How to Reduce Picking and Packing Errors?

12/28/2023

How to Reduce Picking and Packing Errors?

Being in a retail business, if the questions like why and how to reduce picking and packing errors are always on your mind, this read is especially for you. 

After reading this guide, you’ll have an elaborate idea of the practical tips to reduce picking and packing errors and improve your overall order accuracy. 

Let’s dive into the secrets to error-free eCommerce order fulfilment without much delay!

What is Warehouse Picking and Packing?

Warehouse picking and packing is fundamental to order fulfilment in a warehouse or fulfilment centre. Pick and pack  is the process of finding and retrieving products from storage locations to assemble and ship customer orders.

For instance, imagine a customer ordering a pair of shoes online. The warehouse staff receives the order and begins the picking process. They use handheld devices or pick lists to locate the exact shelves or bins where the shoes are stored. They gather and bring the items to a central location for packaging and shipment. 

Why is Picking and Packing Accuracy Important?

Accurate picking and packing is the lifeblood of order accuracy—a crucial eCommerce metric. It is the percentage of error-free orders delivered to customers. It reflects how well your brand meets their expectations.

A high order accuracy rate directly influences customer satisfaction and retention, making it crucial to track and improve. 

The order fulfilment process involves multiple moving parts, including human involvement. In warehouses without barcode scanning, you can expect error rates of 1-2% or higher. 

While achieving 100% accuracy may not always be realistic, small improvements matter. Even a 1% error rate can cost a significant amount. For example, shipping 1,000 orders daily for 250 business days, at $50 per error, amounts to $125,000 annually. 

So, aim for high order accuracy, as close to 100%. Even a one per cent improvement in order accuracy within the range of 96% and 98% is significant. And can protect your bottom line and provide you with a competitive edge.

How Costly Can Pick and Pack Errors Be for Your Ecommerce Business?

While picking and packing errors are one of the biggest causes of order fulfilment inaccuracy, they are the most expensive too.

Some direct and indirect costs of order picking and packing errors are:

  • Labour costs for picking, packing, and shipping the incorrect and correct product.

  • Labour costs of customer support and handling the return. 

  • Cost of repackaging.

  • Risk of bad customer experience and negative reviews.

  • Increased customer acquisition spending.

  • Loss of future sales.

What Are the Typical Picking Errors to Avoid?

In a perfect world, every order sent to customers would be accurate. In reality, pick and pack errors happen despite aiming for flawless order fulfilment. Understanding the culprits and implementing preventive actions can significantly minimise picking errors. 

  • Picking the incorrect items.

  • Incorrect bin locations or storage areas.

  • Inaccurate quantities. 

  • Improper labelling of items or parts.

  • Using the wrong unit of measure.

  • Substitution without tracking within a stock management system

  • Mixing items from different two or more orders during one pick.

9 Effective Ways to Reduce Picking and Packing Errors in a Warehouse

1. Review the Accuracy of Your Inventory

Knowing what you have in stock is essential for accurate order fulfilment. Incorrect count, placement, and labels create chaos for pickers causing warehouse picking errors.  

Thus, to reduce picking and packing errors, increase the frequency of inventory checks. It helps maintain synchronisation between your order and warehouse management systems. Regular checks also lets you identify and remove damaged items from your inventory.

Besides, paying attention to receiving practices is also required to reduce picking errors. Relying solely on the bill of lading or supplier's inventory list is insufficient. Even if the supplier claims to have provided the correct quantity, discrepancies may still exist. Hence, a receiving dock can be an ideal place to uncover supplier errors and ensure inventory accuracy.

2. Conduct Regular Audits of the Inventory Location

Managing inventory across multiple warehouse locations itself is a complex task. Replenishment, returns, and substitutions further complicates the task of maintaining accurate inventory levels.

To reduce picking and packing errors arising from these issues, you must review your inventory. Consider implementing quarterly reviews where you assess stock placement in different warehouse locations. 

This practice ensures that items are stored strategically in the most appropriate locations. It is invaluable in identifying discrepancies, incorrect stock locations, or missing items. This helps address issues before they become problematic.

You can also minimise picking errors by reconciling physical stock with digital inventory management system

But, the benefits of ongoing inventory checks go beyond just avoiding errors. It allows you to gain valuable insights into your product performance. You can identify fast-moving items and understand seasonal trends. This information helps you adjust stock levels based on popularity and demand.

3. Ensure to Organise Your Products Strategically

To minimise warehouse picking errors, optimising inventory arrangement across the warehouse is advisable. It helps you avoid the mix-up of SKUs. An efficient workflow enhances picking accuracy , reduces travel time and prevents staff fatigue. 

You can achieve this through the following:

  • Strategic storage arrangements, ensuring that similar products prone to mix-ups are stored separately. 

  • Grouping frequently ordered SKUs together in the same designated areas. 

  • Volume inventory management, wherein you store high-demand items closest to the packing station. It expedites the picking process and mitigates potential errors. 

4. Improve Your Warehouse Layout

A well-designed warehouse layout is paramount to minimising errors and improving warehouse efficiency. To achieve optimal design, you must optimise factors like flow, accessibility, and space.

One practical approach is to use digital indoor maps. It's a 3D representation of your warehouse. With these maps, you can try out different configurations and to find the most effective layout for your needs. It's a great way to enhance picker efficiency and streamline inventory receiving.

