The constant rush, confusion, and influx of orders into a warehouse can sometimes make it feel more like a fast food job than warehousing work.

And while your employees are surely expecting some chaos and confusion, if they wanted to work at McDonald’s they could…well, just work at McDonald’s. Constant rushing, headaches, and poor planning can lead to a huge loss in productivity among your order picking staff, and when orders start to go wrong, the whole warehouse can begin to feel the consequences.

 

So what do you do? The trick might sound counterintuitive at first but it’s an important one to keep in mind: help your order pickers slow down. We don’t mean reducing the amount of orders they process, or telling them to take longer while processing orders (although that can help in a lot of cases), but by reducing the amount of extraneous steps they have to take and helping them focus more on the task at hand you can see a big increase in productivity and accuracy across orders, all while keeping your workers working their hardest and seeing things through.

 

The best place to start with this is to start focusing on the metrics that really matter. We’ve all seen the lists a million times—orders completed per hour, items per order, etic. While a lot of those are good for tracking overall warehouse performance, they’re not really going to help your order pickers focus on the task at hand while they’re in the heat of battle, as it were. Consider instead changing your process to include tracking of overall relevant metrics like the number of stockouts, the number of items in incorrect locations, and the number of items handled by each picker per shift. This will give you a better idea of what you’re working with and should help to prevent errors down the road.

 

Another way to help your pickers stay focused on what matters is to help establish ‘order-completion zones’. Instead of keeping your order pickers segregated from the rest of the warehouse, or forcing them to spend excess time searching for the items they need, set up some wire shelving and pallet racks full of your most popular items in a designated area—this will reduce the number of items not in the correct location and help prevent frustrations with tracking down items during a busy shift.

 

After you’ve found the items, you might start to notice that there’s a lot of steps between getting them picked and actually shipping them off into the world. This is a common complaint among order pickers, and is a perfect place for some further optimization. By reducing the number of ‘touches’ during the order process, you can both get orders handled faster and help your workers focus on the work that needs to be done. This will cut down on confusion and excess steps during picking, and you’ll notice huge improvements throughout the entire warehouse.

 

Finally, we’re sure we don’t need to remind you of this, but leading by example is crucial. Make sure you’re trying to do everything as efficiently as possible in everything you do as a warehouse manager, and always take employee feedback to heart. They’re the ones down in the trenches—they’ll have an idea what needs to be done.

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