Fulfilling customer orders is all about getting the right items in the right quantities to the right customers in the fastest time = Happy Customer.

This requires efficient order fulfilment processes to receive goods into the warehouse, process sales orders, pick goods from the shelves, confirm you have the goods, package them up, label, and then ship.

Picking stock from the shelves of a warehouse is an important, but often overlooked function in the order fulfilment process. Picking is usually a highly manual process, relying on reams of paperwork to instruct staff on the warehouse floor to pick and pack the correct goods.

Typically, stock picking is a four-stage process: 

    • Orders are received, verified and then released for fulfilment; 
    • Sales orders are placed into a schedule with each picker assigned a set of sales orders; 
    • The pickers move through the warehouse selecting the goods off the shelves. The codes on picked items are checked against a list and then placed into a trolley; 
    • The picker then returns with the goods to a central area where the goods are packaged and then dispatched to retail centres or direct to customers.

      The problems with unorganised manual stock picking

      Ideally your pickers would move through the warehouse taking the most efficient path.

      If any goods are missing or damaged, the pickers walk back to central workstations to check for alternative items.

      Once the order has been picked, items are manually checked off and the lists sent to the clerical area so stock records can be updated, and new orders placed.

      This reliance on manual processes makes picking not only time-consuming but also error-prone. Picking the wrong items can lead to returns, credit notices and customer dissatisfaction – all of which can quickly erode profits and your company’s reputation.

      This manual process is also makes it hard to scale. You can only grow by employing more people, which is not only costly but also inefficient and may simply lead to bottlenecks as more and more pickers try to move around the warehouse.

      The benefits of technology in automating stock-picking processes

      Using technology solutions – hand-held mobile computers integrated with wireless bar code scanners linked by Wifi and Bluetooth to a central inventory management system – can overcome many of the problems of a manual picking process.

      Each Sales Order is allocated for picking – scanning the barcode to confirm item and quantity. The finished order is packed for dispatch and confirmed in the system. The central Business Management Platform automatically invoices and reminds the Purchasing person to re-ordering the additional stock.

      Picking is faster, errors are reduced, due to instant feedback, and fewer mistakes translate into less returned goods, fewer credit notes and happier customers.

      Not only is each job more efficient, but technology also allows for increased flexibility in designing picking strategies that best suit individual businesses, especially those using larger or multiple warehouses. Rather than just picking one order at a time, walking in a set sequence through the warehouse, different pickers can be assigned to different zones with each person picking a part of each order.

      Alternatively, multiple orders can be assigned to each worker in a single journey through the warehouse. Both strategies allow jobs to be completed faster as numerous workers can work on multiple orders on each walk through the warehouse.

      As mobile technology allows information to be entered as the item is placed into the trolley, data can be sent directly to central Business Management Platform (the ERP systems) in real-time. Real time data is now available at the touch of a button to track inventory. Stock levels remain accurate and making stocktakes easier to conduct.

      Additional information can be used to review warehouse efficiencies, operations and employee performance. For example, the data can be used to identify the most efficient layout for the warehouse meaning less travel time to collect orders, increased pick rates, and reduced double checking.

      Picking Orders is the most labour-intensive and costly component of the order fulfilment process. If your picking your stock is inefficient, you are limiting the potential success of your business. The use of modern picking technology can reduce errors and improve accuracy, cutting costs and increasing customer satisfaction.

      Smart devices, such as the iPads and iPhones, offer the ability to replace expensive mobile computers. In partnership with a hand-held scanner, these devices are easier to use, cheaper to buy and operate, and come with additional functionality.

      Acacia Consulting Services offer a barcode scanning system that is powerful, easy to use and low-cost to implement. All that is required is an iPad and a Bluetooth scanner to scan and pick the correct items to deliver to customers.