An indoor wayfinding system further optimises workflow by providing digital navigation tools. It ensures easy navigation through the facility, access to information, and real-time updates.

5. Use Barcode Technology and Automated Labelling

Investing in barcode technology is crucial for efficient inventory management in warehouses. 

Barcoding involves creating and attaching barcodes to products. These barcodes enable personnel to scan with IoT devices and access accurate product data. It eliminates manual searching and sequential SKU numbers. This ensures easy identification and tracking of products.

Barcode technology also extends to automated labelling systems. It simplifies the hassle of reprinting and relabeling products. They use distinct SKUs, ensuring clear identification and reducing errors like mislabeling or mispicking. 

6. Keep Track of Half-picked Orders

Warehouse picking can become complex when pickers have to handle partial orders and wait for the arrival of the remaining items. This process introduces challenges in accurately tracking fulfilled and half-picked orders.

In such cases, items that have been picked may be left at dispatch bays or mistakenly returned to stock. It causes discrepancies in inventory counts, increasing the risk of picking errors. 

But, inventory software can ease these challenges by identifying and managing half-picked orders. Plus, a dedicated storage space for such orders further ensures that items do not return to the shelves. Likewise, splitting orders into separate shipments can further minimise picking errors.

7. Adopt Warehouse Automation Solutions

Warehouse automation technology streamlines various aspects of picking processes, with least human intervention. It automates labour-intensive tasks, repetitive physical work, and manual data entry and analysis 

Implementing the right automation depends on order volumes, inventory size, and product characteristics. While upfront costs may be high, the immediate improvements in order picking error rates make it a worthwhile investment.

Yet, note that warehouse automation does not always mean robotic automation. It often includes software and technologies like warehouse management solutions and barcode scanning. Some standard warehouse technologies that can help reduce picking and packing errors include:

  • Warehouse Management System: It enhances warehouse performance through advanced stock control and location management. It streamlines the picking and packing process and supports warehouse scalability.

  • Pick-to-Light and Put-to-Light Systems: They use mobile barcode scanners and digital light displays. They guide pickers, reducing walking, searching time, and errors, especially in high-volume situations.

  • Voice Picking and Tasking: It utilises speech recognition software and mobile headsets. It directs pickers, eliminating the need for handheld devices, improving safety and efficiency.

8. Foster a Culture of Accountability and Support

Promote accountability to address the human side of warehouse picking errors effectively. Create a supportive environment where employees feel comfortable admitting mistakes. Offer them opportunities for improvement and growth.

Involve your team in problem-solving and regularly seek their feedback. Incentivise staff with rewards for fewer errors, but manage such programs carefully. 

If training doesn't improve underperforming employees, you may need to consider replacing them. This step is crucial to maintain team motivation and reduce errors.

9. Outsource your Warehousing, Picking, and Packing to a 3PL

If your eCommerce business has outgrown your fulfilment capacity, consider outsourcing. Outsourcing warehousing, picking, and packing services to a reliable 3PL offers a hands-off approach. You can take advantage of their specialised eCommerce order fulfilment services. It reduces picking and packing errors without needing to manage process improvements on your own.

Engaging with experts like PACK & SEND, help you store, pick, pack, and send without any legwork. It saves you from potential challenges and frees up space and resources for your business to grow.

How to Reduce Order Packing Errors

Efficient packing, find a sweet spot between product safety and dimensional weight charges. Follow these packing best practices to streamline packing and reduce packing errors:

  • Re-scan products to ensure they match the packing slip, avoiding mix-ups.

  • Ditch the guesswork when it comes to box size. Use pick and pack software to calculate precise box dimensions. This saves time and ensures a perfect fit.

  • Include clear infill instructions enabling packers to grab the right packing items.

Wrapping Up

Reducing picking and packing errors in a warehouse involves considering essential factors. These include picking strategies, staff empowerment, storage strategies, and even suitable picking bins.

Why is this vital? Well, imagine the benefits: happier customers, lower costs, a motivated workforce, and efficient operations. It's a win-win situation! 

If you want to learn how PACK & SEND can help tackle those pesky picking errors, reach out to us. We're here to make your fulfilment process more efficient and error-free. Let's schedule a call and explore the possibilities together!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can you improve picking efficiency?

To improve picking efficiency:

  • Optimise warehouse layout to reduce travel time.

  • Use barcode scanning for accurate and faster item identification.

  • Implement batch or zone-picking methods for streamlined processes.

  • Provide thorough training and regularly assess picker performance for continuous improvement.

How can you reduce packing errors?

To reduce packing errors:

  • Implement quality control checks by rescanning products and cross-checking with packing slips.

  • Use pick-and-pack software to determine accurate box sizes for orders.

  • Provide clear infill instructions to guide packers in selecting proper packing materials.

  • Train and communicate regularly with packers to ensure proper packing procedures.

What are common warehouse packing strategies?

Common warehouse packing strategies:

  • Optimise packaging for efficient pallet storage, reducing handling costs and maximising storage capacity.

  • Strategically place packing materials to minimise empty spaces and secure products during shipping.

  • Implement cross-docking to expedite goods to outbound trucks, minimising handling and packing time.

  • Use lightweight yet protective packaging to ensure item safety while controlling shipping costs.

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