4 Ways to Improve Order Picking in Manufacturing Warehouses

woman checking inventory with scanner

The picking process is one of the best ways to measure the overall efficiency of your warehouse. For manual picking systems, the average time is 159 seconds. With digital picking systems, the average time is just 87 seconds. Measure how long it takes your employees to retrieve certain items for outgoing orders. If you and your team can’t keep up with these averages, it might be time for a change.

Use these tips to speed up the picking process in your manufacturing warehouse. 

Separate Smaller Items with Slotting Trays

If your warehouse is full of smaller items, such as tools and individual parts, use nesting totes and slotting trays to quickly organize your inventory on the shelf. Organizer bins help improve picking productivity by keeping your products separate and easily accessible. These containers come with open slats that make it easy to reach inside and grab what you need. They tend to be much more shallow than other containers so your workers don’t have to wade through hundreds of items just to find the right part or piece. 

Label all of your stack and nest totes and containers to help your team make sense of all these different trays. You can also color-code your containers to increase efficiency. Assign bright colors to certain types of parts and tools or to each stage of the manufacturing process.

product aisles in warehouse

Reconsider the Layout of Your Facility

Most warehouses use stack racks to break up the space, but that doesn’t mean these racks need to be set in stone. Stack racks are surprisingly easy to move and rearrange so you can keep adjusting the layout of your manufacturing facility. 

Make sure your workers have enough space to easily and quickly move up and down the aisles of your facility. Keep lanes far enough apart to make room for lift trucks, dollies and other types of equipment, especially if multiple workers are picking items from the same aisle at the same time. 

Arrange the layout so that it makes sense to you and your team. Use the manufacturing process as a template. Consider which orders your employees will need to retrieve items and how they may navigate your facility to do so. They shouldn’t have to go out of their way or backtrack when picking items. Identify optimal picking paths to streamline this process. 

Bulk Containers for Rapid Order Picking

When picking items off the shelf, think about what your workers are going to do next. Are they going to head straight for the loading dock or a certain piece of manufacturing equipment? Or do they need to collect several items along the way before arriving at their destination?

If your workers need to collect various items at once, use bulk containers to help them quickly move various parts and items through your facility. These containers often come with wheels so your team can push the cart up and down aisles until they find what they need. They don’t have to worry about driving a lift truck, lining up the product on a dolly or messing with complicated equipment. All they have to do is drop these items into the container and push. 

woman pushing industrial cart

Use Wire Baskets and Transparent Containers

If your employees need to quickly make sense of hundreds, if not thousands, of individual products and containers, consider storing some of your goods in wire baskets and transparent containers to improve the picking process. Your workers don’t have to open these containers to see what’s inside. They don’t even need to be near the container to see its contents. Your products will stay visible from across the room so your workers can grab what they need without a second thought. They won’t have to read individual labels and barcodes. It’s the most effective way to grab an item off the shelf.

As you can see, the types of container you use can make all the difference when it comes to improving the packing process. If you store individual parts and supplies in containers that all look alike or those that are hard to open, your team will waste valuable time searching for the items they need. Keep these inventory tips in mind to streamline every aspect of the picking process.