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Ecommerce is growing, and customer expectations for accuracy and fast delivery are rising. Unfortunately, the workforce you rely on to meet these expectations may not be growing at the same rate.

Good customer service begins with filling orders right the first time as well as having efficient pack-and-ship processes. Consumers reward high performers with more business, so it makes sense to optimize order fulfillment, returns handling, and inventory management. Speedy workers are important but it’s even more critical to root out points of uncertainty wherever possible. Automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) is a tool to help you do that.

Improve Productivity in Order Picking

On the surface, eCommerce order picking and inventory management seem simple enough: pick what’s on the list and keep track of how many items remain on the shelves. But in reality, lists contain errors, items get shuffled around or don’t fit on the correct shelf, new associates may still need to learn their way around the warehouse, there may be multiple routes around the bays, people forget to initial reports and lists, stock levels may only be estimated, and so on. There are many details to track if you want to streamline operations.

Automated storage helps because it uses mobile shelving which operates on the goods-to-person principle: the machine brings the right shelf or item to the associate which cuts down on the time they’d spend walking between bays. That alone cuts travel and picking time, consolidates storage, and reduces pick errors.

But the real key to streamlined order picking, returns handling, and inventory management is in the onboard software that runs the system. It provides the clarity everyone needs in order to spend less time guessing and more time doing productive work. Here are some examples of how this helps different people:

  • Associates:
    • Organized pick lists for efficient picking of single or multiple orders.
    • Providing travel routes that map the entire picking journey through the storage area.
    • Prompts for exactly which item to pick and in what quantity.
    • Dispensing stations that control quantities precisely.
    • User-friendly barcodes and touchscreens.
    • Less decision fatigue from planning travel routes or keeping track of multiple orders.
  • Managers and operations staff:
    • Inventory tracking across warehouses and storage areas.
    • Provides stats and reports based on precise item counts.
    • Fact-based predicting for inventory levels and restocking orders.
    • User-access history and picking metrics for better associate and inventory management.
    • Fast training with intuitive equipment and controls.
    • Allows you to assess and respond to staffing needs quickly.

How to get Clarity for Order Picking

Automated storage systems from Kardex go beyond just organizing and consolidating your inventory. They can serve as the backbone to integrated warehouse picking systems with many options, including:

Batch Picking

When multiple orders share common items, time is wasted accessing the same shelves over and over. Batch picking lists consolidate multiple orders into a single picklist so workers can gather items efficiently and easily sort them by order at a processing station.

Light-guided Picking/Pick-to-light

When similar or very small items are stored together, employees may not be certain which item to pick, or may simply grab the wrong thing in an effort to move quickly. LED lights built into the shelving can be programmed to illuminate the specific bin or shelf section where the item is, reducing picking errors. This is also useful for ensuring tools and bins are returned to the correct location after use.

Color-coded Order Picking

This is a variation on light-guided picking. When multiple workers pick orders at the same time, different colored lights can be assigned to each person to ensure they select the correct items on their lists.

Inventory Management

ASRS software can be used as a standalone or integrated with your warehouse management system (WMS) to keep track of multiple warehouses or storage areas within a single facility. Many reports are available, including inventory lists, metrics, and user-access history.

User access/Credentials

Balance user access and security by setting up varying levels of access for each user with a pin or other credential. This is also a good way to restrict which shelves users can retrieve, further reducing mis-picks and misplaced items.

Buffering and Sequencing

This feature lets you prep and store items or kits for faster packaging and shipping. The staging area stays organized and you can program the machine to retrieve items in a certain order to use up older stock first or rotate through a large batch.

Best of all, these (and additional features) let you customize the system to your warehouse’s unique needs for clarity in inventory picking and more. Contact Kardex Storage Systems for more information.

Tags: Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems, Blog, Order picking, Warehouse

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