How to Improve Order Fulfillment Processes: 3 Tactics to Increase Pick Speed


In order picking, the smallest of changes can have enormous impact. Order picking and replenishment can represent up to 50% of labor costs: meaning that any reduction can have an enormous impact on a warehouse’s bottom line.
Reducing order fulfillment times even slightly can result in dramatic gains for companies, improving worker productivity, company revenues, and profits - without adding to labor costs, or expanding physical warehouse space.
Consider making these changes, for a significant improvement in picker productivity and fulfillment speeds:

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1. Reduce Walking Time

The time spent walking from the location of one product to another can drastically increase the total time spent on order fulfillment - particularly if products being picked are scattered across a large warehouse space. To reduce walking time, consider increasing storage density.

There are many strategies to increase storage density to reduce walking time:

  • Place products physically closer to one another to reduce the distance that must be covered when pickers move from one product to the next.
  • Bundle products that are often purchased together so that they are located physically closer to one another.
  • Store fast-moving SKUs near the ends of aisles so pickers don't have to walk all the way down aisles to pick commonly purchased items.
  • Store SKUs based on throughput

Perhaps the most important step - storing SKUs based on throughput will have a very large impact on reducing walking time. For example, fastest-moving SKUs are best left on pallets or placed into a pallet flow system like Pallet Track. Medium-moving SKUs would ideally be placed into a carton flow system like SpanTrack lane or SpanTrack wheel bed. To increase storage density for slower-moving SKUs, install a high-density storage solution such as SpeedCell. With a solution like SpeedCell, products are organized into labelled storage cells, which make up flexible, moveable columns that can be integrated into existing rack structures. Installing a high-density storage solution like SpeedCell increases pick facings in a single area, which enables greater SKU density, reducing travel for order pickers.

Organizing SKUs based on throughput will optimize the cubic space in the warehouse, minimize time spent searching for misplaced SKUs, and ensure that pick paths are as efficient as possible while driving down costs.

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2. Reduce Searching Time

Not only does walking between products erode worker productivity, searching for products in a warehouse makes order picking more difficult as well. Disorganized inventory extends search time by increasing the complexity of picking, increasing the amount of time it takes to fulfill an order.

To reduce search times, and improve overall order picking productivity, a company should implement a predictable product storage system.This may include:

  • Organizing products by product group or throughput
  • Implementing a labeling system to clearly communicate the organizational system
  • Improve SKU visibility and order picking accuracy with tilted Pick Shelves
  • Implementing a carton flow system like SpanTrack will allow products to flow forward, improving visibility and accessibility of SKUs.

Related Content: How Unex Solutions Reduce Travel Time

3. Reduce Bending and Reaching

Even when the time spent traveling across the warehouse is reduced, and search time has been optimized with a strong organizational system, time can still be wasted. When pickers spend time physically bending and reaching into racks to pick items, their overall productivity is impacted. Eliminating unnecessary bending and reaching cuts down pick time and can have an immediate effect on picker productivity, positively impacting business results.

Additionally, bending and reaching contribute to repetitive stress injuries, which pose a costly risk to companies in the form of worker’s compensation claims, and lost time for employees. When organizing products within a warehouse, bundling high-volume products reduces travel time while placing high-volume products within easy reach eliminates unnecessary bending and reaching.

Carton flow can also play a role in reducing bending and reaching into racks, shaving precious seconds off a picker's time. Carton flow rollers or wheel beds flow inventory forward as workers pick from the front. When products automatically flow to the front of the rack, pickers don’t have to reach to the back to pull items forward.

Related Content: Carton Flow Shelving: Problems And Solutions

Leverage Dynamic Storage Solutions to Improve Order Picking

At UNEX, we understand that finding and training qualified workers to help fulfill more orders in a day can be a challenge. However, increasing picks per day doesn’t have to involve time-consuming recruiting, lengthy onboarding processes or expensive automation.

Improving warehouse layout, organizing products based on volume, and implementing dynamic storage systems like high-density storage cells or carton flow systems play a major role in increasing order picking productivity. Talk to a space optimization expert at UNEX, and learn more about how dynamic storage solutions can help increase order picking speeds and maximize productivity.

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Posted by: UNEX