Warehouses and distribution centers are handling more SKUs than ever. This increase creates significant challenges, specifically in terms of storage, productivity, and safety.
ORDER PICKING CHALLENGES
One of the more obvious challenges associated with the explosion of inventory is the lack of storage space warehouse managers are suddenly faced with. Mixing different SKUs in bins or on shelves makes it harder to pick orders quickly and accurately. Managers must adapt and find proper storage space for all the additional product.
Storage limitations can hinder business. Each of your customers has unique, individualized needs and if you're low on storage space, you might be forced to prioritize customers. These choices often result in losing customers.
In today's world, bulk ordering and full-pallet order picking are becoming less common, further complicating the order picking process and creating a greater need for well-organized warehouse storage.
Order picking is one of the highest operating costs of warehouses and distribution centers around the world, representing up to 55% of total operating costs .
As SKUs are added to your inventory, maintaining organization is key to maintaining your productivity level. If managers put new inventory into any open slot without considering the items it is normally picked with, employees might find themselves traveling from one end of the warehouse to the other multiple times a day wasting valuable time.
Mixing SKUs is another way managers are slowing down their employees. Every SKU needs its own slot so pickers can locate the inventory item quickly. These organizational errors result in expensive picking mistakes; dealing with angry customers and processing returns adds extra time and labor to your operating costs.
Overstocking shelves, lack of product organization, and failure to properly train operators on stocking and picking expanded inventory can result in more than inefficiency—it can be dangerous. With an increase in the volume of people and equipment moving through the facility, you have an even greater chance of incidents.
If your operators are rushing to try to maintain the same level of productivity as before in an unorganized facility, they are at a greater risk of having an accident. Maintaining safety should be the top priority and ensuring your warehouse is well laid out, operators are sufficiently trained, and racking is organized and stocked safely per manufacturer guidelines will promote a safe work zone.
ORDER PICKING SOLUTIONS
Now that we’ve covered the storage, productivity, and safety challenges you’re facing, let’s talk about the solutions.
- Consult with a warehouse product specialist. Ask your local supplier to come do a flow assessment of your warehouse . They can make high-density storage and racking recommendations that fit your unique needs.
- Use narrow-aisle picking equipment. Increase warehouse storage by using smaller, more agile narrow aisle equipment that can easily reach all of your SKUs.
- Designate a pick location for every SKU. Avoid mixing multiple SKUs in the same bin location. Searching for the right SKU in shared locations increases errors and costs the order picker valuable time.
- Organize your layout with "hot zones." One way to do this is to set up your warehouse with ABC velocity zones to speed up the order picking process. Position your fastest moving product, or "A Zones," in a central location. Ensure this area has extra-wide aisles to reduce congestion and optimize operating efficiency.
- Prioritize your ground level storage space. Vertical picking is more expensive than horizontal picking. High-velocity SKUs should be stored at ground level, and slow-moving SKUs stored on vertical shelving.
- Consider a Warehouse Management System (WMS) . Order picking systems can greatly reduce your operational costs. These systems can track and automate a number of your processes and will often drastically reduce the amount of time spent order picking. Features of order picking systems can vary, but most are customizable to meet your specific business requirements.
- Provide adequate training. Effective, continuous training for new and temporary employees is the best way to reduce injuries. The more order pickers know about the hazards, the better they'll be at protecting themselves.
- Provide proper tools and equipment. Order pickers often need to access vertical shelving and storage space. Make sure their ladders and work platforms are fully enclosed in a handrail and that they wear fall protection when necessary.
- Stay current on forklift maintenance and inspection schedules. According to OSHA, 96,785 workers are injured each year by forklifts and 70% of those are estimated to be preventable with proper training and strict adherence to manufacturer recommended maintenance schedules .
- Follow best practices for shelf storage. Don't overload your shelves with excess or heavy items, block objects that have the potential to roll, and ensure nothing is sticking out into the aisles.
WE CAN HELP
Growing your inventory creates a number of order picking challenges for warehouses and distribution centers, but you don't need to tackle them all on your own. Contact a warehouse product specialist at your nearest Papé Material Handling location today. We can help you identify solutions that will work best for you.