Whether in manufacturing, distribution or logistics services, the picking and preparation of orders in warehouse operations takes up between 50% and 70% of all labour employed in the warehouse. Consequently, any drive to improve productivity and output performance in the warehouse must prioritize order picking to the top of the list.


The scope for improvement is truly breathtaking. In the WERC’s DC metrics publication, the median pick rate productivity is quoted as 30 lines picked and shipped per hour as compared to the performance of best-in-class operations which are in the region of 80 lines picked and shipped per hour.


Given the high wage rates now commanded by skilled warehouse operatives and the difficulty in finding suitably qualified staff, pushing towards best-in -class levels of productivity is a must in today’s competitive business environment. Even in small to medium sized operations with 10 to 15 people employed in order picking these productivity improvements can deliver hundreds of thousands in savings per year.


Pick rates can be improved by a wide range of initiatives from locating the most frequently picked stock in the most accessible locations, through to introducing improved mechanized equipment and information technology, and on to improving the design of pick sheets, enhancing the quality of lighting and implementing better planning and sequencing of work tasks.


Measuring and monitoring pick rates on a daily basis is an essential management capability in warehouse operations. This will enable both effective planning to match resources to work demand in the immediate term and help will drive productivity improvement in the longer term. To do this effectively requires the ability to capture, process and translate the data effectively into effective improvement initiatives that will deliver gains to the business both on the top line through improved service, and on the bottom line through optimum costs.

21st Century Warehousing: Strategy and Operation

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