Struggling with small-part picking errors in your warehouse?
There are 4 simple things that you can do to help your workers stop miscounting, dropping, or incorrectly labeling small components. Keep reading to find out some classic causes of picking errors and what you can do about them.
Four Tactics to Reduce Small Parts Order Picking Errors
When it comes to warehouse operations, small parts can be a tricky business. When compared to larger products, small components are more likely to be miscounted, incorrectly measured, or dropped.
Since the demand for orders containing smaller parts is not going away, businesses instead need to look toward innovative problem-solving ideas. Several surprisingly simple interventions can make the process of picking, handling, and packing easier for everyone from the supply chain manager to the worker handling the product.
Before you begin reading about solutions, however, make sure you have a thorough understanding of the problems your specific facility is experiencing. For example, mislabeled products point to a different problem than packing counts that are off. Is there a process in place that workers are finding difficult, or another potential bottleneck that’s causing problems? It’s worth it to speak to floor managers for their input.
Tip # 1: Store Smarter
Many hospitals have already picked up on the “similarity is dangerous” concept and banned the storing of two medications with similar names next to each other. Companies that require the picking and sorting of small parts could also benefit from this logic.
If two items are frequently getting mislabeled, mixed up, or are ending up in the wrong place, consider placing a different-sized (or shaped) item between them. If that isn’t possible, consider color-coding labels or some other easy visual reminder.
While we’re on the subject of how the warehouse is storing products, it’s also important to ensure that pickers have enough space to operate fully, and easily see the difference between containers of components.
Tip #2: Use the Buddy System
There’s a reason why NASA built two of every system onto their lunar exploration spacecraft. Having a backup (or second pair of eyes) is invaluable if there is a mistake or failure. In some cases, the other tips on this list can’t be implemented. However, the “buddy system”, or requiring one employee to check another’s work for errors, is time-honored and fairly simple to put into place.
Especially if you’ve been experiencing a significant amount of errors in your facility, having a backup to check everyone’s work could save you valuable time that was previously being spent finding and correcting errors.
When it comes to two workers checking each other’s orders, it’s also important to remember to rotate workers through jobs so that they stay engaged and motivated. If workers routinely are rotated to new positions, it helps control burnout and increases productivity.
Tip #2: Consider a Smart Voice System
Unlike the “buddy system”, this tip applies to workspaces that have more advanced technology. For jobs that require complex counting or indexing, a voice-tracking system can be tremendously helpful. This would allow a worker to work with mentally easier denominations like 5 or 10; with a voice tracker, she could count six sets of ten instead of counting from 1-60, vastly reducing the opportunity to make a counting mistake.
Although some accounting departments can balk at adding the costs of worker-assistant solutions like this one, a thorough calculation of time saved on improved worker efficiency and decreased errors could very well prove that such a system will easily pay for itself.
Tip #3: Pack with Purpose
Explore your supply chain: is there any way that smaller composite parts can be pre-bundled into packs of 5 or 10? For example, when a worker is sorting parts for an electronic device, being able to grab 4 packs of 5 components each not only saves time, it reduces the risk of counting errors. While this does require another level of counting, it’s worth exploring if there’s a way to separate the “pre-packing” from the high-speed environment of actually getting a live order fulfilled.
Another side of reducing counting errors is to give customers a small financial incentive to order round or even numbers. While this is only applicable to certain industries, it’s worth giving a shot.
Tip #4: Evaluate Your Work Environment
Especially if you’ve put other error control measures into place and still keep getting errors, it’s time to go back to the introduction of this article and consider whether the processes you have in place are the most effective way for your employees to get the job done. Is the pace of the operation simply moving too fast? Are workers more concerned with quota than accuracy? Try to interview people from every level of the warehouse to evaluate if there’s anything you can do.
If you can view individual picker’s work histories and error records, consider distributing your best employees to be near temps or new hires. While it’s tempting to focus only on statistics when looking at a worker (and disciplining those whose numbers are unsatisfactory), remember that this can lead to morale problems; consider putting positive reinforcements in place instead.
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