Order picking is a crucial warehouse logistics process that can be summed up as collecting a specific quantity of articles before shipment to satisfy customers’ orders. Therefore, it’s a critical link in the supply chain that accounts for a lot of its productivity and efficiency.
Twenty years ago, paper picking was a normal practice in small and medium sized companies in retail and distribution. Using paper sheets only makes sense – after all, it’s the easiest, old school “entry point” for companies that can’t invest in better technologies. However, this practice is giving way to more modern methods that showcase, when you come down to it, the advantages of a paperless warehouse management system.
Problems are numerous
First of all, companies and, therefore, warehouses are getting significantly bigger as global trading increases. The cost of labor rises and penalties for inefficiency are getting more jarring. The accountability and metrics are possibly lacking and the room for mistakes is getting more and more elbow space.
In order to manage production levels and ameliorate all the detrimental factors, it makes more sense to invest in technology that will make warehouse picking an easier task altogether.
What are the advantages?
First of all, let’s talk about accuracy. Paper picking relies on human factor more than any other. This presents an issue because, no matter how sophisticated people are, they are bound to make mistakes from time to time. When it comes to trade business, mistakes cost both time and money.
However, it’s not about replacing people. It’s about relieving them of stress that can lead to mistakes, and paper picking puts a pressure on workers. Thankfully, technology has given us a lot of new tools that led to inventive new picking methods.
RF seems to be among the more prominent ones. RF is short for Radio Frequency. It essentially uses barcode scanners, and it has taken warehouses by storm – empiric evidence has shown that it increases warehouse accuracy by more than 99%. This way, it’s also immensely easier to track each article throughout the ever-winding ever-stacked warehouse.
Another thing with paper picking is – it constantly needs to replenish a particular resource – paper. Taking paper out of the equation can save you a lot of money in the long run, not to mention the fact that it allows your warehouse business to become proud to count itself among the green companies.
Time is of the essence
First and foremost, it’s about time – the only international currency that has immeasurable value. A good, well-thought-out management system is the biggest factor that contributes to saving time. This means the warehouses need to be tight.
It’s all about having well organized racks, tools and vehicles, as well as small details that make all the difference like boxing units and pallets. Thankfully, contemporary heavy-duty pallet racks are made to satisfy the highest international standards, and they can make organizing articles much easier and more orderly.
Paper picking puts a lot of pressure on workers and sooner, rather than later, they will burn out if they are not helped. Relieving them of a significant part of their duty by implementing the above-mentioned tools it the right way to go. Additionally, it appears that robots are coming to the rescue as well – a new frontier that will make all warehouse management systems a lot more efficient.
Right now, we are seeing the rise of a new frontier with Visual Picking. This innovative method utilizes smart glasses to bring order picking to the next level. However, this augmented reality process will probably become more prominent in the years to come.
Considering that the increasing number of people that walk this planet have wants and needs that have to be satisfied, the supply chain is becoming a more hectic environment. If we just focus on a particular link – in this case a warehouse management system – we’ll see a constant need for evolution and change to achieve maximum efficiency.
However, there is no one smart solution for order picking. It depends on the nature of the business and the size of the warehouse. Sometimes, it’s even prudent to apply several methods at once. It’s as if the world itself has turned into one dizzyingly fast conveyor belt, and who’s to say it’s a bad thing?
By Lillian Connors