Warehouse Management System Benefits for picking

The key benefits of a warehouse management system: the picking process

Welcome to the third part in a series of blog posts on the Return on Investment (ROI) which can be gained from the implementation of a Warehouse Management System (WMS). In this third post Eric Carter examines the picking process.

Welcome to the third part in a series of blog posts on the Return on Investment (ROI) which can be gained from the implementation of a Warehouse Management System (WMS) by Eric Carter, Solutions Architect, Indigo Software. In the series I am looking at each of the key warehouse processes and delving deep to show you the impressive cost savings you could gain for your company by implementing a warehouse management system.


The blog highlights the non-productive times spent capturing data manually compared to automating the data capture process.  As Indigo has been around for over 30 years, we have extensive experience in demonstrating ROI and these blog posts will give you food for thought in terms of how you can save thousands for your company.


In this third post I’ll examine the picking process.  Read on as there are some stunning cost savings to be made.


The picking process is where the majority of mistakes are made in paper based warehouse systems.  Typically in a company not running a WMS, the picking process involves one or many paper based documents that indicate to the operator the item number, description, quantity and maybe even a location to collect the stock from.


Warehouse layouts typically see products of a like nature stored together making identification easier but also creating problems where similar packs can be picked in error.


The operators find or go to the location on the pick note, eyeball the stock to identify it (hopefully) then pick the required quantity.


As you can imagine this process is fraught with the potential to make mistakes.  In the apparel industry for example, a t-shirt can come in many sizes and many different colours so ensuring you pick the right product is immediately made all the more difficult.


This issue is not specific to the style industry, for example one of our customers is the World’s leading supplier of spark plugs.  A quick walk around their warehouse and you will soon see the potential problem – literally tens of thousands of small cartons of spark plugs all identical to the untrained eye.  With homogenous item descriptions, the potential for error is enormous.  Luckily they already use Indigo’s Warehouse Management System to great effect so picking errors are a thing of the past.


Within a paperless picking environment the operator is prompted to go to a location, scan to confirm he is in the right place and then prompted to confirm the item number by scanning its barcode.  At this point we have eradicated 99% of the chances of making a mistake.  Our operator is then prompted to remove a quantity of stock from its picking location and confirms the number as he or she picks.


Typically RF-based picking sees productivity gains in the range of 15-25% over paper based systems.


RF-based picking is just the start of an effective picking process.  As a further enhancement, a company might want to embrace voice assisted picking.  An example of a company at the forefront of voice activated warehousing is Argos and I had the pleasure of experiencing the benefits of this technology resulting in a very short order to despatch process on a recent shopping trip.


Argos have been rolling out a new method of voice activated picking across their UK stores and have experienced great benefits in reduced picking times and more accurate “right first time” picks when compared to paper based picking.


OK so the benefits of using this technology only result in a few seconds saved when compared to paper based picking, but I urge you to have a think about this:


Our picker saves seven seconds on each order and picks on average 140 orders a day.  They are in a team of eight other pickers, so a simple bit of maths shows that just over two hours is saved each day.  Multiply that by five days and that’s a staggering 10 hours.


Or put it another way, one day of every week was lost prior to the implementation of the voice activated WMS.


To put this in context, if one of the warehouse operatives didn’t turn in on two successive Fridays after a heavy night on the town you would soon sort that issue out – wouldn’t you?


So now it’s your turn.  Why don’t you visit your warehouse and look at the size and number of customer claims processed each month due to picking errors and then imagine how this would vastly improve with an RF based WMS.

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