Order picking is one of the most important aspects of warehouse operations, so it has an undeniable impact into your whole logistics process. More than half of the operational costs that come from a distribution center are incurred by order picking and when compared with warehousing, shipping and storage is probably the one aspect that has the most direct correlation with customer satisfaction. An efficient order picking procedure, culture, and system can truly make a difference when it comes to logistical efficiency on your operation and setting you apart from the competition. Today in David Kiger’s Blog, we want to talk to you about order picking. We want you to know what it is exactly and how you can make it work for you in order to make your operation more streamlined and to better take advantage of all your available resources.
What is order picking?
Order picking is also called order preparation and it consists in gathering the articles that need to be shipped in order to meet a customer’s order. Order picking is one of the most basic and important warehouse processes and doing it right can make a huge difference in productivity. It is definitely the most labor intensive and costly portion of almost every warehouse operation. There is nothing that lowers profitability in a warehouse operation faster than errors in picking or a system that doesn’t take optimized order-picking solutions into account.
How to improve order picking?
It may sound like a no-brainer, but the first step to take when it comes to improving your own order picking procedures is to create standardized guidelines for workers to follow diligently. The design of these guidelines must be thorough and well planned because if there are gaps in design or processes that aren’t fully optimized, then workers may be following instructions but at the same time they will also be slowing down the operations and not using resources in the best possible manner.
It is important also to consider revising guidelines as the time passes, the operation changes in size and after receiving feedback from your own operators. After all, they are the ones involved in the process and may find mistakes that you didn’t catch at first. This last part is particularly important and a culture of honesty and a feeling of trust must be developed in your operation in order to make sure that changes benefit everyone involved. Remember that safety should always be kept in mind. Schedule regular meetings and encourage people to come forward and talk about the process honestly and openly.
Travel time is one of the trickiest aspects of order picking and what truly makes a difference between a warehouse that makes the most out of their operation and another who is just getting by. Traveling in line picking accounts for about half of the time spent in filling orders. As you can see, with a number like that it is imperative to take measures to find ways to make traveling work for you. One of the best ways to improve upon this aspect is by creating processes in which orders are combined and filled at the same time while picking the most efficient routes to do so.
There are many resources out there and optimizations systems that place items at certain locations in your warehouse depending on how often they are needed and how popular they are so they can be found in areas that require minimum traveling distance and time for picking. The height at which items are stored is also very important, as it has been proven that it is faster and easier to fill orders horizontally than vertically. This may pose a true complication for warehouses that lack the real state to keep their operation at ground level or those that start to grow and have to find solutions to adjust to their own evolution.
Another way to improve warehouse efficiency is to store items in the appropriate storage media. Those items are more slowly shouldn’t be placed in pallet racks on the floor anymore than fast-moving items shouldn’t be stored in shelving bins. There are formulas to calculate what is the best medium to store a specific item based on the expected movement this item has. Just like that, there are many other methods that can be used that take these values into consideration and help you come up with the best customization strategies. Letting the numbers speak for themselves is the best way to bring together statistics, technology, and common sense together in order to ensure a better warehouse operation. The most important take away we can get from here is to keep an open mind and a system that is ready to be modified at a moment notice because this is a fast-paced environment in which things change rapidly and where those who adapt best to changes, are survivors.
* Featured Image courtesy of mali maeder at Pexels.com