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How to approach inventory picking without changing strategy

How to approach inventory picking without changing strategy

One of the key elements of warehouse management is picking goods and parts, either for the factory floor or transport vehicles for delivery to customers. Often the greatest amount of labor costs comes from the movement of merchandise for various purposes. An inefficient operation for pulling items for orders or production can eat into a business’s bottom line. It’s essential for manufacturers and distributors to determine better ways of inventory picking, often with the help of software-based support such as Microsoft Dynamics NAV Handheld Inventory. An effective solution will reduce the time it takes to complete orders as well as overhead costs.

Basic methods of improving productivity
While some companies may benefit from changing their picking method, many will find simply improving placement and movement mechanisms may be enough to get the most out of their current strategy, according to Supply Chain 24/7. First, a company should look at the organization and mapping of the warehouse with the simple question, “Where is everything located?” When answering that, a company should also determine if all the same materials are in the same place. A common issue is multiple part SKUs will get dumped into the same bin. That can reduce productivity, because it takes more time to sort through items. An operator might not be able to find what he or she needs and it can lead to mistakes. The best way to reduce this issue is to organize SKUs so that only one is in a specific bin on the shelf. Such a method could reduce picking time in a task by more than 15 seconds.

Another method is is to reduce travel time for picking items. While this may mean changing picking approaches, sometimes the solution can be found in automating particular aspects through the use of conveyor systems. It’s also a good idea to develop routing strategies that entail completing single large or multiple small orders at once to reduce travel time. A further step is reorganizing items based on their demand so high-order inventory remains close to the ground, improving efficiency.

If a company wants to push more with their organization, increasing hit density or the amount of items an operator grabs at a location can be a step in the right direction. Reviewing order history on the enterprise resource planning platform will be a good approach for this.

Accuracy matters
One of the key aspects of developing a solid picking strategy is making sure what gets pulled from shelves is exactly what was requested by either the customer or the shop floor operator. Travel times and grabbing a single item quickly is meaningless if the warehouse employee gets the wrong inventory. The first way to address this is to clearly label bins based on what items or SKUs they possess, as noted by warehouse furniture firm Newcastle Systems. Pre-labeling cartons may be a way to do this.

System verifications are also an important aspect of picking. Working closely with the warehouse management system by creating area verification flags and double-verifying through them to ensure the right inventory will get picked off the shelf is an essential step. This helps minimize the chance of human error. Another approach is to reduce employee fatigue, as that can hamper judgment and increase the likelihood of making mistakes. Minimize the need for movement by cutting down on walking for each worker, automating certain operations and cutting down the number of times an item gets touched by staff. In doing all of these, manufacturers and distributors have the ability increase picking efficacy without necessarily resorting to a new picking approach.

Distributors looking to take advantage of NAV Handheld Inventory should read the white paper “Keeping the Physical World and the Virtual World in Sync” today.

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