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SAP Distribution Blog

Step 5: Improving Picking Efficiencies

Posted by Gary Feldman on December 14, 2016

Efficiency can be defined as the ability to accomplish a job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort. In our last blog, we talked about receiving efficiency, but it’s picking, packing, and shipping that’s at least ½ – if not more – of your warehouse’s labor effort.

improve picking efficiencies.jpgYour warehouse layout will be different than depicted, but the concept in picking is the same as in receiving – items picked most frequently are closest to the doors. And although these items are often the same for both receiving and picking, that doesn’t always make things easier. In many warehouses, shipping and receiving doors are not the same and, due to procurement and sales patterns, the volume of receipts is quite often lower than the volume of shipping.

Horizontal Picking, Vertical Picking, and Slotting

When we discussed slotting, we recommended that you store goods that are frequently picked together to eliminate travel time. In addition, you can improve conventional order picking productivity by keeping the most frequently picked items at ground level, as the fact that it costs more to pick vertically than it does to pick horizontally has been demonstrated through benchmarking efforts over the years. However, because you live in the real, 3-dimensional world, you may find that you can streamline picking by storing faster moving items at an easy-to-pick shelf level.

Using Software to Help

All of these techniques require data gathering and analysis and almost none of it can be done by just any small business system because your warehouse layout is unique and your patterns are complex.

However, there are a number of easy to use techniques supported by SAP Business One.

Pick the Way You Want To

You don’t have the pick the way your system dictates. Many legacy systems are based on the concept of single order picking, but if you use this method, you’ll be traipsing quite inefficiently all over the warehouse.

Inventory Management eBook rectangle

Alternatives include:

  • Picking by zone/area or item and taking to a staging area for packing and shipping.
  • Picking by customer delivery site. If you have multiple people from a single customer ordering goods, you may be able to pick multiple orders and consolidate for shipping purposes.
  • Segregate “special orders.” We all have special customers who require special treatment. Assign their orders a different priority, a different picker, or group their typical goods in a separate zone. If they’re special, treat them special.
  • Optimize stock for picking prior to release of orders. Consider relocating stock from bulk to quick pick zones based on anticipated upcoming deliveries as an end of day/week activity. Be careful to avoid restocking during pick times, however.
  • Store accurate weights and dimensions in your inventory master file. Estimating or integrated shipping calculations can speed the packing and shipping process tremendously.

A tool like the Pick and Pack Manager shown below allows you to choose the orders to be picked and then allows you to sort and filter by any column in the grid (which is customizable, of course!).

pick and pack

Other picking efficiencies may require some new warehouse investments:

  • If you have small items, consider multi-bin carts for picking multiple orders in one pass into segregated bins. This technique can also be used for single line orders that can also be segregated as special orders.
  • Consider hand-held devices on your picking carts or forklifts to record the pick as it occurs.
  • Conveyor systems can speed the movement from one area to another and reduce human travel time.
The next segment in the series will address the complexity added by kitting and assembly and related tips and techniques. In the meantime, if you have questions on how SAP Distribution can help you improve your efficiencies, please contact us.

Topics: Grow Your Business

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