By Kyle Franklin, Senior Solutions Consultant, Lucas Systems
In part 1 of this blog post we explored the mispicks in the warehouse, mixed SKUs in slotting, and how you can improve inventory management with voice-picking. In this 2nd installment we’ll review the challenges brought on by mislabeling, human error and the real costs of order picking inaccuracy.
The Perils of Human Error and Mislabeling in Warehouses
The last situation involves a motorcycle tool that I ordered from Amazon. When I received the device, it was the wrong part. The box looked correct. It was the right vendor and color but a completely different tool. The problem in this case? You’ll see a unique barcode if you’ve ordered anything from Amazon. They have their barcode because they want to rely on something other than supplier UPCs since they can change often. Essentially, if a pallet or case comes into an Amazon facility, someone will add stickers to it as it is received.
When I inspected the box, I noticed they had the wrong sticker: same vendor but the wrong product. A pallet (or several cases) from the tool company came into the building with mixed items, and someone labeled every product with the same sticker, even though there were various products in the cases. So down the line, it was put away “correctly incorrectly,” and it got picked by someone “correctly incorrectly.” These verifications determined this was the right product with the wrong sticker. Just total human error because someone just put the wrong sticker on it.
I requested a return, and they offered to ship me the correct product. The problem was that they sent it from the same warehouse, probably from the same lot, and I got the same wrong product again. So if they brought in a whole pallet of this product with the wrong sticker, who knows how many wrong ones there are? In my case, I gave up on that tool and tried to finish my job differently. Again, what’s the actual cost of that mispick? It could be enormous depending on the number of times they shipped that one product incorrectly.
Beyond Hard Costs – The Actual Price of Order Picking Accuracy
To prevent this, you can put extra assurances in the receipt process, having pickers, putaway, and packers add secondary validations. Every X number of times, they double-check the product description or every X number of times, they scan a UPC. There is also a process in our warehouse management solution called QC audit. It can add statistical checks to different products or product groups, whereby you can verify a configurable percentage (say 5% for a particular customer or 20% for a specific product) as a secondary check and validation level.
In some systems, a feature can flag a particular problem, stop all other pickers from getting that product in their pick list, and automatically mark it for QC and checking. This feature is handy if you have a recall in a pharmaceutical or food environment supply chain and immediately want to stop that product from going out due to a recall.
The distribution process is highly complicated, with many steps and stakeholders involved in a process vulnerable to disruptions and mistakes at every stage. Incredibly, there aren’t more errors and delays as the “have it now” age continues to compress timelines and turnarounds even further. Mispicks, incorrect labeling, and human error can occur in any warehouse space, whether large or small. Still, implementing simplified slotting, backup checks, and secondary validation can go a long way in improving order picking accuracy. And support customer satisfaction, increase your brand reputation, and open new revenue opportunities.
Kyle Franklin is a Solution Consultant with Lucas Systems, leading numerous solution designs and implementations in the U.S., EMEA and Asia Pacific Regions and helping to transform and optimize distribution center operations worldwide. Prior to Lucas, Kyle held roles in international logistics and warehousing for global logistics providers. Kyle has an MBA with a focus in Operations and Strategy from the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh and a B.S. in Economics from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
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