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Order picking is a critical part of any warehouse, no matter how big the warehouse or what products they deal in.

Any given warehouse, whether they sell to the public or distribute goods to other retail outlets, needs to rely on a strong order picking process to make sure orders are packaged properly, shipped on time, and error-free.

Order errors are one of the biggest issues a warehouse can face, due to the combined loss of time, money, and potential customer satisfaction, and while every warehouse knows they need to prevent order errors when possible, knowing how exactly to do that may be unclear to many warehouses.

One of the fastest ways to prevent order errors is by establishing a strong picking workflow. By providing each member of your picking team with a set group of processes and steps to follow, you can lessen the risk of errors and mistakes and work to prevent order issues at various steps along the path. While there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” option for establishing an order process, there’s steps that every warehouse can take to make sure their picking workflow works like it should and (ideally) lessens the risk of order errors:


Assign zones: By assigning specific zones to your picks, you can save everyone involved a great deal of time and effort. Zone selection and picking order (batch vs. discrete, etc) will vary depending on the needs of the warehouse, but knowing where these zones are will help your staff immensely. Designate part of your staff to pick from the pallet racks, set the rest of them to the rest of your warehouse shelves and make sure everyone knows where their zones of responsibility are.


Perform initial checks: After the item itself is picked, an immediate check should be made for accuracy. Barcode scanning is the most common way to do a quick check once the item is picked, and while it might sound like an extra hurdle during picking it can help prevent a lot of confusion down the road when it may be too late to correct an item error.


Follow-up on checks as needed: Through secondary and tertiary checks, you can catch errors as they work their way through the system and stop them before they go out on the truck to the customer. Secondary checks are typically implemented at the pack-out process as a way of double-checking any order for errors or mis-picks before they get sealed up and shipped out, and can help work as a ‘last set of eyes’ on a given order.


Generate restock items: As your item works its way through the checking, picking, and shipping processes, you should have a team focusing on restocking the items as needed. Safety stock, typically kept elsewhere on bulk warehouse racks or steel shelving, should be checked after the picking process to replenish goods for the next order.


Handle exceptions: If an item comes up as missing (or marked as an ‘exception’ in the order), those should be handled after the accessible items have been cleared and packed away. Take the time to look through possible inventory variance and start to track down where the issues came from—if an item is frequently excepted, it may be an issue in your inventory system or there may be a problem with your counting methods. Once the rest of the order is picked safely, these errors can be investigated.

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