Increase Your Order Picking Speeds in 5 Easy Steps

Increase Order Picking Speeds

Did you know that you can increase your overall warehouse productivity by simply focusing on your order picking speeds?

Often times, basic logistics principles are overlooked in favor of focusing attention on more prominent roles in the supply chain. While trying to improve things like OTR and LTL shipping speeds is certainly important, it isn't everything. It shouldn’t downplay the core roles of your operation; picking and packing your customers orders.

It is not uncommon for companies to skip ahead and try to make giant short-term gains. Doing so can be a bit tricky, however. If you start focusing on specialized roles further down the supply chain, you may very well be diverting focus from your warehouse operations that we all have a habit of taking for granted.

Something like 50% of your labor resources is inevitably going to be tied up in your picking, packing, and shipping roles. So, wouldn’t it makes sense to focus on these efforts first and foremost to make the most use of the resources you already have available?

Today, I am going to give you 5 tips for improving your order picking speeds. All you have to do is redirect your focus.


Keep Your SKUs Organized and Grouped

First and foremost, if your SKUs are not organized and consistently managed, all other efforts may fall quite short of what you are hoping to achieve.

One thing you should avoid is mixing multiple SKUs into the same location to try to save real estate space. When you do this, all you really end up doing is creating a larger mess for your team to spend time sorting through. And as everyone knows, time is money.

More often than not, we see warehouse managers keeping multiple different SKU pick facings on the same shelf. When an order comes in, a team member is given the shelf number where they will find the order to be picked. Once they get to the shelf, they are tasked with sifting through all the SKUs on the shelf until they find the right one.

This not only greatly reduces the accuracy of picked orders, but it also slows down the team member as they have to physically sort through all the others occupying the same shelf. And yes, those extra 30 seconds DO matter.


Walk Less, Achieve More

One really useful trick that you can employ fairly easily is to find the best way for your warehouse team to batch smaller orders together. By grouping smaller orders you can minimize the amount of walking that your team members might otherwise need to do.

This travel time between picking and packaging can easily take up a massive amount of time. In fact, it can account for more than 50% of the time spent on order picking in a typical business day.

There are multiple ways that this can be achieved, but many companies are actually beginning to invest in more conveyor belt systems than in past years.


Try to Keep Everything at Ground Level

As much as you may love your shelving system, it might actually be harming your productivity. When team members are having to constantly reach up, look for a ladder, or are otherwise impeded, your shipping speed suffers.

One thing that you can do to prevent this from happening is to keep your most active SKUs at ground level. This just makes it easier to find when it comes time to pick them.

And that leads us into my next tip…


Organize by Priority

Organizing your stock by priority can go quite a long way in your picking speed efforts.

By creating “hot zones” in your warehouse for those SKUs that make up the majority of order picking tasks. There are many warehouses that use a model known as ABC Velocity. What this means is that all SKUs (or the most actively picked) are grouped into 3 separate groups.

Group A constitutes the most picked SKU.

Group B is the second most picked.

Lastly, Group C is the least picked of the 3 groups.

These groupings can then be placed in wide aisles that see less foot-traffic. This helps to minimize congestion on the smaller aisles.

By doing this, you greatly reduce walking time for your team members. Additionally, you keep your most active SKUs easily available so the team can pick them as quickly as possible.


Minimize Handling        

Now, this tip may seem to be a bit like the exact opposite of good advice for efficiency. And you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking so, either.

The fewer hands that touch any one customer's package, the more productive your team will be.

The idea behind this is actually really simple. By delegating order pulling tasks to certain team members it allows you to free up some of your labor. These resources could then be tasked with pulling the other orders. Of course, if the order is large, it may demand a few team members getting all hands on deck. The important thing here is to make sure that the right amount of labor is going to pulling each order.

Not only does this free up your other team members it also minimizes the risk of damaging products.


Final Thoughts

By shifting just a little bit of focus to your order picking and packing efforts, you can greatly increase the speed at which the orders fly from your warehouse floor and land at your customer's doorstep.

If you are having trouble figuring out how best to optimize your picking and packing efforts, drop us a line here at Redwood Logistics. We just may be to help you put together a solid game plan to increase those order picking speeds.