How to Optimise Your Picking Process

When you’re looking to optimise your picking process, there are two main concepts you should bear in mind and they include:

  1. No one technology or strategy fits every individual situation
  2. In order to effectively improve warehouse operations, you’ll need a combination of decent technology, data collection and overall process improvement

Warehouse managers should look to conduct in-depth, ABC analysis as well as document and review current processes in detail. This helps to detect problems and inefficiencies, thus allowing you to make appropriate improvements where needed.

To ensure effective optimisation when it comes to the picking process, the warehouse manager will need to match the correct picking and automation strategy with the stock that needs to be handled and transported. Here are a few ways in which you can optimise your own picking processes.

Carry out order profiling

The first step to optimising your order picking process is to collect the relevant data you need in order to make the best possible decision for your warehouse moving forward.Order profiling is often the best way to do this and many warehouse managers will use ABC analysis in order to do this effectively.

ABC analysis will allow the warehouse manager to categorise their cargo based simply on order volume and it works as follows:

  • Volume inventory ‘A’ is for the highest order volumes – stock will be stored towards the front of the warehouse for quick and easy access
  • Volume inventory ‘B’ is for in-demand order volumes, but not not the most popular items among consumers – stock will be stored mid-way through the warehouse to allow relatively easy access when the product is requested
  • Volume inventory ‘C’ is for the lowest volume inventory – stock will be housed at the back of the warehouse as demand for these products is low

By implementing this method when it comes to storing your cargo, you’ll benefit from less walking time and the reduced need for man hours, especially if they’re going on-foot to collect items and fulfill orders.

If your warehouse and/or distribution centre doesn’t process customer orders, then the ABC analysis method can be done based purely on shipping and receiving volumes, where appropriate to do so.

Choose the right picking methodology

The picking method must be appropriate for the job at hand. It must also effortlessly suit the material handling equipment you have already as well as the stock you’re handling. Most warehouse managers rely on the Pick-to-Order approach, but there are other methodologies available that will significantly increase and improve warehouse efficiency overall.

The trick here is to either adopt one order picking method that completely suits you and your operations or you could look to implement a combination of them in order to reduce the time it takes for you to travel from the pick location to the loading bay or area.

The Picker-to-Goods method is where the picker is assigned to a specific order and they must then travel to the location where the goods are stored so that the picker can adequately complete the order they were assigned to initially. The picker will then deliver the order to the dispatcher who will then prepare the stock for shipping.

Picker-to-Goods methods are among the most widely used in the material handling industry. But there are some other approaches to getting the job done effectively and they’re outlined below:

Pick-to-order

This is where the picker is responsible for going around and collecting any and all items that will complete or make up one whole order. The picker will have a list of items that need to be collected and they’ll then go around to the locations where the products on the list are stored. This is called order picking and it’s done until the entire order is complete and ready for packaging and shipping.

This method is made easier with the implementation of order pickers. Depending on the size of your warehouse, you may need an entire fleet as opposed to only one machine. Refurbished Forklifts will be able to supply you with high-quality, carefully reconditioned order pickers that’ll stand the test of time.

Cluster picking

It’s arguably more efficient than the pick-to-order method. It allows pickers to navigate their way around the warehouse, collecting multiple orders, simultaneously, as they go along. The system you adopt will provide your workers with a detailed picking list as well as the most efficient route to take in order to access the item quickly and easily.

As the picker collects each item, they’ll be placed in separate bin partitions in a bid to significantly reduce or even eliminate errors when it comes to order collections and eventual shippings. If there’s an absolute need to prioritise one order over another, then cluster picking would be the best option for you in this case.

Zone picking

Zone picking will require you to split your warehouse up into separate zones. You could categorise these zones by the following products types or departments:

  • Health and fitness
  • Food and beverages
  • Manufacturing goods
  • Engineering parts
  • Beauty
  • Medication
  • Paper and stationery
  • Outdoors and gardening
  • Construction materials
  • Tools and DIY
  • Homeware
  • Hardware

However you wish to separate your warehouse, you’ll need to assign a specific picker to each zone. As the orders come in, each picker will go around and collect what appears on their list from their own zone. If a zone is particularly large, you might need to rely on material handling equipment, such as order pickers, refurbished reach trucks and reconditioned electric forklifts in order to safely navigate your workers around.

This allows multiple orders to be fulfilled simultaneously as well as reduce man hours and physical labour on your pickers, resulting in less workplace accidents and injuries. It will also increase and improve the efficiency and speed in which orders are collected, packaged and shipped to your consumers, resulting in higher customer satisfaction all round.

Implement some new technology

Technology should be used to our advantage in this digital age. It can make picking orders far more straightforward and easy to follow, even if there are multiple products involved. We’ve detailed some of the most useful pieces of technology that you can implement across your warehouse, with each one being an affordable, realistic option for optimising your picking processes.

Barcode scanners

  • An affordable, simple and effective tool
  • They can quickly identify products, locations, containers and more
  • Enables a picker to confirm that they’re collecting the right products for the right order and for the right customer
  • Allows for faster collection of data and product validation and all with minimal errors
  • Technology error rate for barcode scanners is 1 in 3 million

Wearable computers

  • Provides a screen and a keyboard that enables pickers to interact with warehouse management systems (WHS) from anywhere in the warehouse and in real time
  • Offers the same capabilities as a finger-mounted device
  • Has a barcode scanning function/feature
  • Allows pickers the use of both hands in order to handle cargo safely
  • Will help to reduce the likelihood of workplace accidents and product damages
  • Ensure your current WHS is compatible with wearable computers before investing

Voice picking

  • Ensures increased productivity and efficiency throughout your warehouse
  • Workers will be equipped with a headset and microphone that work effortlessly over a local wireless network within the warehouse
  • Allows workers to be connected to existing WHS via voice commands
  • The system will then supply your pickers with verbal instructions, detailing the most efficient way to to product he/she needs to collect
  • Has multi-language capabilities, ensuring everyone can use this technology
  • Significantly reduces errors in the order picking process, especially when it comes to data entry
  • Allows for improved safety as it’s both hands and eyes-free

Refurbished Forklifts are pleased to be able to provide our customers with high-calibre, used warehouse machinery that have been carefully and professionally reconditioned to an immaculate standard. With each and every one of our machines coming with a detailed safety certificate for your peace of mind, you’ll always be able to look to us for second-hand forklifts, including used diesel forklifts and reconditioned LPG forklifts. We even have an impressive range of refurbished warehouse equipment available that’ll stand the test of time. For more information about the products we’re proud to sell, get in touch with a member of our team today we’re always happy to help.

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