Woman order picking

 

Order picking—as important as it is for many aspects of a warehouse, it can have a huge impact on how the needs of your customers are being met.

Think about it like this: if the point of every customer interaction you have is to place an order and get them the items they need, then getting those items to the customer should be priority #1, right? And there’s no better way to set or focus on that priority than through a good order picking strategy.

But there’s a difference between a good order picking strategy and one that’s optimized for meeting the needs of your customers. Customers, after all, are the focus of any warehouse and getting their items to them on time and safely should be job #1 ahead of anything else—and order picking can go a long way to help.

 

The trick with order picking is to understand what your customers want most, and base a strategy around it. By and large, when customers order online from a warehouse or distribution facility, they expect two things: a fast order, and an accurate order.

In a perfect world you’d be able to offer both, but we all know the reality of the situation isn’t quite what we’d like it to be. The question then becomes, which can you offer and which do your customers expect?

 

Not every online retailer can be Amazon, and in many cases customers know that and don’t expect the fastest handling time in the world. To that end, you could start focusing on ensuring every order is accurate and correct. A great place to start with this is through employee training. Establish order handling processes early on and make sure everyone in the warehouse that has to ‘touch’ an item along the way, no matter what their job entails, knows what to do during every step of the process. Minimizing these touches and preventing confusion through good documentation and training will make sure that your workers get their orders handled on time—and correctly the first time.

 

But what if time is of the essence? Many industries rely on prompt refills of needed supplies to get things done, and that means they’ll be expecting your warehouse to fill these orders as fast as possible. In that case, you may need to take a look at rearranging your warehouse shelving. You can give your workers a massive time advantage by rearranging your current storage to place a focus on more frequently-ordered items. For example, placing more commonly-ordered goods on the lower shelves of pallet racks for easy retrieval, and using advanced barcode- or light-scanning methods to track current inventory counts and get a better idea of both item location and remaining items.

 

Really, the point is to try and understand what your customers expect and then tailor your approach to their needs. It might be a little more difficult to upend your current procedures at first, but the long-term benefits when it comes to customer retention and satisfaction will be more than worth it. (And remember—never be scared to change tactics if your current approach isn’t working.)

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