SkuVault Blog

Tips and tricks to scale your business from the experts in eCommerce

User Accountability: Keeping Your Warehouse Workers on Task

Posted by Emilie Fritsch on Aug 27, 2014

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In a complex warehouse environment, warehouse workers often have to deal with several customer orders simultaneously. If he's inexperienced or incapable of handling pressure, the outcome can be disastrous. Even experienced warehouse workers aren't immune to errors fatigue sets in, or when dealing with a convoluted user interface or unnecessarily complex warehouse processes. Each mistake results in the retailer not delivering the products needed to satisfy its customers' shopping needs. We've collected the following best practices to help keep your warehouse workers on task, and to help them perform to the full extent of their capabilities.

Don’t Make Your Picking Process Difficult or Confusing

The culprit of a difficult picking process is typically a lack of / a poor inventory management system. Picking should be simple - we're pretty proud of our own picking module, so using that as an example: default pick quantity should be set to one, scan the code on the product, then scan the location - and the item's been picked. The simpler the setup is, the harder it is for your warehouse workers to make a mistake. Shortages or overages will skew your inventory, which leads to out of stocks, undersells, and all kinds of unfortunate repercussions like negative marketplace reviews, lower search engine rankings, and lost sales. If your picking process can be streamlined, it's well worth your time to do so.

Less Text, More Images

Use images to reduce eye and mental fatigue. The human brain doesn't typically work in a linear fashion, which is why people often find maps or graphs preferable to wordy descriptions. An overload of text is likely to cause stress, a lack of interest, and poor productivity. Something as simple as including a picture of the product on pick can reduce a high percentage of picking errors.

Eliminate Walking and Reduce Fatigue For More Accurate Picks

You make more mistakes when you’re tired, and so do your order picking employees. Try to keep them still, not moving and you’ll see faster picks with fewer errors. Utilizing solutions such as carton flow racks, which deliver product to pickers and reduce walk times can keep people fresher and more capable of doing the job right. If that's a little outside your price range, consider employing an inventory system that streamlines your pickers' paths throughout your warehouse. SkuVault for example leads your warehouse workers around your warehouse in order by location, minimizing steps and saving money.

Improve Profit-Sharing Programs

Profit sharing is a popular way that eCommerce merchants emphasize quality work and incentivize teamwork amongst warehouse workers. To increase the impact of a profit-sharing program, management should help workers understand how the warehouse fits into the business. If you show people how their actions will impact their wallets, they listen. The practice will help warehouse workers realize the importance of their roles and the impact of carelessness and mistakes.

Designing the Work Flow

One effective way of eliminating human errors is the Japanese idea of ‘Poka-Yoke’ which means mistake proofing or error proofing. Poka-Yoke is a device or method that involves designing workflows to eliminate errors, not relying on the operator to do it.

Organize Warehouse Workers

Instead of having one employee pull the packing slip, pick the products, and pack them to ship, you can increase productivity by organizing employees in stages. Have pickers work certain sections of the warehouse. Create a packing department that is separate from the pickers. Their job is strictly to look over the orders once the pickers pull them, package the orders, and send it off to the shippers. Give them appropriate training and education which will assist them to develop their skills and competence, thus improving efficiency.

SkuVault’s Accountability Function

If you can’t recite your accuracy numbers for any recent interval, you aren’t tracking well or often enough. Whatever your beliefs are about your operational efficiency, it's impossible to know you're operating under max efficiency unless you're backed by your data. SkuVault’s accountability feature generates user history reports which aid our clients in tracking all possible actions. For instance, they can investigate as to who passed the red bicycle instead of the blue one to shipping, when they did it, and what they had given as their reason for doing it at the time. By analyzing this information, preventive measures can be adopted so that the same mistake is not repeated.

SkuVault's user reports can also be used to facilitate warehouse workers' performance reviews - to find out who's picking the fastest, and to reward them for that. Providing incentive opportunities to the best pickers will give everyone the motivation and encouragement to perform better. Overall, efficiency in the warehouse will increase.

SkuVault’s Quality Control Function

After deploying SkuVault, users have seen dramatic improvement in their picking productivity. Our quality control feature checks the SKUs against the order, and displays a photo, as well as other pertinent information about the SKU. This will alert the warehouse worker should they attempt to pass an item/item quantity that is not on the order. Not everyone can afford automation, but people can and do create more efficient operations with more accurate picking through automation. To support clients that are unwilling or unable to host a dedicated quality control station, we've provided them with the QC Express on Pick. It’s a setting that, once activated, prompts the picker to scan the items against the order at pick which leads to elimination of mis-picks.

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Topics: eCommerce, efficient warehouses, Inventory management, Inventory Tips and Tricks, SkuVault, warehouse management