Out of all the different tasks you complete in your materials handling operation, order picking is by far the most expensive. When you look at the cost involved with handling 1000kg of goods in different stages of the materials handling process, the contrast becomes clear.
Loading and unloading is quite cheap – in this example, we can put the cost of handling 1000kg at around £1- £2, depending on the equipment you use. Putting away and retrieving goods takes slightly longer, and the cost of handling the same quantity of goods is around £10- £20. However, picking 1000kg of items can cost up to £100, simply due to the amount of labour required.
If you’re looking to make your operation more cost-effective and efficient, it makes sense to focus on improving your order picking.
This function can be split into three main areas – low-level, medium-level and high-level order picking. When assessing your order picking operation, it is important to look at the kind of equipment you’re using. This is because the equipment can have a big effect on the speed and safety of the picking process. Many warehouses use small stepladders to allow pickers to pick goods from the second level – a cheap and simple solution. However, a good alternative would be a low-level order picker truck with a driver lift which can elevate the driver to the correct picking height at the push of a button. A truck like this is a more expensive solution, but it could quickly pay for itself by dramatically reducing the number of man-hours needed to get the job done.
It’s the same in operations which pick at higher levels. In many warehouses, it’s not uncommon that higher-placed pallets are brought down to ground level for picking, before being placed back in the rack again – a time-consuming operation which can sometimes require two trucks and two operators. A smarter solution is a medium or high-level order picker. Again, getting one of these trucks involves making an investment – but if it allows you to pick more items in the same amount of time, while using fewer resources, it could be a smart decision.
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