In our logistics blog, we will analyze the typical warehouse challenges.
Finnish – A language of negativity? Well, probably not. Nevertheless, our language contains proverbs that tend to undermine or question new things and the implementation of new ideas.
Many of us Finns know a saying that can be roughly translated as “An old trick is better than a bag of new ones”. Still today, there are many organizations that have old misconceptions of the days past, and during my career, I have had to hear the sentence “This is how we’ve always done it” several times.
Logistics, however, is going through a major paradigm shift. This means that sticking to old ways of doing things can be a critical risk for organizations. Therefore, some companies have already stepped out as pioneers by renewing their entire logistical chain and general way of thinking.
Nevertheless, many organizations still find that their logistics processes are derived from the 90’s – an era where technology was only first being introduced to warehouses.
To step into the shoes of your customer for a moment, it is easy to see why logistics is among one of the most valued aspects in a customer journey. Let’s use the following as an example.
Think of the daily decisions you would make as a customer and ask yourself the question: What are the factors most important when buying a product? I believe the answer you would give yourself is at least, price and speed of delivery.
I argue that the ease of purchase, delivering a promised product, and the speed of delivery are the most important aspects for customers: both as end users and resellers.
Let’s dive deeper into the logistics processes. Let’s go into the warehouse and see what they do on a daily basis. Goods are being received, picked and dispatched. Based on my experience, the most important aspect in the function of logistics is to make the picking procedure a smooth part of the order-to-shipping process in the warehouse. Therefore, in this blog, I will primarily focus on picking process in warehouse using examples I have experienced first-hand.
As a starting point, the collection of different items must be made so simple that the picking can be performed by any warehouse employee without possessing in-depth knowledge on the items to be collected.
I have worked in a warehouse, where to pick the right items, you had to know the products very well. Often, the collectable items had their individual additional components to be collected with only a mention in the picking list, if that at all. One can make the point that the collector must be also a product expert to know all the additional parts that need to be picked up for a certain delivery.
To go even further, many warehouses still use old-school paper picking lists where the item picking is carried out using a printed list.
With these printed picking lists, collected items are first hand marked on the paper and only then manually input into the warehouse management system. This laborious process will mitigate all the real-time benefits of a warehouse management system as you cannot see the actual process taking place live.
I can tell you, without exaggeration, that oftentimes these printed picking lists went missing and a lot of time was wasted trying to recover them. Talk about time savings then.
A common practice at warehouses used to be so that the most difficult deliveries of the day would be backlogged to collect the easiest shipping items first. Nonetheless, all the picking lists had to be gone through during the day meaning that at the end of the day, there was huge rush trying to pick the most difficult items before shipping companies came to receive the parcels.
Rush, lack of product knowledge and incorrect shelf location also produce collection mistakes in warehouses. If the warehouse system does not have all the necessary information for picking, the warehouse workers need to operate on their memory and accumulated product knowledge.
Mistakes equal a lot of time spend correcting them. Additional work done to complete incomplete orders or to handle customer returns are a huge expense for organizations. Naturally, moreover, incomplete or wrong shipments damage your reputation. Mistakes made during picking, therefore, are time consuming, costly and decrease customer satisfaction.
I have been fortunate enough to see in practice how the introduction of real-time warehouse management system revolutionized the picking process. With new devices and a dedicated interface, the process was simplified, and items were logged into the system automatically and immediately.
Naturally, there is an investment to be made when upgrading your warehouse management system. Even though you might be able to purchase a fancy sports car with the price of the upgrade, the upgrade will pay itself back in the course of only a few months. The errors made in picking dropped down to only a third of the original amount while warehouse employees’ work satisfaction and performance were dramatically improved. Additionally, the upgrade led to a decrease in returns and the warehouse was able to meet more of its shipment targets.
Delivery picking and its related functionalities are of the essence in logistics. When picking items is efficient and errorless, derived costs savings can be further invested into logistics R&D, for instance.
We have developed a warehouse mobilization solution, that replaces barcode readers and simplifies the daily work in warehouse. Read more about the solution here.
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