Unlocking Productivity: Strategies for Effective Order Picking
In the dynamic realm of supply chain management, the process of order picking holds a central position, guaranteeing seamless operations and utmost customer satisfaction. Its efficiency directly influences the speed and precision of order fulfillment, ultimately resulting in reduced lead times and operational expenses.
Your supply chain is significantly impacted by the decisions you make when it comes to order picking strategies in the warehouse. Order picking stands out as a critical aspect of the order fulfillment process because it encompasses the meticulous selection and retrieval of items from the warehouse inventory to fulfill specific customer orders. To fulfill a customer’s order, the order-picking procedure involves taking items from inventory. This is frequently regarded as the most labor-intensive task in a warehouse, accounting for up to 55% of operating expenses in a distribution center. Making order picking efficient and precise is essential because it directly affects customer satisfaction levels. Order picking can be slow, prone to human error, and unproductive because it frequently involves hard physical labour. This is a significant issue for the supply chain because timely delivery of orders to customers is essential for the success of any brand or company. In this blog article, we will take a look at diverse strategies aimed at optimizing order-picking procedures and elevating overall warehouse efficiency.
Strategies for Effective Order Picking
Optimize the layout of your warehouse
In picker-to-parts systems, searching order accounts for approximately 50% of all order-picking activities, making it by far the most time-consuming activity. Therefore, we can conclude that reducing locating time significantly boosts picking effectiveness. There are numerous ways to accomplish this, though not all of them will be effective in all warehouses.
To optimize the layout of your warehouse and reduce locating time, use the following advice:
- Keep frequently ordered items at eye level and closer to the packing area.
- Don’t mix SKUs; instead, use bin dividers or stackable containers to keep two products apart if they must share space on the shelves.
- Install pallet racks, bin dividers, and adjustable shelving to make the most of your storage space.
- Keep the shelves and aisles tidy and free of clutter.
Choose a warehouse order-picking strategy that works for your company
Your productivity will be significantly affected by the order-picking strategy you choose. It influences both how quickly you can fill orders and how frequently picking errors are likely to occur.
Think about the following elements to guarantee an ideal order-picking strategy:
- Size of a warehouse
- Amount of orders
- How long does it take to complete a purchase?
- Potential for making errors
- Training employees takes time
- Total expense for all equipment and technology required
- Paying for labour
For small warehouses, warehouses with a low volume of daily orders, and companies where picking accuracy and low costs are the top priorities, single or cluster order picking is the best option. On the other hand, larger warehouses, warehouses with a high volume of daily orders, and companies where quick fulfillment times are the top priority are all better suited for batch, wave, and zone order-picking methods. Many companies prefer to combine picking techniques to create a system that is specifically designed for them, such as batch-wave picking.
Pick the appropriate tools and machinery for order-picking
Numerous warehousing tools are available that can be used to speed up picking and improve accuracy. However, not all businesses require barcode scanners or forklifts.
The following is a list of popular order-picking tools and the people they work best for:
- Barcode scanners are helpful if you want to cut down on picking mistakes or link your picking procedure to your inventory management program.
- If you frequently receive or store goods on pallets, investing in a forklift, lift truck, or pallet jack to move them around can cut your weekly travel time by hours.
- Ladders and step stools: Having a ladder or step stool close by will make getting the items you store in difficult-to-reach places much easier and safer. Instead of carrying the same ladder back and forth across the warehouse floor, it may be more cost-effective to store a ladder in each elevated storage area in a large warehouse.
- A-frames, pallet racks, and shelves Finding what you’re looking for can be difficult if products are stored carelessly. Because of this, manual storage options like shelves and pallet racks are essential additions to the majority of warehouses.
Utilize inventory management software to increase order-picking efficiency
The key to automating your warehouse order-picking processes is to use the appropriate software.
Inventory management gets more difficult the more products you stock and the more orders you get. Consider installing inventory management software to keep track of everything.
Inventory management software can assist with picking by:
- Creating pick lists on autopilot, categorizing them according to SKU, location, and other factors.
- Allowing for real-time stock level adjustments to accelerate stock takes
- Coordinating technologies with inventory records, such as mobile scanners.
- By name, supplier, location, status, and product code, you can filter products and orders.
- Connecting to your online sales platforms.
You need to estimate the return on investment (ROI) of switching to a new system to ensure that you choose the appropriate inventory management software for the size of your business. Take into account the time saved by automating processes as well as the costs associated with training and implementation.
Automate the order-picking procedures
The majority of decision-makers are trending towards automating some aspects of their warehouses.
Now let’s check out a few of these tools for warehouse automation:
- Mobile scanners. Both the picking and packing phases can benefit from the use of barcode scanners. They demand that all products and product bins have distinctive barcodes that pickers can scan as they select the items. By displaying pickers alongside the SKUs, the scan-and-pick process reduces the potential for human error and can help direct them to the proper locations.
- Pick-to-light techniques. Pick-to-light technology illuminates (literally) the most productive picking path in order to increase picking accuracy and efficiency while decreasing labour costs. A picker can quickly locate the SKUs they need using an alphanumeric display (typically LED lights) by scanning a barcode.
- Voice-picking apparatus. Voice-directed picking technologies increase accuracy and productivity in a warehouse by combining real-time communication with interactive voice response. Pickers confirm their selections verbally after receiving picking instructions through a voice-picking device, which is frequently a headset.
Although such equipment can increase efficiency in some warehouses, not all businesses can benefit from it. For instance, investing in a more advanced system could be a waste of time and money if you manage a small warehouse with only 15 unique SKUs and an average of 10 orders per day. Before you make any significant investments, be sure you are fully aware of the advantages an automated system can bring to your warehouse.
If you run a small to medium-sized business, managing warehouse management on your own may be difficult because increasing order-picking productivity takes time. You should be concentrating on other, more crucial things, like marketing and sales initiatives. Working with a third-party logistics partner (3PL) can therefore be beneficial. Working with a reputable supplier has many benefits, especially if you want to handle returns and issues more effectively while delivering your products to customers more quickly and in better condition.
By outsourcing their order fulfillment processes to reliable 3PL providers, businesses can streamline operations, reduce costs, and focus on their core competencies. The expertise and established infrastructure of 3rd party logistics services enable businesses to optimize their supply chains, adapt to changing demands, and improve overall customer satisfaction. With these advantages, companies can position themselves for success in the dynamic world of e-commerce and logistics.
At SPExpress, we offer services from order fulfillment to supply chain management services that include freight forwarding, transportation, warehousing, picking and packing, inventory and supply chain management, and order fulfillment. We work closely with our customers to ensure their 3PL needs are being met properly. Since we understand how valuable working with a reputable 3PL provider can be, and how it can help our customers to focus on growing their businesses.