Warehouses are becoming larger with an increase in the number of items carried, both of which impact the achievement of flawless fulfilment. In Zebra Technologies’s recent warehouse survey, more than half of respondents reported plans to increase the number of SKUs (54.2%), the volume of items carried (54.2%) and their annual inventory turnover (50.6%). In the next five years, almost 70% of respondents indicated plans to increase automated processes and 66% plan to equip staff with more technology. These initiatives are especially valuable for pick and fill functions where costs are high and errors can easily snowball into less accurate, less timely shipping and greater numbers of dissatisfied customers.
Pick and fill challenges
With manual and technically fragmented pick and fill processes, efficiency and cost-effectiveness are significantly compromised. The reality is, manual picking processes simply cannot be easily aggregated to maximise productivity and minimise cost. In addition, there’s a growing need to capture new and additional information during picking, which can complicate even previously streamlined and automated picking processes. Within an order, workers are unable to identify that multiple items on the pick list are located in the same area. That costs time and effort. This is also true across orders; the linear nature of manual picking means processing must be done one order at a time. The result is costly, ineffective and inaccurate inventory visibility that can lead to higher carrying costs and shipment errors.
Pick and fill points of pain
Walking the walk
With legacy pick and fill processes, up to 70% of a picker’s time can be spent walking. They must walk the aisles to locate the right product, wasting time and reducing productivity.
With manual processes and fragmented technology solutions, product cannot be automatically verified when picked. This can lead to unrecognised errors and inaccurate staging, packing and shipping.
More volume, smaller orders
Overall, there is a rising volume of orders flowing through the warehouse, especially orders of smaller size and lesser value. This causes the relative labour expense for filling each order to rise, reducing already thin margins.
Inefficient picking and filling operations cause inventory inaccuracies that all too often lead to costly out-of-stock, lost orders, disappointed customers and lost revenues.
Pick and fill mobile and data capture solutions
The optimum solution is adding mobility and automation to picking operations, allowing the same number of workers to process more orders per day with fewer errors, thus improving customer service and reducing the cost of doing business. Deploying warehouse mobility in the pick and fill functions enables you to know what products are on your warehouse shelves and exactly where they are located. Mobile solutions also empower you to utilise hands-free and multi-modal technologies that go well beyond simple scanning functionality, enabling workers to utilise voice-guided direction with screen reinforcement and enter data by voice, scan or keyed entry.
When you add real-time access to your order and inventory business systems, you can automatically deliver electronic picking orders to a mobile device that not only provides the pick list but also the fastest route to the items and the ability to utilise task interleaving. Mobile data capture solutions enhance existing picking schemes such as pick-to-tote, pick-to-light and carousels, and can be used across different levels of picking, such as piece pick, case pick and pallet pick. Inventory accuracy is improved, too. When workers scan a shelf tag, barcode or RFID tag, they receive instant verification that the right item has been picked, and the item is instantly deducted from inventory. And if an item has a missing or damaged barcode, a mobile printer can be used for re-labelling at the point of picking.
Results can be exceptional. Errors are significantly reduced through the automated capture of data and instant double-check for picking accuracy. Out-of-stock is eliminated through the ability to instantly deduct items from your inventory as they are picked. You gain the ability to deliver granular picking information that enables LIFO/FIFO for improved inventory management. You can also instantly store serialised product information with customer orders to allow fast location of products or parts that may have been recalled, reducing tracing, tracking and liability costs. When you have mobile access to product databases, you can leverage detailed information about specific issues with certain items, which can help power effective reverse logistics and reduce the cost of return and re-shipment resulting from delivery of wrong or damaged products.
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Leading Solution Components
Boost the effectiveness of your voice directed and multi-modal picking, put-away, replenishment and other warehouse applications with TekSpeech Pro, our end-to-end voice-enabled solution.
WT41N0 Wearable terminal
A sophisticated, wearable terminal that boosts worker productivity with high-performance, hands-free mobile computing.
RS419 Wearable ring scanner
A sophisticated wearable ring scanner that maximises worker productivity in the most demanding environments. MC3200 Series rugged mobile computer The lightweight, rugged MC3200 is available in gun, turret and brick form factors. You also get the flexibility of choosing between Windows and Android Operating Systems.
MC3200 Series rugged mobile computer
The lightweight, rugged MC3200 is available in gun, turret and brick form factors. You also get the flexibility of choosing between Windows and Android Operating Systems.
VC70N0 Ultra-rugged vehicle-mounted mobile computer
Achieve new levels of productivity and throughput in your toughest warehouse environments.
QLn Series mobile printers
Drop-resistant and lightweight, the user-friendly QLn mobile printers help you print barcode labels, receipts and more, wherever and whenever needed.