If you’re currently educating yourself (or being educated) about warehouse operations, you’ve probably heard already that when it comes to order picking, maximising productivity is paramount. So for this blog post, I thought I’d give you a few tips that can be employed in efforts to raise picking productivity.
Your company (or one that you work for in the future) may already use some of these strategies and tactics, but the more ideas you have, the more chance you have of making your own mark on productivity improvement.
Maintain Discrete Storage Locations For Every SKU
Many warehouses store multiple SKUs in a single, shared bin or storage location. This may for example, comprise a shelf with rows, each row containing one SKU.
This is a pretty inefficient way to present goods for picking. With only the storage location ID to guide her, a picking operative must first reach the storage location, and then physically search among the rows for the SKU to be picked. Compared with picking from a discrete storage location, the process involved in picking from shared locations takes longer, and increases the risk of picking errors.
Picking productivity can be improved significantly when every SKU is kept in its own, identifiable storage location.
Be Disciplined About Slotting
Of course when every SKU has its own storage location or slot, a disciplined approach becomes crucial. When warehouse managers allow SKUs to be slotted into any conveniently located and vacant bin, efficiency begins to suffer, and therefore, so does productivity. Yet it does happen.
In fact, it’s not uncommon to find a warehouse has as much as half of its SKUs stored in the wrong bins. This tends to be a problem which grows over time, as SKUs are added, deleted, or are subject to shipping profile changes.
Picking productivity will never be optimal when warehouse slotting is haphazard and sloppy. If you see slotting issues in your company’s warehouse/s, you have an opportunity to improve picking productivity by as much as 20%, or perhaps even more.
To achieve these gains, the best solution is to implement regular slotting reviews—to be performed annually at a minimum–and re-slot as necessary. Additionally, warehouse managers must ensure that operatives only put goods into the correctly designated slots.
Create a Fast-Pick Zone
However many SKUs are in your warehouse, there is a high likelihood that less than 35% of them will be required to fill the majority of customer orders. If you consolidate these most-commonly-ordered SKUs into a single zone, located close to your order-assembly area or loading bays, you can drastically raise picking productivity by eliminating travel.
Given that travel within a warehouse adds no value to your products, it should be a high priority target for elimination. A fast-pick zone will go a long way towards reducing travel and increasing the number of orders each operative can pick per shift.
Learn More About Picking Productivity
The three ideas I’ve described here have one thing in common. None of them require a great deal of capital expenditure to implement. At the same time, they are all guaranteed to deliver picking productivity improvements, as long as the disciplines are maintained continuously.
There are many more ways to raise picking productivity, some of which will require more planning and investment than others. I’ll cover some of these solutions in future posts.
Alternatively, you can learn more right now if you are a member of the Supply Chain Leaders Academy. Just log in and access any of eClass numbers 10,11,14,16,17,58,59,60, or 84. These classes all cover warehouse-related topics.
If you’re not yet a member of Supply Chain Leaders Academy, why not head over to our home page and scroll down to hear what our existing members have to say about their learning experience?