Mobilize Warehouse Picking for a More Efficient Order Fulfillment Process

Guest blog from MHI Member Company DTG

Warehouse picking is the most expensive and time-consuming step in order fulfillment, and inefficiencies can lead to preventable revenue loss. Taking steps to eliminate waste and implement leaner warehouse operations reduces overall operating costs and makes the order fulfillment process more efficient. In this blog post, we will simplify this journey toward smoother workflows into three steps:

  1. Optimize
  2. Automate
  3. Mobilize

Auditing warehouse operations and narrowing goals into these three categories can help with prioritizing and organizing, while keeping each step manageable and focused.

1. Optimize Warehouse Layout and Processes

Optimizing operations for more efficient warehouse picking may be the most intensive step in improving order fulfillment processes. To do this effectively requires an audit of warehouse operations and processes from receiving to shipping, with an evaluation of time spent and distance traveled to complete each step.

Warehouse Layout

With an optimized warehouse layout, workers spend less time and fewer steps searching for items to be picked. Decluttering aisles and ensuring they are wide enough for staff and equipment reduces injuries and bottlenecks, and it encourages a more focused environment for fewer errors. Check out this post about optimizing the warehouse receiving area layout for a good place to start.

Warehouse Management Systems

Implementing a warehouse management system (WMS) saves time, energy, and money. It is also an essential element in warehouse automation. The right WMS will transform your entire order fulfillment process, integrating inventory management, assisted picking, and sometimes even customer relationship management, bringing data together into one comprehensive system.

Worker Training

Making sure workers are trained in the proper strategies and processes for order picking: reduces injuries, streamlines work, and may even contribute to better employee retention. Achieving this requires you to hold regular evaluations and training sessions, make sure processes are clearly posted and accessible, and provide training materials on an ongoing basis.

Warehouse Picking Strategies

The order picking strategy you choose will determine how you organize labor and resources in the warehouse. The best order picking strategy for your warehouse will depend on the size of your facility, the number of SKUs you carry, the number of orders you process and pick each day, and the average number of SKUs per order.

2. Automate Warehouse Tasks

Once you have a plan in place for order fulfillment process optimization, it’s time to turn the focus toward automation. With more and more warehouses looking toward automation to solve labor shortage and supply chain challenges, staying competitive will require this shift. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for ways to eliminate manual tasks and streamline operations like warehouse picking.

Barcode Scanners

Barcode scanners are the most basic of warehouse automation tools, and they are becoming an essential part of operations. They eliminate manual processes in all steps of warehousing and logistics, from receiving to proof of delivery. Barcode and RFID scanners improve accuracy, and they free up workers to concentrate on more valuable tasks like quality control.

Assisted Picking

Assisted warehouse picking solutions make order fulfillment processes more efficient by helping workers find and verify the right items. The solution that makes sense for your warehouse will be dependent on size, number of SKUs, layout, and order complexity.

Pick to Light

LED lights are installed throughout the warehouse and on shelves. When order fulfillment is initiated, the most efficient path is lit for the order picker, and the shelf location is illuminated. Once the item is picked, workers usually verify it with a barcode scanner.

Voice Picking

Voice picking solutions direct workers to the right location for the item to be picked, just like Google Maps directs you to a new restaurant. Workers listen to directions for the most efficient path via headset, and they usually provide vocal confirmation once the item has been picked.

Picking Glasses

Picking glasses augment the environment with highlighted paths and product information, helping workers choose the right items to be picked. Verification often happens automatically via scanners installed in the glasses.

3. Mobilize Warehouse Technology

Most warehouse operators have no intention of doing away with human labor altogether, and most are looking at smaller, more incremental steps toward automation. Mobilizing warehouse technology to the point of task can act as a bridge between reliance on human-driven tasks and full automation.

Mobile Warehouse Workstations

You’ve already optimized and streamlined your operations, now it’s time to refine your processes with mobilization that further improves accuracy, eliminates motion waste, and reduces worker injuries.

Mobile warehouse workstations support the move toward greater warehouse automation with improved warehouse picking and order fulfillment processes. Automation solutions are more accessible, and tools can be transported and powered for use right on the spot.

DTG helps warehouses optimize their processes by starting with a complimentary Lean Six Sigma consultation to identify where there is room for improvement. We then make recommendations that demonstrate how you can reduce waste, save time, and increase revenue.