Receiving an incorrect order is one of the leading reasons a customer becomes unhappy. Unhappy customers result in a potential loss of business and a lot of extra work. Most incorrect orders are sent back and fixed for free.
To reduce the possibility of shipping incorrect orders, you must decrease the chances of performing a picking error. Picking errors can be prevented when warehouse operations are efficient and accurate. This can be achieved by building a solid foundation, validating the pick and quantity, and analyzing where and why errors occur.
By improving warehouse workflows you will decrease errors, keep customers happy, and increase your bottom line, which is great for business!
Focus on the Fundamentals
The picking process can be complex and prone to errors in a warehouse of any size. If you'd like to decrease errors, you must start by creating a solid foundation.
- Label everything.
Poor labeling is a common reason pickers make errors. Any item received into the warehouse should have clear labeling with a unique part number and barcode.
- Track inventory locations.
Everything moving into the warehouse needs to be properly received and assigned a definitive storage location, whether it be an actual location within the warehouse or an overstock location for future use. Either way, that information needs to be tracked and made easily accessible, allowing pickers to know where to go and what to look for.
- Use barcodes and scanners.
Setting up a barcoding system seems like a tedious task, and carrying a barcode scanner can seem disruptive. However, once everything is set up, the actual scanning of items takes only a moment and your system is immediately updated, providing an environment with fewer errors. Activities without a scanner take minutes longer and require more manual effort, resulting in more risk for error.
- Assign each pick to a particular person.
This assignment provides personal accountability as well as the ability to track errors by each picker and track errors of a group.
Validating the Pick
One way to reduce the number of errors being made by pickers is to train them to validate every pick along the way.
- Consider two level scanning to verify accuracy.
You have an internal SKU number and a UPC code on each product. If you scan both, it validates the picker is working with the right product.
- Validate the correct pick.
Validating that you have picked the correct item is a multiple step process. You must ensure you are in the correct zone or warehouse area; make sure you are in the correct aisle or location within that zone or area; find the correct bin or shelf within that aisle; and lastly, pick the correct item from that bin or shelf. To avoid picking problems and mistakes, each bin, shelf, and item should be properly labeled or have a barcode.
- Verify pick count.
When picking for an order, the goal is to make sure you have the correct item and quantity. Items can be packed individually or in a group, so you or a system should count and validate that the correct quantity is being picked each time.
Identifying the Cause of Picking Error
Either weekly or monthly, depending on the size of the operation, a supervisor or manager should analyze the performance of each worker to determine the number of errors they are making, where those errors are occurring, and how they are occurring. This data can indicate if the errors are spread all over the warehouse or concentrated in one single area, thus allowing supervisors to take steps to help prevent future errors from occurring and ultimately improving warehouse efficiency. These steps may include retraining the picker, relocating hard-to-access items, or improving inventory tracking in the warehouse itself.