I recently visited Ace Endico, a Lucas customer and distributor of food products and supplies to restaurants and other food service companies in the New York tri-state area. As I entered the DC, one of the first things that caught my eye was their unique performance scoreboard featuring a picture of Yankee Stadium, where one of their customers operates. This scoreboard is used as a strategy to motivate order selectors to improve order picking accuracy by relating different ranges of achievement to different baseball feats (single, double, triple, home runs, etc.). Additionally, each month an individual order selector is given a “Golden Glove Award.”
In Major League Baseball, the “Gold Glove” is given to players who display superior fielding performance. Likewise at Ace Endico, this accolade is given to associates who exhibit the highest levels of picking accuracy. Ace’s Gold Glover each month typically made 35,000 picks or more without a single error. That’s 99.997% accuracy! Let’s look at how to improve order picking accuracy.
How Warehouses and DCs Can Achieve 99.99% Order Picking Accuracy
Most companies strive for 99.9% accuracy, maybe making an error every few thousand picks. But 35,000 picks without an error? That is next-level accuracy.
Operating hands-free with a voice-directed process alone does wonders for accuracy, but there is more to the Lucas voice-directed mobile applications and the Lucas warehouse optimization suite that help pickers to reach this next level of precision while also improving productivity and efficiency.
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The Three Keys to Next Level Order Picking Accuracy
Here we provide some tips and tricks for ensuring you meet the three keys to next-level accuracy
- Picking the right item..
- In the right quantity..
- From the right location.
Here are three ways the Lucas Solution, featuring our intelligent voice agent, Jennifer, helps improve picking accuracy.
1) Location Picking Accuracy
Ace Endico is one of the many Lucas customers that moved from RF picking, and in the process drastically improved quality. That flies in the face of conventional warehouse wisdom that holds that RF using scanning is the most accurate technology for hands-on picking.
Intelligent speech recognition technology
Proponents of RF often misunderstand how speech recognition can be applied to improve both accuracy and productivity. For example, there is a common misconception that users may memorize location checkstrings and speak a checkstring without visually confirming the location, compromising accuracy. However, the Lucas solution provides variable location checkstrings.
Variable location checkstrings
Each pick slot is labeled with a unique 5-digit number and on a given day, an order picker is prompted to validate the correct location by speaking any three of those five digits.
It could be the first three, middle three, last three, etc. This removes the possibility of pickers memorizing the location checkstrings and guarantees accuracy while elevating productivity. But there is more to accuracy than ensuring workers are at the right location.
2) Product and Pack Factor Accuracy
Lucas mobile applications ensure that pickers have all possible information at their disposal to complete tasks efficiently, correctly, and confidently. Throughout the assignment, Jennifer, the friendly human voice of the Lucas applications, is literally joined at the user’s hip via wearable mobile computers and/or ruggedized android mobile devices.
Warehouse associates can ask Jennifer for help
If a user is uncertain of what he is supposed to pick, he can ask Jennifer for a description of the product, a reminder of the pick location, or simply “Help” or “Where am I.” Or he could say “Jennifer Show Me” and Jennifer will put a picture of the product onto the computer, smartphone or smartwatch screen.
Jennifer may require the associate to enter the item UPC
To be absolutely certain the picker is grabbing the correct product, Jennifer can require the picker to enter the item UPC by voice or scan. Best of all, managers using the Lucas management console can configure these UPC checks for different products at different frequencies, and require that only novice pickers are required to enter a UPC, allowing your most careful, accurate pickers to bypass this step.
Along similar lines, another common source of picking errors derives from pack factors. In other words, what is the unit of measure that the associate should select? Is it a pack of product? Box of product? Single? In the usual paper and RF process, there is no foolproof method of ensuring high level pack factor accuracy.
Jennifer may require quantity validation
In the Lucas solution, Jennifer can tell users to pick eaches, packs of n (three, four…), boxes, bottles, cans, etc. and the user may be required to validate the selection with a response containing both the requested number and unit: “four cans.”
DCs can provide pickers with special instructions for specific items
But that’s not all. Lucas “heads-up messaging” allows DCs to provide pickers with special instructions and other information when they are picking specific items or delivering to a specific customer. These special instructions include reminders for two-part items and other processing directives (i.e. “pick lid with item,” “bag item,” etc.).
3) Count Picking Accuracy
The third element of next-level order picking accuracy is quantity, which can be especially challenging in high unit picks where a picker can’t physically grab the full quantity in one go.
Jennifer provides a countdown feature for high quantity picks
For high quantity picks, a countdown feature allows users to tell Jennifer the incremental quantities grabbed and Jennifer will keep track of the count until the pick has been completed. For example if twenty were requested and five were picked, Jennifer would say “5 grabbed, 15 needed.”
Voice and Process Smarts Are the Key to 99.99% Accuracy
Like I said earlier, voice-enabling any process will typically improve order picking accuracy. But, as we have seen from Ace Endico and other Lucas customers, technology is only part of the answer. To achieve next level accuracy requires a certain amount of process smarts to address the three keys to perfect accuracy:
- Ensuring the picker is grabbing the right item..
- From the correct location..
- In the required quantity.
To learn how to improve picking accuracy and hear Ace Endico’s complete story and how they bolstered productivity and morale utilizing voice-directed warehouse optimization solutions, download their case study.