Avoiding Mis-Picks in Your Supply Chain

By: Aaron Rubin, Founder & CEO at ShipHero

Mis-picks in your company’s order fulfillment process: frivolous mistakes or detrimental problems on your warehouse floor? Well, considering that distribution centers lose an average of almost $585,000 a year because of mis-picks, it may not just be a harmless error after all.

To help your organization spot and fix errors in your pick-pack process, we’ll list the most common errors that lead to mis-picks, and give you solutions to avoid mis-picks in your warehouse.

What is the Pick-Pack Process?

The pick-pack process is defined as the process of collecting, or picking, ordered items from the inventory, and then packing these items for shipment to customers. 

Warehouses are a busy place, with employees meandering from bin to bin and picking items, all while heavy machines move products to the right place at the right time. Of course, mistakes are bound to happen in such a hectic work environment, with an estimated 35% of facilities experiencing constant mis-pick rates of about 1% or more. 

But any extra, unnecessary movement by an employee, in the case of a mis-pick, can jeopardize the flow of your whole operation and cost your business in the long run. The cost of the mis-pick (on average) is about $30 per incident.

If you want to increase your order fulfillment rate, accurately and efficiently picking ordered items is vital. An error at this first step can have detrimental downstream effects, cause shipping delays, and increase your shipping costs. Here are some common mistakes. 

Common Mistakes in the Pick-Pack Process

Among all the possible mistakes in the end-to-end order fulfillment process, picking mistakes happen to be the most common. As a result, distribution centers lose an average of almost $390,000 a year due to mis-picks.

The severity of these errors can vary for your organization; for example, while an incorrectly picked item could be more detrimental to your customer’s trust, a mistaken additional item shipped along with the correct item impacts your margins.

Mis-picks are usually a result of minor errors made by warehouse workers, whether it’s from poor lighting, fatigue, or miscommunication. Here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid.

Picking the Incorrect Item from the Correct Location
In this scenario, the picker heads to the correct bin and grabs the item inside, but it’s not the correct item. This occurs due to a problem with the inventory replenishment process. As a result, the picker will have to find the correct item from somewhere else. 

Substituting Incorrect Items
If your business is experiencing stock-outs of certain items, pickers may be unsure what to do when they cannot locate the exact item. Similarly, a picker may accidentally pick the wrong item due to unclear instructions or products that look the same. 

Adding Incorrect Items
In the case of bulk orders, your picker might accidentally throw in one product too many, or maybe one wrong item altogether. While the customer might be enthused, this has the potential to impact your margins and inventory levels over time.

How to Fix Picking Mistakes

The scenarios above typically occur when warehouses are using a paper-based, pick-pack process, where pickers follow orders written/printed on physical paper. Some organizations are vastly reducing their error-rate by moving to a mobile device-based system.

Here are some ways to reduce these mistakes and keep your company warehousing running efficiently and smoothly.

Measurement is the First Step 

To accurately understand the situation and measure any progress, you should start collecting the necessary data. 

Set up KPIs (i.e., key performance indicators) to measure picking accuracy. We recommend setting the following KPIs to get the full picture on your order fulfillment capabilities.

Order Fulfillment and Accuracy
No one likes to receive an order that isn’t theirs. This KPI lets you know how many packages you’ve shipped that have successfully arrived at the appropriate destination. If the order fulfillment values start to dip, then you’ll need to consider the influence it can have on customer opinions about your business.

Order accuracy data will also let you know whether your 3PL delivery line needs to be improved. If you’re sitting on an unusually low percentage of accurate orders, then there may be line errors at your warehouse that you need to address.

Inventory Levels
Whether you have invested in warehousing solutions or store your own inventory, you need to know where your inventory levels stand on a day-to-day basis.  Rely on inventory level KPIs to replenish your stock when necessary and to calculate your business’s average supply-to-demand ratio.

Order Volume

If you’re manufacturing products several months in advance, you need to know how much of your inventory goes out per month on average. Order volume KPIs calculate your sales by day, month, or quarter, depending on your needs. You can use year-out estimates to track the ebb and flow of your sales and to pre-produce inventory for each month.

Be sure to communicate your order fulfillment goals and progress, and reward your staff for any improvements made in certain fields. 

Label Boxes Correctly

While this may sound like common sense, mislabeling boxes is a common mistake. Properly identifying and labeling items will help lower the risk of picking the wrong items. 

With barcode scanning technology, your pickers can scan items into locations and optimally place the necessary signs, rack labels, and aisle markers to help pickers easily and quickly identify storage locations. 

Use Collaborative Mobile Robots

Tired employees make more mistakes, so keeping them alert and rested is crucial to lowering picking mistakes. Collaborative mobile robots can help improve pick rates simply by reducing the need for your workers to walk unnecessarily. 

Mobile robots can also help keep employees on task by effectively leading them to choose locations through optimized routes, as well as displaying ordered items and the quantities to pick. 

Move From Paper-Based to Mobile-Based

Paper-based operations, while inexpensive and easy to set up, leave your company vulnerable to errors, product loss, and reduced order fulfillment rates.

That’s why more and more companies are transitioning to mobile-based processes. With small investments in mobile devices and the right warehouse management software, your organization unlocks the potential for warehouse staff to independently organize their pick/pack tasks, as well as scan products and bins at each step to minimize human error with built-in redundancies to double-check and triple-check their items. 

Additionally, a software solution like ShipHero can directly integrate with e-commerce stores on Shopify, BigCommerce and more, so order information can be distributed right to the picking staff. Also, you can also monitor inventory levels in real-time and coordinate replenishment right when you run out.

Wrap It Up

Picking errors have the potential to drastically impact order fulfillment operations, leading to shipping delays, damaging your reputation, and hurting your bottom line. Developing a reliable and accurate pick, pack, and shipping process is vital to scaling your business, so consider investing in mobile-based picking processes, as well as the right software to drastically increase your order fulfillment rate.

That’s why more and more companies trust ShipHero WMS. Pick-packers can scan products at each step of the process with everyday mobile devices.

Schedule a meeting today with our experts to learn more about our WMS software built for ecommerce brands & 3PLs looking to run their best warehouse and how ShipHero works to ensure that organizations invest in the solutions that match their needs, to improve productivity, revenue, and success.

Click HERE to Schedule a Meeting Today

Aaron Rubin, Founder & CEO

About the author: Aaron Rubin the Founder & CEO of ShipHero. He is responsible for planning and executing the overall vision and strategy of the organization. Rubin’s greatest strengths are leadership, change management, strategic planning and a passion for progression. He is known for having his finger on the pulse of ShipHero’s major initiatives, his entrepreneurial spirit, and keen business acumen. His leadership of ShipHero is grounded in providing excellent customer service that drives improved business operations. His passion for ShipHero comes from the culture and his ability to have an impact on the lives of employees, customers, partners, and investors.

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