Picking Made Simple : 20% of SKUs Represent 80% of Orders by
Thomas R. Cutler
Identify the characteristics most needed for an effective picking solution may seem obvious. Indeed high visibility, robust order pick displays, flexible mounting method allowing the system to easily adapt/grow with warehousing operation and simple intuitive software must be part of the mix. Obviously highly accurate order assembly, orders handled by barcode scanning or manual selection and picking data interfaced with ERP/WMS for real-time visibility are also must-have requirements.
These characteristics for picking solutions are a great starting point for finding a cost-effective and efficient solution. More is not better in the picking world. All the bells and whistles of costly complex solutions completely miss the actual value, picking the right product, at the right place, at the right time.
Antonio Rodrigues, a senior manager at Pcdata, based in East Granby, Connecticut, suggested, "One size fits all certainly does not apply to getting the highest productivity out of a warehouse operation. Different technologies are better-suited depending on the SKUs order frequency and value."
Analysis of most warehouse orders will show a Pareto curve, where a small amount of the SKUs being processed account for a large percentage of the orders. These fast-moving items are the "A" parts. Any small amount of efficiency gains in picking these "A" parts will have a relatively large impact on the overall productivity of the entire operation.
Comparing pick technologies, side by side, often reveals that Pick-to-Light solutions have a clear edge over other solutions when measuring picking accuracy. The light indicators make it difficult to pick from the wrong location, or the incorrect amount, when the light is both the pick instruction and location indicator.
There is also a clear cost-advantage and scalability to Pick-to-Light solutions according to Rodrigues who suggested, "The system's cost is determined by the number of SKUs, as a display is required for each SKU picked. With voice or RF scanning equipment, the variable cost is determined by the number of operators picking."
Replacing a paper-based picking process with a single technology helps deliver significant improvements with efficiency and accuracy. However to optimize warehouse productivity, deploying hybrid solutions in which Pick-to-Light is used for fast moving products, delivers the best possible operational solution.
Investigating PickStar, Pcdata's next generation Pick-to-Light solution, the company has designed an installation model with minimal operational impact; bottom-line ease of use and operational simplicity was the company focus will provided a rapid ROI. Most of the 550 systems installed worldwide in 30 countries (100 in North America) required nothing more than basic user involvement due to the intuitive GUI (graphical user interface.) By observing employees at full capability in days, rather than months, the cost-justification becomes clear (especially without the need for IT engineering staff.)
Growth of SKUs Demands Cost Effective Picking Solutions
With exponential growth in SKUs, the permutations of one product can be complex. That variety and variability does not need to translate into the design, deployment, and maintenance of an effective picking solution. Rodrigues noted, "It is best when the hardware components are modular and user replaceable, minimizing maintenance and support costs. We have seen that in the right environment these Pick-to-Light systems will outperform typical voice, RF scanning or paper based picking and order assembly processes."
The industry sectors that are often most impacted by these simple, ready-to-install, out-of-the box solutions, are fast moving item picks at any warehouse. Assembly line processes are complex, particularly in food logistics, e-commerce business-to-consumer organizations, spare parts assemblies, and a wide variety of consumer goods distribution centers.
Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc., (www.trcutlerinc.com). Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 4000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Online News Association, American Society of Business Publication Editors, and Committee of Concerned Journalists, as well as author of more than 500 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Cutler can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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