Order picking is a major process in order fulfilment. Are order picking issues affecting your bottom line?
How accurate is your warehouse’s picking operation? In an ideal world, every order that gets picked and sent out to a customer would be perfect. Reality is different. Order picking issues can happen for any number of reasons. Understanding some of the more common picking errors can allow you to prevent them from continuing.
If an item is not where it should be in the warehouse, this means the picker needs to spend time looking for it. This delays the order fulfilment, which can lead to an unhappy customer and negative reviews. On top of that, it also makes for a highly inefficient warehouse operation.
With a warehouse management system (WMS), every item is scanned into a location. This means that when a picker is looking for an item, it will always be exactly where it should be.
If the wrong items or quantities are picked, time is wasted at the pack bench where, hopefully, the error is noticed. If the fault is not realised, the wrong items are despatched which will then require a refund or replacement. As well as costing money, it also paints a poor picture of your brand.
To calculate the cost of those mispicks, multiply the number of mis-shipments per week by the cost of a mis-shipment and you will see how much money is wasted. When calculating the cost of a mis-shipment, don’t forget to consider shipping costs, returns costs, labour time to re-pick, customer service work, and time spent rectifying bad online reviews.
Get goods-in right first time by scanning everything. Using barcode scanners in your e-commerce warehouse should make it impossible to pick the wrong item or the wrong quantity. With every incorrect pick, the scanner will create an error message, alerting the picker to their mistake.
As a final check for orders that have been picked in a batch, you may also benefit from scanning the items again at the point of despatch to ensure you match the right items to each shipping label.
With this kind of operation, paper must be printed and carried with the picker. This is not only a lengthy process, it is also highly inefficient and leaves a large margin for error due to lost or unfulfilled orders.
Quite simply: eliminate paper from your warehouse by using warehouse management software with a mobile app. The mobile app replaces the paper, a bit like your mobile phone replaced the handwritten letter. When you remove the room for human error, you’re in a good position to ensure that you’re able to ship every order on time, and accurately, without fail.
If your orders are not prioritised, then often the most recent sales order items are picked first by default. This can mean that older orders or more important orders are neglected or delayed.
To solve this problem, you should find a suitable method for sorting your warehouse orders. Once you have a method in place, no priority order will be left over at the end of the day.
Increase in Labour Requirements
If you have too many pickers working at the same time, you will likely be spending more money on labour than you are getting back in return. Overtime is starting to creep in and sometimes deadlines for fulfilment are missed.
The most efficient way to reduce the number of pickers needed for a single shift is to introduce automation into your warehouse. Automation should improve the efficiency of all your pickers, meaning that fewer of them are needed to fulfil the same amount of orders.
A good idea is to benchmark your picking against industry standards. 100 items per picker per hour for small e-commerce order picks is a steady benchmark. Additionally, with automated processes, you’ll be well set up to take the panic out of peak periods. With a WMS that’s easy-to-use and easy-to-train, you can get temporary staff working on the warehouse floor within minutes.
Additional problems to keep an eye on
Picking the wrong unit of measure:
Your warehouse may carry the same product in different package sizes. Instead of picking 2 10-count items, as the pick ticket says, the picker may take 2 5-count or 1 20-count. Each package size should have its own labelling and SKU. Pickers should be required to scan that label and verify the SKU.
Picking a part with a number close to the correct one:
For some warehouse managers, keeping items ordered by SKU just makes sense. However, it can cause all kinds of trouble with picking. Part 80112 is easily mistaken for part 80113, which sits right next to it. Part numbers should be separated whenever possible. Using a barcode scanner in the picking process can eliminate this problem.
Taking action to prevent these above common order picking issues will make your warehouse much more efficient. One critical step to take is to upgrade your warehouse management software and bring automation in.
Find out more common order picking issues next week, such as half-picked orders, fixed product locations, team knowledge & accountability and orders picked in one run, in part two.
Speak to one of our team to understand how Clarus’ WMS system can cost effectively support best practice warehouse management processes, better customer service and highly efficient working for a range of warehouse operations with pay per month options and no IT infrastructure needed.
Our platform can scale from a one user, small depot system to a 100’s of user distribution centre operation. The ClarusWMS platform will cost effectively scale with your business based on demand.
ClarusWMS is a UK based supplier of warehouse management solutions with a wealth of industry experience in third party logistics, wholesale / retail distribution, online fulfilment and manufacturing warehousing.