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How to Improve Small Parts Picking Operations for Order Fulfillment or Manufacturing Operations

How to Improve Small Parts Picking Operations for Order Fulfillment or Manufacturing Operations

Xact Blog Post
June 27, 2016
Xact Blog Post

One of the greatest challenges facing order fulfillment and manufacturing companies is maintaining accuracy during small parts picking operations. Maintaining order accuracy during the picking process is critical to achieving client satisfaction and to ensuring that inventory is properly counted. When orders contain a variety of different small parts, the overall efficiency of the picking process is usually reduced and the likelihood for inaccuracy rises. Below are some of the key problems that tend to plague small parts picking operations along with some potential solutions designed to improve your company’s small parts picking operations.

Key Problems Impacting Small Parts Picking Operations 

Order fulfillment employees are trained to fill orders as quickly and efficiently as possible. This task is easiest when an order consists of one or two large items. The picking process becomes more complicated when an order contains a combination of larger products and parts or a bulk order consisting of many different parts. Below are some of the specific problems that can arise as warehouse staff engage in small parts picking operations:

  • Inadvertently picking the incorrect parts
  • Reduced efficiency caused by a slower picking process
  • An overall reduction in efficiency due to an increase in orders for parts
  • Slowed response time due to inability of staff to quickly distinguish parts
  • Inventory inaccuracies caused by lost or missing parts

You can address these problems through a combination of logistical planning and staffing adjustments. Below are some specific strategies designed to help you improve the small parts picking operations of your fulfillment or manufacturing company.

Dedicate a Floor or Section of Your Warehouse to Parts 

This solution is designed to help speed up the picking process and increase overall efficiency. Dedicating an area of your warehouse to the storage of parts is a particularly effective in decreasing travel time and expediting preparation time for orders that contain only parts. In these cases, orders are prepared more quickly because picking staff only need to travel to one area of the warehouse to retrieve all items required for an order.

Warehouse Management System

Having a warehouse management system in place can help increase accuracy, reduce labor cost, and increase the ability to service the customer by reducing cycle time. Be mindful that a warehouse management system takes someone to manage the data, setup, and overall use. Utilizing a good warehouse management system should help organize workflow and optimize sequence performance.

Sequencing orders by pick path, and batching together single lines, same-zone orders, and difficult picks – such as non-conveyable items – saves tremendous time on the distribution center floor. Again, your WMS software should be able to organize the workflow and optimize sequence performance.

Assign One or Two Individuals to Manage Your Parts Inventory 

By assigning specific staff to oversee your parts inventory and assist with the parts picking process, you reduce the probability that incorrect parts will be selected for an order. After all, an employee who is familiar with the SKU numbers of parts and their exact warehouse location will be able to gather the required parts much more quickly than an employee who only engages in the picking of parts on a sporadic basis.

Create Separate Bins for Each Distinct Part  

This strategy helps increase picking time and helps prevent improper part selection and inventory inaccuracies. Order fulfillment companies that choose to house multiple distinct parts in the same storage bin create delays because picking staff must sort through multiple different types of parts in order to gather the parts required for an order. Just one mistake can reduce customer satisfaction and cause headaches for inventory control staff.

Fulfill Multiple Parts Orders During a Single Travel Instance 

Orders requiring parts picking tend to have a depressing effect on the overall efficiency and profits for a company. Parts orders tend to be smaller and generate less revenue, yet they consume more travel time for picking staff. By picking he parts required for multiple small orders during a single travel instance, your company can optimize their staffing resources and increase overall efficiency.

Conduct Ongoing Internal Audits of Your Parts Inventory 

This strategy helps to prevent inaccuracies and backorders by keeping your inventory in check. Additionally, internal audits can help you identify inventory-related challenges such as improperly labeled parts and parts that are an increased risk for being misplaced or lost.

Enlist the Guidance of an Operations Specialist 

Clearly, the picking of small parts presents a challenge to order fulfillment companies who strive to maintain high efficiency and customer satisfaction. But the solutions above will help your company optimize efficiency. We invite you to contact us if you would like to learn more about preventing problems in small parts picking operations. We look forward to assisting you optimize supply chain performance at your company!

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