Businesses today are faced with the challenge of how to increase their order fulfilment efficiency, meet increased demand and maintain exceptional customer service, while at the same time attempting to reduce costs and protect profit margins.
Typically, over 50 percent of warehouse labour resources are occupied with order fulfilment tasks such as picking processes, packing customer orders and shipping or freight activities.
At a time when customers are placing greater order numbers but in smaller quantities, supply chain managers face the task of achieving more with less. If companies need to improve picking processes and order fulfilment, then optimising warehouses and inventory control are the key places to start.
Warehouses are complex places, receiving, storing and distributing high volumes of inventory stock. When the accuracy and efficiency of warehouse operations break down it can lead to higher costs for business owners.
Effective warehouse layout is important to good inventory control and the starting point of warehouse optimisation. If storage systems and warehouse racking are not optimised, you may find that you are using more space than you actually need to house inventory stock, or alternatively find that certain items are difficult to locate and access.
A well-organised warehouse can improve picking times by up to 50 percent so while it may seem like a daunting task, reconfiguring your floorplan and warehouse layout can have a significant bearing on order fulfilment.
The most efficient warehouses place frequently picked items closest to the shipping areas to minimise picking time and improve productivity and minimise travel time between picking locations.
It’s also quite common for companies introducing new lines to stash the incoming inventory stock wherever it fits, causing inefficiencies and increased picking times. Avoid this by reviewing warehouse operations frequently to ensure standards and productivity maximisation are being well maintained.
Optimised picking processes
When considering the level of labour involved in warehouse operations, the greatest expenditure of effort is in the picking process. The easiest way to achieve efficiencies in picking is by reducing the labour time to pick.
- Avoid storing multiple SKUs in the same bin location — use distinct locations with clear signage and easy access for every SKU to improve picking accuracy and efficiency
- Have common routes for picking items to reduce travel time and improve order picking processes. Without accurate knowledge of inventory location, pickers cannot work efficiently, which results in slower loading processes and scheduling bottlenecks.
- Combine multiple orders into a single travel occurrence, to reduce picking travel time.
- Develop processes to monitor picking travel times and storage locations regularly to ensure you continue to operate with optimal efficiency.
Efficient inventory control
Warehouse management and order picking processes both rely on efficient inventory control to be successful. Automate systems so you have real-time access to inventory stock levels and can ensure inventory accuracy.
Transform warehouse processes with the help of inventory control software. With real-time visibility of inventory stock, you can identify areas where it is possible to improve warehouse efficiency, optimise inventory, increase productivity and the overall profitability of your business.
Implement cycle counting as it helps keep back-office systems more accurate and your warehouse more organised and running smoothly. Warehouses that successfully undertake cycle count processes can often avoid the need for arduous annual physical counts of inventory stock.
Picking processes and inventory control
Effective inventory control and warehouse management are necessary for perfecting picking processes and order fulfilment. When businesses know exactly what types and quantities of inventory they have, and exactly where to locate it, then it generally follows that picking processes and order fulfilment efficiencies will be greatly improved. As a result, orders are fulfilled accurately and on time, customers are happier, costs are reduced and there’s overall greater profitability.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.