Our #1 guide to warehouse management pick rules
What is a warehouse management system (WMS)?
Effective warehouse operations are integral to business success through maintaining adequate stock levels and prompt fulfilment of orders, leading to customer satisfaction, loyalty, repeat business and profitability.
Businesses are therefore constantly striving to improve the efficiency of their warehouse operations and overall productivity of staff. For these reasons, it is imperative that businesses have robust and effective stock control and warehouse management systems (WMS) in place.
However, there are a plethora of systems available, ranging from all-in-one, end-to-end ERP systems with integrated WMS functionality, to a range of bolt-on WMS packages that can be added to existing business management software. So which option should businesses opt for? Our Orderwise #1 guide to warehouse management in the UK is sure to help!
Our guide to warehouse management pick rules
If you work in a warehouse, the word “picking” is likely to be part of your day-to-day vocabulary. But what do you know about “pick rules” and their potential impact on your warehouse operation?
What is a pick rule?
Pick rules are essentially a set of criteria that are programmed within your WMS software to give each order that comes into the warehouse special rules.
These rules group orders within the system to make it easier and more flexible for management to determine what resource is required for the day and assign pickers to one of these desired groups of orders.
Each picker will then pick their orders based on different sets of rules for their day at work. Some of these rules will also have priorities set against them, further determining which ones a picker might be assigned.
Throughout a working day, and based on the volume of orders coming in, rules are also able to be assigned to different people.
As well as offering flexibility and control over your order management, adopting pick rules has multiple other benefits for warehouse managers, staff, and the wider business. This is why we’ve pulled together five things every warehouse operative needs to know about this technology:
1. Eliminates the need for a warehouse manager to be sat at their desk
Let’s face it, the warehouse isn’t a sit-down environment and the computer admin to manage a workforce is time-consuming and laborious. Luckily, handheld devices are self-efficient in assigning their own picks using pick rule technology.
Once a picker has finished a pick based on the rule they are assigned to, they can simply refresh their device and automatically receive a new pick based on their assignment.
This handy technology will free up management to make those all-important decisions from the warehouse floor and allow them to be proactive, rather than force them to be stuck behind a computer screen for hours on end.
2. Provides endless possibilities in the warehouse
Pick rules can come in different shapes and sizes, with the ability to handle different variables such as weight, delivery method, bin number and a heap of other categories. Grouping orders together using these variables ensures more efficiency and speed in the warehouse because of preparation.
For example, if a picker is assigned to smaller items, they can use a small trolley with small totes for a lighter load and gain more rhythm from picking items of a similar size. In comparison, larger items can be separated into their own picks and allocated to a forklift driver who can pick the large parts of the orders.
By grouping items into relevant categories, it eliminates any unnecessary back and forth for the picker, allowing them to maintain focus and increase their picking rates.
3. Increases efficiency in how orders are picked and despatched
Efficiency is key in a warehouse to ensure orders are fulfilled correctly for customers, making it even more important to have a system in place that streamlines the picking and despatch operation.
Our picking technology allows operatives to send comments on a handheld device, providing direct instructions to a picker. For example, if you were assigning a picker to cover the smaller orders, a comment could be pushed to their handheld that says, “Collect a small trolley for this assignment”. This will keep the picker moving along with their day, rather than have them second-guessing before starting an assignment.
The system also has a built-in priority feature that will automatically assign the picker to what’s next on the list. So, if your picker has finished with the smaller items for the day, their handheld will automatically move them onto medium items. Or, if they’re assigned to items with a 24-hour delivery slot, they will automatically move onto 48-hour delivery slots upon completion, allowing the business to efficiently meet customer expectations.
4. Controls where pickers are positioned in the warehouse
Pick rules enable warehouse managers to position their workforce across different sections of the floor.For example, pick rules can send one picker to isles A-D and another picker to isles G-H. This will spread the workers out on the warehouse floor and avoid creating a bottleneck of pickers.
5. Provides helpful business intelligence
By grouping orders together using pick rules, businesses can establish which pick rules are most frequently used within the business. This enables management to make reports based on how many orders, and what types of orders, have landed in the system. Having this intelligence is not only useful for the wider business, but it can be used to provide incentives for pickers which will contribute to a happy workforce.
How to strengthen your warehouse operations
Global uncertainty has shown the need for yet more innovation in our warehouses. Here in the UK, the weak points in our warehouse logistics already revealed by Brexit have only strained to a bursting point by COVID-19. From vast corporations to your local independent tradesperson, we’ve seen halted services, shortages and delays, massive market shifts and sadly, business closures.
Now, businesses are battling through ever-changing restrictions. A shift or drift race has consequently emerged to secure our services and shape businesses for the future. We can’t always predict the next big storm to strike our operations. Yet, shifting to a more robust logistics structure can ensure resilience and flexibility when we could need it most.
So, here’s what your business can do to help your operations weather whatever comes your way:
Understand your key operations to know your weaknesses
To understand how to create secure warehouse logistics, you firstly need to gain complete visibility of your business. From your supply chain and warehouse operations to your shipping and end-consumer data, you should be able to access real-time information at any moment. Vitally, every action you make should be informed by your own accurate figures.
With a handle on your data and quick access to all the reports you need, you can use business insights to analyse your performance and ascertain the critical parts of your warehouse processes. This knowledge will highlight where you could streamline, speed up and improve the general productivity of your operations. But also, you will be able to see the essential elements to keep your business running. Above all, you will know where the potentially ‘weak’ points lie.
