Of all the things involved in running a warehouse to make operations managers furrow their brows, order picking efficiency has to top the list. The process by which your workers pick and pack orders contributes to the highest costs of running your business, as well as your greatest losses in productivity when things don't running smoothly.
There's always room for improvement, and a ton of places to make policy changes that could positively affect your throughput. In this age of product diversification and consumer convenience, trends are constantly changing, meaning your order profiles are constantly changing. In order to improve order picking speeds in your warehouse, you have to identify your biggest shipping trends and forecast your customers' future needs.
Predict Picking Trends
Predicting your most popular order profile will help you most in allocating storage space and determining travel routes. Find out what products sell the highest, as well as what products most commonly ship together, then store them as closely as you can. This way your pickers can whip together the most popular orders lickety-split.
Densely storing your popular products close to your packing and shipping operations cuts down on travel distances and time, so be sure to allocate your pallet rack for the right products so supplies can be replenished speedily. You're also helping your pickers by taking away the mental energy of finding the right SKUs but putting the most common ones in the same place.
You may consider upgrading to batch picking. If you've been utilizing piece picking or zone picking, whereby individual workers are sent out to collect orders one at a time, either throughout the whole warehouse or in a specified area, batch picking is a minor change that will have a big impact on productivity. If your workers are capable of hauling back multiple orders on one trip, you've freed up huge amounts of time and travel from your schedule. When you've reached a level of sustainable throughput, the next step is getting into automated solutions, such as sortation or conveyor systems to bring the product directly to your pickers in a picking module.
Consolidate Storage Space and Distance
As long as you continue sending out pickers in fork trucks, you'll want to conduct studies and integrate software to find optimal travel routes. Having an efficient technique in place will reduce your pickers' travel times, distances, and fatigue. In addition, by having fork truck drivers follow preordained routes, they'll be less likely to get into accidents. This may be a complex process, but it's much better to do your research than turning each day into a guessing game for your pickers.
Figuring out the best solution for speeding up your order picking operations involves a closer analysis of your operations. No company is the same, but the experts at Speedrack Midwest have done work for warehouses and distribution centers in several fields, and bring decades of experience in material handling solutions to the table. If you're interested in bringing your order picking operations to the next level, call our Sparta, Michigan office at 616-887-8886 or contact us online right now.