Your order fulfillment speed and capacity have a huge impact on your supply chain and long-term sustainability. Automating and optimizing your workforce and inventory can not only reduce your costs, but increase your customer satisfaction and competitive edge.
Here are some warehouse picking best practices to improve picking productivity.
The Importance of Order Picking Productivity
Warehouse picking accounts for 60% of operational costs of warehouses - millions of dollars per year, per warehouse. Why is that?
Walking between item locations makes up about 50% of order picking time. This is due primarily to the physical distances between items, but inventory misplacement and errors can eat into efficiency.
The good news is, there are a number of ways to increase operational efficiency. Let’s take a look at a few.
Ways to Improve Order Picking Accuracy and Productivity
Check Your Product Slotting
Slotting is the process of organizing inventory in a warehouse or distribution center in a way that makes picking and replenishment more efficient.
Warehouses can optimize their product slotting by grouping similar and frequently-bought-together items in close proximity to each other to make them easier and faster to locate. Other slotting strategies to consider are grouping together fast-moving, oversized items closer to the dock.
Unfortunately, product slotting degrades and must be audited regularly. This happens due to adding, removing, and changing SKUs in addition to human error from pickers putting things in the wrong place (intentionally or inadvertently). While it might seem benign, this issue can compound in disorganized warehouses and cost as much as 20 percent of your productivity so it’s a good idea to audit your warehouse regularly.
Optimize Your Space
It’s a good idea to regularly audit your space to increase efficiency. Some common ways include:
- Changing the overall layout of your space to improve congestion
- Grouping products that are frequently bought together
- Rearranging your inventory for efficiency
- Regularly reviewing your product slotting
- Read other ways to optimize your warehouse space
Plan to audit your warehouse space and storage every few months and before/after peek seasons to ensure you’re always as efficient as possible.
Test a Different Type of Picking Strategy
When evaluating the efficiency of your warehouse management and supply chain logistics, one of the best places to start is your picking method.
is your picking strategy. Depending on your warehouse’s size, layout, number of SKUs, etc you can likely increase efficiency just by changing how your associates pick orders.
Batch and Cluster Order Picking
Order batching and cluster picking are two common picking methods in supply chain logistics and warehouse management. This strategy allows your associates to save time by fulfilling multiple orders at once.
For both of these strategies, order picking carts or mobile robot can help reduce errors and keep pickers organized.
Wave picking is another good method for order picking in warehouse management and supply chain logistics.
In wave picking, one picker only picks a single order at a time while orders are batched and scheduled in waves throughout the day based on importance and needs.
Many warehouses and supply chains use zone picking to increase the speed and efficiency of their operations. The zone picking method divides SKUs into different picking zones and assigns then deploys pickers (or teams of pickers) to these zones to fulfill orders.
Use Hands-Free Picking Technology
Hands-free order picking is up to 88% faster than traditional pick methods because it keeps pickers’ eyes on the prize and frees their hands up to maneuver large and bulky items.
Instead of having to set down a scanner or clipboard - which is typically where accuracy and speed suffers - hands-free technology guides pickers to the right item and allows them to pick and confirm the correct item without slowing down.
Use Smart Automation
Human labor is not only inherently error-prone and inefficient but also growing ever-more expensive. It’s not uncommon for warehouse pickers to spend more than half of their picking time just traveling from one location to the next, which is why using smart workforce and inventory automation can dramatically increase your fulfillment pick rate.
Cutting edge automation technologies will help you automate manual tasks and increase pick rate by automating:
- Order batching
- Multi-facility order routing
- Optimized pick walks
- Operationalized smart substitutions
- And much more
Automation tools can free up the valuable (and expensive) time of your warehouse managers and associates to increase your overall capacity.
Improve Your Order Picking Efficiency with Ox’s Fulfillment Automation Services
We’ve covered a lot of ways to increase fulfillment picking rates in your warehouse or fulfillment center… so where to begin? The answer to that depends on your warehouse(s) size and fulfillment stumbling blocks.
Ox can help you accomplish all of the above and implement a custom, end-to-end fulfillment automation solution that’s right for your business. Retailers and grocers that use Ox to automate their workforce and operations increase their pick rate and accuracy 25% on average with a 2,500% return on investment.