6 Ways to Improve Picking Accuracy

Consumers expect accurate orders and are leveraging eCommerce to meet the needs of their busy lives more than ever. It is one thing when an order is delayed, but it is more than a frustrating inconvenience when it is entirely inaccurate. Just one picking error erodes customer trust and reduces profitability. Not only that, but picking errors can kill warehouse productivity leading to a loss of revenue and profitability. Therefore, it is vital that companies pay attention to order accuracy. Here are 6 ways to improve picking accuracy and uphold customer satisfaction.

The Importance of Order Picking Accuracy

Simply put, the order-picking process pulls items the customer purchases from inventory and packages them for shipment. It is one of the most labor-intensive warehouse or fulfillment center tasks. Order picking typically accounts for 55% of warehouse operating costs. It often requires the most human touch, which means it also is full of the potential for human error. Furthermore, the process requires a significant amount of heavy physical labor, making it slow and potentially dangerous. This is why continually improving order-picking accuracy and efficiency is crucial to a business’s success.

6 Ways to Improve Picking Accuracy

Analyze Product Velocity

Product velocity refers to the quantity and frequency of the SKU picked over a designated time. Evaluating product velocity ensures commonly ordered items are strategically located within easy access to picking areas. Some best practices when considering the velocity of a SKU are:

  • Determine fast, medium, and slow movers and slot them accordingly (i.e., slow movers further from picking areas).
  • Examine and evaluate picking days, averages vs. optimal
  • Store high-velocity SKUs in a readily accessible location for easy selection and replenishment.
  • Determine if individual SKU velocities are affected by seasons or promotions.

By properly analyzing product velocity you are able to layout warehouse storage in the most efficient manner to improve picking accuracy and order fulfillment cycle times.

Strategically organizing inventory

Strategically organized inventory helps to improve picking accuracy. Some warehouses store inventory by delineating zones where similar items are grouped together. This type of organization is used when zone-based and batch-picking is implemented. Slotting is another method where cases are strategically placed for easy access and replenishment. Regardless of how your inventory is stored, it must be organized, so pickers have the highest probability of selecting the correct items.

Establish picking routes

Establishing a warehouse traffic flow or picking routes will enable pickers to move through the warehouse seamlessly to fulfill orders. Creating picking routes helps to reduce backtracking through aisles which is costly and time-consuming, as well as overcrowded aisles.

Maintain accurate inventory data

An organized and properly routed picker makes no difference if, when they go to select a product, it is misplaced or out of stock. To improve picking accuracy, it is vital to have a precise foundation of inventory storage, quantities, and locations available in real time. Implementing an automated inventory management system can dramatically improve inventory data.

Analyze error data

You cannot improve what you don’t track. Review picking accuracy data often to determine when problems are occurring. It can give operations insight about staff that are more suited to heavy-picking tasks. Not only that, but it can also provide measurable insight into how to incentivize pickers to improve order accuracy. Lastly, systematic or procedural issues are revealed when reviewing error data.

Use technology

Whether you plan to implement a fully automated warehouse system run by robots or you are easing into new technology, using technology will certainly help level up your picking accuracy. Innumerable solutions have been proven to reduce human error and improve picking accuracy. Here are a few common technology solutions to consider:

  • Radio frequency scanning devices – using lightweight, hand-held scanners to read barcodes accurately can help confirm the correct product is picked. These devices eliminate the need to read labels improving speed and accuracy.  
  • Visual logistics – rather than using barcode or QR code only, this technology includes images of the product on the scanner and/or visual bin locations
  • Pick to light – Pick to light (or PTL) is an order-picking technology that utilizes lights and LEDs on racks or shelves to indicate pick locations and guide pickers through their task. Pick-to-light systems are growing in popularity because they have been shown to increase picking efficiency compared to RF or paper pick lists.
  • Voice-directed picking – Voice picking is a hands-free eyes-free system that guides the picker through their task by talking them through it. The systems include headsets and high-tech speech recognition software that is fully integrated with the system of record (WMS, ERP, Inventory System)  
  • Conveyor systems – Conveyor systems vary in their function and sophistication. Sortation conveyors are particularly useful in improving order accuracy, as are systems that allow pickers to remain in a single location as items are brought to them directly. Your warehouse size, layout, and product diversity will determine the best conveyor system. 

Whether you implement one or all six ways to improve picking accuracy, it is an important component of successful fulfillment. Customers expect to receive the precise product they order. Business owners and warehouse managers know that picking accuracy is vital to customer satisfaction, but it isn’t always easy to maintain. If picking accuracy is important to your business, but you want to delegate the stress of maintaining the highest standard, let Falcon Fulfillment help. We have a 99.9% accuracy rating and would love to ensure your customers get what they paid for every time. Talk to one of our agents today.

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