Last month we looked at ways to improve inventory accuracy and receiving activities.  This month we are going to look at some best practices in picking.

One of the most effective enhancements to your picking process is to implement a warehouse management system (WMS) with either bar code or voice pick capabilities.  Advantages of these systems include:

  • Verification that the picker is selecting the correct product from stock inventory
  • Directing the picker to the bin location that holds a sufficient quantity of the product to fill the order (if you are trying to minimize picking time) or the oldest inventory (if you are trying to maximize stock rotation)
  • Continually updating the specific location of each piece of each product in your computer system.  This facilitates the reconciliation of cycle counts and physical inventories and keeps track of quantities of an item stored in surplus and bulk storage locations.

But what if you cannot afford a WMS system, or a system cannot practically be implemented in your facility? You can still improve your picking process!  Here are some inexpensive “low tech” procedures that can be implemented in nearly any facility:

  • Make sure that the primary storage location of the items picked most often are in the most accessible locations.  Many organizations place similar items next to each other in their warehouse.  This means that a slow moving product may be located next to a product that is continually picked, because it is in the same vendor line.  And, unfortunately, popular products in some vendor lines may be located in fairly inaccessible locations.  Placing products that are frequently picked in the most accessible locations, regardless of their vendor line, will speed your order picking.
  • During the putaway process, place an erasable magnetic label at the primary location of a product indicating the location of any surplus stock.  This will help avoid wasted time searching all over the warehouse to find material needed to fill orders or restock the primary bin location.
  • If you have a large warehouse implement “zone picking”.  In a zone picking system individual pickers are assigned to certain areas of the warehouse.  They pick ordered products in their zone and place the material on a conveyor which sends it to the staging area.  Here the entire order is assembled, packed, and shipped.  If you have a lot of one and two line orders, have order pickers fill several orders at one time.  This is commonly known as “wave picking”.

Remember that filling orders is a cost of doing business.  Anything we can do to improve the productivity of this process will result in increased profitability.

P.S. – At this wonderful time of the year, we’d like to say “thank you” and wish you a full year of surplus happiness and success!


2015 Workshop Update:  We have changed the venue for our spring workshop.  It will be held at the Gaylord Texan (just north of the Dallas – DFW airport).  This wonderful facility provides a retreat atmosphere that will allow us to focus on solving your inventory-related challenges.