Picking Accuracy

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    Kevin Ogden

    Hello, I am in charge of correcting or fine tuning our problem with order picking accuracy. The employees have a order pick sheet with the sku numbers and quanity. Our picking shelves are designed in numerical order and the orders are being audited by the packers at the time of packing. With this system in place we are still having too high of a picking error rate. My problem is human error and I do not have the luxury of going to an automated system. I realize that educating and encouraging the employees is a good start but how to go about this is confusing. If anyone out there has any sugestions it would be greaTLY APPRECIATED.



    Hi Kevin
    I have some experience with car spare parts. Part numbers were up to 13 digits long, very easy to make mistake.
    If you can’t go for scanners of bar codes please consider:
    First the picker picks the article by reading the number from the order.
    Second make the packers to pick the article and search for the number on the order to make a line and check the amount.
    Depends a lot on what kind of goods you have. With spare parts it was very important to have just limited information on the order. If the picker had on order part number and the name of the part, he was picking the parts also by the name and mixing the parts, e.g. bearings for different car models. I think the layout of the order is important. If you have numbers like 1561616687136. It is hard to work with it. Makes more sense 156 161 668 7136. And it must be close to the amount to be picked. If it is on the other side of paper, it is easy to mix to lines.
    You can also focus on time when the mistakes occur. It is possible that 80 % of mistakes are done close to break or end of work time. Time pressure causes mistakes. Think of the following situation: my working time ends 16:00, but at 15:40 I get a larger order. I will have to hurry to get it done before 16:00. I will make “shortcuts” in however I do it usually.
    Next have a look on the employees. Some make more mistake than others. What do the best pickers do? Standardize it.
    Motive employees with a contest: who makes fewer mistakes wins something…Make fun of it.
    But be careful, any improvements coming from outside will be rejected. Talk with people, do some brainstorming, take part of the process yourself to understand it.
    Improve the light in the packing/picking area.
    When the mistakes occurs more often: large orders or short orders. If large ones, than devide them to optimal size.
    Analyse the goods that are mixed up. Is it always a category of goods? If yes, mark it red.
    One more… interruptions during the picking are also dangerous. You work yourself with your order and someone just asks you: “tell me, where is part XZ?” for a moment you think where it is, give an answer. This is a brake of your work flow, very easy you can enter back in the flow in the wrong step.
    Hope the above doesn’t sound stupid to you.
    Good luck
    what means “sku”?
    how high is your error rate? amount and wrong pick separately
    do you also have cases of good picking/packing but sent to wrong address?



    Your statement “Our picking shelves are designed in numerical order…” strikes me as an opportunity.  Is numerical order the best way or could the order be in frequency requested instead?  Maybe items that are most frequently picked could be closer to each other to minimize travel time and interruptions.
    Silviu has good suggestions. It’s always better to get ideas for process changes from the ones doing the work for Buy-in and acceptance to change.



    A SKU or Stock Keeping Unit (sometimes pronounced as a word, “skew,” or as individual letters, S K U) is an identifier that is used by merchants to permit the systematic tracking of products and services offered to customers



    Just to expand on the other post, pareto your errors by SKU, Time of Day, Day of Week, Pick Qty(larger picks have more errors), location within your process. Do you have any “unit of measure” issues, (where a box of 6 is a pick of 1)
    When we completed a pareto of pick zones we found that 70% of our errros were coming from one zone in our pick process, looking at that zone we found this is where the group leaders desk was and that a lot of people was in the area getting assignements or fixing issues (a distraction for the picker). We moved the desk and errors dropped.



    It would be a good idea to start collecting data on the picking mistakes.  Be thorough when recording your data.  Collect the following info:  time of day, date, item number, item location, picker’s name (or employee number), experience of picker (months), shift identification (first, second, third), and item quantity (case versus each).  By collecting this data, you will be able to do better analysis.
    Also, assemble a group of employees and construct a fishbone diagram.  Brainstorm why there are pick problems.  You might get surprised.  With all the responses you get, have the employees categorize and prioritize them.  Start at the number one item and start collecting data to determine how big a problem it is.  For example, if the number one complaint is that large orders arrive minutes before a shift ends, collect data on this.  Once you do, you can make good decisions on how to correct it.  Be sure to include the workers and management on any proposed solutions.
    Good luck!

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