Running an efficient warehouse is not as easy as it sounds. There are many moving parts like picking, fulfillment, or manufacturing and assembly. Depending on your warehouse, tightening up inefficiencies could take you on any number of paths. To start, you’ll want to find out where the majority of labor time is being spent.
Did you know that 70% of order management is the picking of products from the shelves. If you’re looking to tighten up leaking costs, this might be a good place to start. Reducing the time spent picking products may lead you on a different path, but starting with the most basic first, will help you eliminate possibilities and hone in on the culprit. Improvements to any part of the pick process, will likely bring more than just lower labor costs. Less errors, happier employees, and satisfied customers are generally a byproduct of pick process improvements.
Labels, Signage and User Friendliness
As tempting as it may be to crack a whip on your pickers while making howling noises, it probably won’t get them to move any faster to and from the fulfillment station. My guess is, the holdup lies somewhere within the shelves and the labeling of your products. Are all the products clearly marked? Have you used separate bins for each product to eliminate any guesswork when picking? As a rule of thumb, if it has a SKU, it should have its own bin. Believe it or not an estimated 60% of a pickers time is spent walking around the warehouse, between the actual picking of products. Often referred to as dead time, you’ll want to minimize this to it’s lowest possible figure by ensuring that all products are clearly labeled.
Evaluate Your Inventory Picking Process
Depending on the size of your warehouse, choosing the right pick process will depend on any number of factors like size of your warehouse or number of orders processed within a given time frame. For obvious reasons, single order picking isn’t the best choice for high volume warehouses, however there may be some less obvious reasons why your pick process isn’t the best one. Take a look at the different types below to decide if yours could be altered or changed altogether to make up for some inefficiencies that are costing you money.
Single Order Picking
- Best for small warehouses with few order pickers
- Picker will pick a single order at a time in its entirety
- Pickers are assigned their own zone
- Pick only products stored in their zone
- Order passes thru each zone for pickers to add them to it
- Order is passed to the packing desk for completion
- All pickers are assigned their own zone
- Pickers pick all relevant items in an order from their zone
- All pickers return to central packing desk with their items
- Dedicated packer consolidates separate picks into one order
- Each picker assigned a batch of orders to pick in their entirety
- Return all items to the packing desk
- Receive new batch of orders to repeat the process
- Best for high number of orders with low number of products per order
While your pick process may have room for improvement, general set up of the warehouse can also factor into inefficiencies. Does it make sense to keep like products in the same zones or separate them out? Using your inventory management system, print out a list of your products. Then group them into categories that make sense according to the following:
1. The inventory management picking process you currently have in place.
How does your current process lend itself to the current placement of products in your warehouse? What improvements could be made. How far away are the zones from the fulfillment area. Are there any unnecessary steps or tasks that could be eliminated thru rearrangement of products?
2. How large (size in sq.ft) your warehouse is.
Are the products sold most, closest to the fulfillment area? Is there a way to lessen the steps/time spent for pickers ?
Would you benefit from a smaller warehouse?
3. How many orders do you get in a given day.
How does the volume of orders you get, coincide with the pick process you’ve chosen. What are the weaknesses in it? Where can improvements be made.
Some Things to Consider
Talk to your pickers, for some useful feedback on where they think time could be saved. Doing your own research first within your current warehouse and then online will prepare you for creating the most efficient warehouse.