Warehouse Management A study on warehouse goals among retailers indicates that most have a goal of 99.5% accuracy for their picking and packing crews. At first glance, that statistic appears admirable; after all, that is close to 100% accuracy.

However, what about the remaining .5%? If you’re one of the customers impacted by a mistake in the picking and packing process, you know that you do not want to be among that half a percent that receives the wrong order. There’s a big difference between receiving screw or nails, FD&C Red #3, which is the red used to glaze cherries, and FD&C Red #32, which used to color Florida oranges. Sure, they’re both red colors, but that’s comparing cherries to oranges … and a mistake in just one digit gives you pink-red or orange-red.

Fix Mistakes Before They Happen – Prevention

There’s an old truism that says that one happy customer tells one other customer, but one unhappy customer tells 20 people about his misfortune. That’s a lot of free advertising—in the wrong way. To prevent one mistake from derailing your revenues, it’s important to prevent picking and packing errors.

The following tips can help you shrink that last .5% down to its lowest possible number and prevent picking and packing errors.

  1. Review return data: Review data on returns and notice how many are from order mistakes. A high number of items returned for incorrect products or reports of incomplete orders can indicate poor picking and reports from a business intelligence, ERP, or WMS can help you pinpoint if those orders occurred during a specific time period or with specific teams if you can pinpoint it down to the individual level.
  2. Examine existing processes: When was the last time you reviewed and updated warehouse processes for picking and packing? What if you don’t even have a written process? Then it’s time to build one. Dust off the process manual and review the steps in the picking and packing process. They should be current; that is, reflect the steps that staff currently take or the ideal steps that you’d like them to take.
  3. Check for discrepancies: If the process you’ve outlined differs from what’s occurring in the warehouse, find out why. Your warehouse staff may have discovered shortcuts or better ways of handling picking and packing. Conversely, their way may not be as efficient as the methods outlined in your process. You’ll need to do some digging to determine which of these scenarios is accurate.
  4. Invite comments and feedback: Don’t be afraid to invite the warehouse team’s comments, feedback, and suggestions. A good way to do this is to host a round-table luncheon where the company provides sandwiches or pizza and creates an informal atmosphere. Allow people to open up and share thoughts for improving the process, feedback, and ideas.
  5. Hold contests: If you can monitor data on picking and packing, hold a contest to see which team can generate the lowest number of order mistakes. Give a special prize to the team with zero mistakes per month. Software that tracks return data can help you set the parameters for a contest. Monitor metrics such as returns for incorrect or incomplete orders, which leads straight back to the picking and packing process.

Small items can be notoriously difficult to handle in the average warehouse. Counting individual items in and out of inventory and ensuring that the proper number make it into the shipping box takes time, and rushed pickers may make mistakes. To prevent this, consider bagging small items in individual clear plastic with labels affixed that work with your barcode scanners.

It’s rarely the big mistakes that cause companies to lose a customer. Instead, it’s often a series of small, seemingly inconsequential errors. Compounded, they can lead to displeased customers, lost customer satisfaction, and customer defection to your competitors. Take the time now to improve your picking and packing facility to prevent mistakes that can lead to lost business.

Accounting Systems, Inc.

Accounting Systems Incorporated (ASI) provides ERP, accounting, and other software and systems to help your company grow. We focus on helping small to mid-sized companies improve operational efficiencies through the power of software and technology. For more information, visit our website, or call us at 803-252-6154.