5 Ways To Optimise Order Picking

The order picking process of any business involves significant cost, resource and planning in order to ensure excellence and customer satisfaction. When fulfilling customer orders, from global retail to small builders’ merchants, the desired outcome is the same. Orders must be completed on time, with no damage to stock and with productivity costs kept to a minimum. This is an area of supply chain which regularly comes under scrutiny for effectiveness and satisfaction and is all too often deemed subpar.

Issues in warehouse picking can include the wrong items or quantities being picked, paper-based picking and items being housed in the incorrect locations. Much can be put down to human inaccuracy, however, there are systems that can be installed to drastically minimise the margin for error on the picking lines and in turn help achieve optimum organisation from the off.

Warehouse Design and Layout

1. Labelling

Having your products or SKU’s labelled correctly will greatly influence the productivity and accuracy in your warehouse. They are an effective way to combine different products in customer orders, recording pricing information and the flow of goods in and out of the facility.

Labelling shelving, pallet racking, dividers and flooring will determine locations and zones, giving clear identification as to where items are and easier working conditions for the picking staff to pick correctly and on time.

Warehouse stock Management

2. Barcode scanning

By no means a new solution to picking inaccuracy, but certainly one that is ever evolving and becoming all the more helpful to pickers and DC’s. As new versions of barcode scanners are released, quite like any other technology, new and improved features seek to optimise picking further every time. With additions such as automation of inventory via SKU scanning and increased MI capabilities, the technology for pickers is not only more technically advanced as time goes on, but greener with reduced paper use and near perfect accuracy when used correctly by the picker.

The possibilities of increased efficiency are almost never ending and as warehouses develop and ecommerce inevitably grows, the need for these technologies to adapt increase too.

Warehouse Health and Safety
Warehouse Health and Safety

3. Efficient racking and storage

The quality and style of racking and storage solution is imperative to the overall process. By using high quality, engineered, custom built systems, the picking process can then be designed so much more efficiently around your products and fulfilment needs.

Space is often at a premium or just not available, and especially where seasonal needs such as Christmas are concerned, adapting in a clever way to house your products without hiring out whole new warehouse spacing is essential. Systems such as the Storeganizer from Nene deliver high quality, durable storage solutions for small to medium items, particularly good for high pick, high density situations such as a retail Christmas rush. The textile shelving can hold up to 100kg and offer more SKU locations within a zone, decreasing physical pressures on the picking staff (loading, bending over etc.) and reducing travel time, all whilst optimising space.

The Shelf Partitioning System (SPS), also from Nene, is a complementary, wire mesh based picking solution designed to fit with all styles of racking and shelving systems. Designed by Nene’s in-house design teams, the SPS considerably reduces product migration, increases pick times and crucially makes picking more accurate. As always, the system is custom built to client specification and need and is a highly cost saving way of utilising space already in situ and organising product in order to make the pick far more efficient and easier to use.

Taking the time to invest in specific, custom designed systems such as these for your warehouse needs will ultimately give you cost savings, time and improved productivity.

Warehouse Worker Training

4. Warehouse layout and zones

Reducing travel time within a pick is a common talking point and one easily rectified. When organising your warehouse layout, zoning areas will save time and increase picking. If a picker has to visit an area of 100 locations to pick 5 items, the time taken to do this is naturally taken up with travel. By working out the order picks and the product zones into groups of 10 for example, the picker will be working the orders with the unique SKUs found only in their zone, meaning they can more quickly see where they need to be going, spending more time picking and less time travelling.

Working out the layout of your warehouse is an essential part of ensuring operational efficiency. Whatever the purpose for your warehouse, documenting your ideas, work flow needs and fulfilment requirements will build the foundations of a working warehouse that you can have designed accordingly.

Warehouse Worker Training

5. Staff training

For a business to thrive, there needs to be low margin for error- minimal in fact, and the key is for picking staff to understand that and be vigorous in achieving this. Investing in staff training not only betters’ performance and accuracy, but also shows an investment in people and as them in employees, adding further value to their role within the business.

Ensuring good quality staff training, in line with all the work carried out to organise zones, invest in scanning technology and so on will not only benefit in the short term picking and warehouse needs, but is far more likely to encourage employees to stay loyal to the business – getting to know your products, fulfilment rates, and business needs vs. high turnover and constant beginner training.

There will always be a minor level of error or mistake in any picking function, man or machine. But, by implementing often simple, yet highly innovative processes and systems such as these to the warehouse floor can remarkably improve the working conditions for staff, making it easier to pick accurately, efficiently and on time. This achieves satisfaction among employees and customers alike.

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