Ready your contingencies
Moving forward, companies will be under increased pressure to have effective contingency planning in place. A long-term shift in ‘normal’ priorities will see board rooms favour reliability and flexibility for central operations. It will no longer be a case of choosing the cheapest available option to prop up our warehouse logistics. With contingency planning, the aim is to create more reaction time. Therefore, you can give yourself the breathing room to stay on top of any issues that arise.
For your supply chain:
For instance, to ready your supply chain, you should prepare with back-up or multiple suppliers. In a crisis scenario, the competition for new suppliers could be high. Those still available may offer terms that could affect your cash flow, time to pay, duty arrangements, and service provided.
In an ideal world, you would make these logistical decisions would when your business is secure to get the best deals. Yet, knowing ahead of time isn’t always possible. You should, therefore, consider whether the supplier fits the size of your business and if their service can adapt to your particular needs.
For your workforce:
Training your new and current staff to handle essential warehouse operations independently is all the more valuable to keep workflows and logistics running smoothly. However, to stop your productivity taking a hit, using the right technology can also help here.
Warehouse management software can automate many of your manual processes. It increases your throughput with accuracy, minimises costs, simplifies tasks like stock takes and data entries, and reduces your need for so many staff on a given shift.
Prioritise your offerings
In the event of inventory shortages, processing delays or delivery limitations, you should decide which items you will store, pick, pack and ship as a priority. Here, consider factors like the supply risk, cash flow and product perishability.
Then, be sure to confirm which customers and products take precedence. Agreeing on a fair method of stock allocation in the event of limited supply can solve problems before they occur.
Build trust through transparency
Make it clear how your employees are working and how your business is operating. Be knowledgeable about every aspect of your warehouse and logistics, and clearly explain any affected stock and orders to your customers. By updating your website and communication channels, you reassure your partners, retailers and customers by managing their expectations.
Working with your team, business partners and data can also offer performance and end-consumer information. You can gain the ability to monitor lead times and fulfilment statuses to ensure you can deliver.
Check for any changes to courier and supply chain operations and integrate your systems with theirs. These steps can also help to maintain a more immediate and reliable source of data transfer, tracking and delivery information. With the use of electronic data interchange, not only can you track your items and purchase orders, but you can also ensure an automatic and accurate input of information without the need for manual rekeying tasks.
As COVID-19 has proven for end-users and businesses alike, we will now all go to more effort to receive our goods exactly when we need them and ensure they are of good quality. Fortifying logistics enables more businesses to adapt to any ongoing developments as they emerge.
Understanding the benefits of Mobile WMS
Implementing mobile WMS technology is your warehouse boasts a number of advantages. Wirelessly synchronising in real-time to a picker’s handheld device, you can eliminate manual rekeying and paper-based processes from your operations. Automatically create, assign and amalgamate picks and other stock tasks, prioritising urgent orders and abiding to courier cut off times for enhanced picking efficiency. Give your pickers improved visibility of notifications and work assignments to keep your operation running smoothly without having to intervene. Pick multiple orders at once, quickly process returns or ship items directly in just a few taps of the 5-inch HD touchscreen, cutting out time-consuming administration. Reduce time spent dealing with costly returns to free up pickers on the ground, and with accurate picking, eliminate stock discrepancies and double handling of goods to keep your customers happy around the clock. With all these abilities and more, you can advance your warehouse performance from day one.
Goods in, in a flash
Provide an efficient, accurate and flexible way for your staff to book goods into your warehouse. With the Mobile Goods In module, staff can scan received stock in against the relevant purchase or container order for fast and accurate receipt and guided put away of goods.
Navigate your operation
Direct your team using the best walk routes and onscreen prompts to put a stop to unnecessary delays. Using integrated navigation, pickers will get to their destinations faster, enhancing productivity in the warehouse and creating a streamlined operation.
See all your data in real-time
Our live data transfers will provide instant updates, allowing you to maximise your warehouse efficiency with paperless and wireless automation. Your team can utilise an even faster platform, eliminating synchronisation delays and storing and processing data more quickly than ever before.
Fast, accurate scanning
Using the 1D and 2D barcode-scanning technology, receive information against purchase orders instantly for fast and accurate receipt of goods, with expiry dates, batch and serial numbers captured. Instantly flag stock issues and replenishments, and perform precise stock takes with minimal disruption.
Understand your workforce
Gain the ability to monitor picker performance and send statistics back to your central OrderWise system for analysis. Using the latest Android HHT, achieve greater control over the way your warehouse operates, ensuring powerful systems that work for you and your team.
Ditch the downtime
Each handset includes Zebra’s Device Diagnostics app, where you can further eliminate needless device downtime. You can choose up to (5400 mAh) 14 hours of power for devices which is ideal for long or double shifts, and fast-charging capabilities mean you can get an extra two hours work time from as little as 15 minutes of charging. For added peace of mind, on top of OrderWise, Mobility Extensions (Mx) from Zebra offers over a hundred features to improve Android security, manageability and more. Enhanced data capture support and business-class Wi-Fi will ensure your pickers receive a superior wireless experience without interruption to their productivity. Stay ahead of the game by investing in the latest devices equipped with the Android platform – future-proof your technology investment with built-in support for future Android releases.