arranged. There may be items that are usually ordered together or of the same category, order size, or business type. Grouping these items together in set zones will enhance picking times.
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The Different Picking Methods and How to Choose the Correct One
There are many different picking methods and here are some of the most popular.
- Picking by zone. A picker will be assigned to a zone and will only pick orders from that zone.
- Picking by batch. A picker will be assigned multiple orders coming from a particular zone and pick these up in one go.
- Picking by wave. A combination of both picking by zone and batch. A picker will go through multiple zones picking up all the items in all orders. The items will then be sorted into individual orders.
Each of the order picking methods mentioned above has its own advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the appropriate method will depend on several factors.
- Your company’s operation type
- Specifications of the products
- Number of orders and transactions handled
- Number of picks on a given order
- Number of picks from a given SKU
- The use of case pick, piece pick, and full-pallet loading
Depending on these factors, you may need to employ a combination of the available order picking methods.
Order picking is an essential part of your business and its importance only grows as you get more customers. You need to improve on efficiency and accuracy while reducing picking times. You need to choose the correct picking methods as well as follow the best order picking practices.
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