10 errors you should avoid when picking

Everyone knows that for sure: Finally a long-awaited order arrives. Unpacked, looked at and then this: The article did not arrive as expected.

The heart of warehouse logistics

Every company that sells goods undoubtedly has a logistics department. Picking is the central function here, which in turn is of great importance for the overall economic success of a business. About half of all storage costs are incurred in the order picking area. This makes it more important not to incur unnecessary additional costs due to picking errors that can be avoided. Nevertheless, as scientific studies at the TU Munich have shown, the error rate in order picking is around 0.3 percent. This can have serious consequences, which can be seen in many different ways.

In general, the later a picking error is discovered, the more serious and expensive its impact will be. If, for example, an error occurs during the picking process, this is not relevant to the customer, but causes additional time and costs for troubleshooting. If an employee discovers the error within the scope of an internal control, such as the outgoing goods control, which most companies have today, it is unavoidable to generate a completely new picking order. If the error only becomes apparent at the customer, cost-intensive subsequent deliveries are made or even customer loss occurs - things that are unnecessary and avoidable.

Concentration and control as security

Although a wide variety of forms of order picking automation are already possible today, the majority of companies work with mixed variants between fully automated and manual order picking. For example, the articles can be provided automatically, but removed manually. Therefore, the Person-to-Goods principle is still the most common method. This has the clear advantage of flexibility, as the human being's cognitive abilities make him/her per se suitable for use in inhomogeneous or constantly changing systems. Goods are provided in static shelves and can be put together by means of a paper list. But this is precisely the cause of almost all of the ten errors that you should avoid when picking.

First of all, the quantity error should be mentioned here. Under time pressure or due to lack of attention, it can happen that an employee assembles the wrong number of items during picking and the customer receives more or less items at the end than requested. This costs money and additional time to organize a redirection of the shipment, if necessary. This is also accompanied by the omission error. If the order picker has not processed his paper list correctly or has acknowledged a process step before he has executed it, it can happen that an item is not processed and the article with the quantity zero arrives at the customer. This, too, is a picking error that you can avoid by means of in-depth checks and concentrated work. The same applies to the type error, i.e. the provision of an incorrect article as a replacement or in addition to an existing correct article.

Short distances and clear structures against picking errors

The nature of the warehouse can also have a negative impact on picking. One mistake that you should absolutely avoid here is too large and at the same time untidy and poorly structured stock levels. There, the stored articles quickly develop into a confusing mass of overfilled containers with stacked goods. Finding your way around and putting together the right articles in the right quantities can be unnecessarily time-consuming for your employees.

This is connected with another error in order picking: too large storage areas. On long ways between the shelves a lot of time is lost, which in turn puts your employees under time pressure and ends with mistakes in the execution. Therefore, either minimize your storage space through logistical supply and disposal strategies or invest a little work in an efficient warehouse structure. In this case, an optimization or redesign of the facility can also help, which is in line with a more effective storage facility performance. Clear structures and short distances are the key to successful order picking.

Successful order picking starts with the organization

Organization is half the battle, this saying has been known for hundreds of years and is not wrong when it comes to logistics. Not only too large storage areas and stocks are errors in themselves, which you should absolutely avoid when picking, because these two lead to another unsightly error, the state error. Large storage areas lead to large stocks and these in turn promote mutual damage between the products. This also has a negative impact on picking. Therefore, reduce your stock levels and invest enough time in properly organized structures.

Another mistake that you should ideally not make when picking is to consider only the actual state of your logistics department. Regular reviews of effectiveness and rationalisation potential are a must. Your logistics department can only work efficiently if the entire logistics chain is included in the order picking organization. Here lies the greatest potential for lasting economic success and minimizing the error rate in order picking.

Do not ignore the human factor

Yeah, people make mistakes. This is in their nature and cannot be avoided 100 percent. Carelessness, time pressure or incorrect handling of picking systems can lead to errors and have a significant negative impact on picking. It is therefore one of the biggest mistakes made by some warehouse and plant managers to ignore the human factor. You should therefore rely on clear operating instructions, transparent and simple processes and a small number of process steps. This makes your employees' daily work easier and more motivated, which in turn promotes a good working atmosphere and minimises stress-related sources of error.

This is one of the reasons why long distances should be mentioned separately as one of the mistakes you should avoid when picking. If an employee has to travel too far when compiling the articles, i.e. specifically between the individual picks, this leads to a decrease in his concentration, demotivates him/her and ultimately results in a wrong product compilation. In a study conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics in Dortmund, for example, it was found that around 93 percent of all picking errors are gripping or allocation errors resulting from a lack of attention.

Finally, you should make sure not to neglect the so-called „dead time“. Consisting of picking time, travel time and base time, it describes the unproductive, but at the same time unavoidable time that occurs during picking due to pre- and post-processing activities. This can be, for example, the search or the identification of the storage bin of an article. Here, too, you should rely on an in-depth organization, taking into account the errors already mentioned and to be avoided, in order to keep this non-productive time as low as possible. This gives you a comprehensive overall package that raises order picking and thus your entire company to a new, successful level.

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