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What’s baffling supply chain executives today is the challenge of figuring out how they can reduce labor costs while customers keep placing more and more orders in small quantities every day. Like in almost every other business, the key is to do more with less. Easier said than done though when it comes to order picking…unless there’s an efficient warehouse picking solution.
When you consider the fact that customers today also want to cut down costs by reducing inventory levels, things can get a little too complicated. Since a good amount of labor resources in a warehouse handle the picking, packing, and shipment operations, the key to maximizing efficiency is to focus on the operations i.e. to improve productivity of these operations.
That said, here are a few ways to improve order picking productivity in a warehouse which would subsequently improve warehouse efficiency as well.
Discrete pick locations
Multiple SKUs in the same location reduces productivity because the pickers would be spending a lot of time, for each transaction, searching through the SKUs just to find the items to pick. It’s better to have discrete pick locations for SKUs.
With the right picking solution, things will be much easier for the picking operator as well. There are a lot of solutions available today. The iActo app seems to stand out from the rest as it can provide text-based directions to the operator to find an item at its exact location. All that’s left is to reduce the travel time.
Reduce travel time
Reducing travel time of picking operators also improves productivity to an extent. This is why many warehouses adopt batch and cluster order picking practices and invest into conveyor systems. Another good practice is to combine as much orders into a single travel instance. This would significantly reduce travel time thus increasing productivity. Many warehouse picking systems can help the supervisor or the inventory manager do this.
Reduce vertical picking penalties
Several benchmarks have already established that the penalties associated with vertical picking is more compared to that with horizontal picking. When it’s at ground level, order picking productivity improves. However, several warehouses lack the real estate to provide ground-level locations to all SKUs and are forced to resort to vertical picking when necessary.
In such cases, the best approach is to have the fast velocity items accessible for picking at the ground level, while slow velocity items can be picked from vertical locations.
More hit density, more productivity
A picker picking an item from one out of every 100 locations is obviously slower compared to a picker picking an item from one out of every 10 locations. Therefore, it’s better to set up certain zones in warehouses depending on the picking activity.
SKUs that are picked a lot should be placed together or in the same ‘zone’ in the warehouse. Wider placement aisles reduce congestion further. This pick density would reduce travel time resulting in more productivity.