Warehouse and distribution centre managers often find it easy to identify areas for improvement, but then face a challenge when it comes to implementing processes and practices to improve their performance levels.
We’ve already looked at why benchmarking within warehouse and distribution centres is important, but after using benchmarking to identify areas for improvement, what can warehouse and distribution centres do to improve their key metrics? There are many traditional methods and emerging technologies which can be implemented, and these will differ depending on which metric needs improved.
Take order picking accuracy, it’s one of the most common metrics used within warehouse and distribution centres, and for good reason.
Picking the wrong item or miscounting quantities can cost business hundreds of thousands of pounds a year in correction costs or contract penalties as well as the negative impact on customer service metrics. After the picking stage, dispatching the wrong order can have an impact on reputation or result in loss of repeat business, while dealing with return shipping and the resulting customer complaints takes time and money. These issues have a huge impact on the bottom line of a business and are usually a result of human error.
“It costs ten times as much to bring an incorrect order back as just to send.”
Contract Logistics Solutions Director
So, how can order picking accuracy be improved?
- Voice-to-pick systems give instructions to the pick operator through a headset. Pick operators are directed to a location within the warehouse, where they verify the item’s code before the item is picked.
- Pick-to-light systems work in a similar way to voice-to-pick systems; instead of verbal instructions, they use a light over the correct bin in the racking system to alert the pick operator’s attention.
Both systems get the pick operator to the correct location quickly. However, they do not account for human error and cannot verify the operator picked the correct quantity from the correct bin.
- Slowing down the pick process to give pick operators more time to spend verifying correct parts and quantities is an option, as speed is a key factor influencing accuracy. However, this approach has cost implications as businesses then need to increase labour to cope with the reduced number of picks which is not usually a viable option. There is a fine balance between accuracy and speed.
- Automation such as robots and carousel systems can reduce human error and increase efficiency, but automation will not complete the full picking process and requires huge amounts of capital expenditure to implement.
- There are emerging technologies that combine pick accuracy improvements without compromising on speed. The Mobile Picking Solution has recently been launched by Avery Weigh-Tronix, it brings technology to the point of pick, to eliminate manual counting and verify pick accuracy. It also integrates seamlessly with other pick management systems (such as voice-to-pick and pick-to-light) to make them even more accurate and efficient.
Improve your metrics. The Avery Weigh-Tronix ‘Warehouse and Distribution Centres 2018 Best Practice’ whitepaper gives advice and guidance on how to improve your key metrics, including inventory count accuracy by location, on-time shipments, and overtime hours to total hours.
Download the Warehouse and Distribution Centres 2018 Best Practice Whitepaper