How do I run my operation, keep costs down, and do it all while dealing with growth, compliance, changing processes and shipping restraints? Can you relate?
While there are many challenges facing the distribution world, focusing on optimizing your picking processes could make a huge impact on all of the above.
Picking usually consumes the most labor in your warehouse - about 60% to 70%! So starting there makes sense to increase throughput, but you also want to make sure you maintain (or improve) inventory accuracy. Here are a few rules to follow when it comes to picking:
Rule #1 – Have the Right Items in the Correct Bin When your Picker Needs Them
A huge productivity waste happens when the picker can’t find the item(s) they need. You can avoid this pitfall by making sure item putaways and bin replenishments are done accurately and in a timely manner. Verifying the item and bin by scanning with a barcode scanner is critical. The time it takes to fix an issue if an item is not available or in the incorrect spot far exceeds the time it takes to scan items into bins.
Rule #2 – Reduce the Distance Your Picker Needs to Travel
When you look at picking productivity, the major factor that determines how long a pick will take is the distance traveled. If your picker starts their process and has to travel back and forth across the warehouse multiple times before delivering the items for packing/shipping, you are losing valuable productivity time. Start by evaluating your warehouse layout in order to improve this flow.
Rule #3 – Address Factors that Decrease Picker Productivity
Other factors (number of order lines, quantity per order line, weight and cube) can effect picking productivity as well.
The most important factor? Understanding your order profile. For instance, how does your customer submit orders? Through an eCommerce site, or small businesses, or large businesses? Each of these will have different order profiles and will require different picking methods.
Depending on your order profile and warehouse layout, there are many ways of creating picking tasks:
- Splitting large orders across employees using zones or number of order lines
- Creating waves by shipping method or ship dates
- Creating picking tasks using item unit of measure
- Using item dimensions to create task to pick onto pallets
Utilizing a pick planner tool built for NetSuite makes this much easier. Imagine you need to group orders that have less than three order lines, but you want only 10 orders for each task, and need to pick into totes.
With RF-SMART’s pick planner, you only have to walk through the warehouse once to pick 10 orders into totes and then deliver the totes to packing. RF-SMART sends you on the most efficient route through the warehouse, and by using barcodes, you know the items will be in the correct bin (Back to Rules #1 & 2).
Implementing good warehouse practices and layout will be necessary to gain the most out of a pick planner and is the final step in optimizing your warehouse operations. Once you complete these setup tasks though, you gain the ability to fine tune and react to changing business environments faster and easier. Task-driven picking will increase your accuracy and efficiency and will allow your organization to spend more time serving your customers.
Additional Resources: Best Practices for Inventory Management