At the heart of a warehouse is the order picker who facilitates the transition of products in storage to move them on to eager buyers. Because they are at the very hub of the process, it is reasonable to say the order picker may be the most important person in a warehouse.
Profit and Speed
Most warehouses focus on speed as the most important consideration of an order picker's workday. The faster an order picker works, the more products can be shipped out at a given time. This is critical during a time where buyers are now expecting products they ordered to be shipped out the very same day.
Consider the way Google has entered the marketplace and major distributors like Amazon are changing. Same-day delivery is becoming a reality. Literally every second can make a difference in living up to a the promise of delivering on time. Machines can assist with this process, but at the end of the day, it's up to the order picker to make sure the right product is shipped.
Studies have already demonstrated the value of speed. An improvement of as little as one minute per-hour in productivity for each order picker, can translate into the effectiveness of dozens of full-time workers over the course of a year, with corresponding profits for the company. Conversely, slow order pickers equate to slow shipping speeds and customers who soon take their business elsewhere.
How Can This Information Be Applied?
Applying this knowledge is not difficult and investing in order pickers offers a big pay off.
Mobile workstations have a history of improving productivity by reducing the number of steps it takes a picker to reach a workstation and perform the required tasks. Workstations can be moved as needed to adjust to shipping needs throughout the day. This is especially true in well-designed warehouses where products are sorted based on when they're most likely to be picked. Mobile workstations pay for themselves quickly.
Automated systems which reduce walking distance can further improve order picker productivity. The right equipment allows pickers to move products to the shipping area and less time walking around. Automated systems offer smaller warehouses less benefits, but larger facilities benefit from such systems. For larger warehouses, fully automated systems are available.
In this case, who ensures the machine continues to operate?
Full-time Pickers can be more effective, especially if they're familiar with the building and have incentive. Over the course of each year, motivated order pickers' activities can translate to hundreds of thousands of dollars in improved productivity. Hard working employees who do not feel their jobs are secure are unlikely to be as effective as employees who are in full time role. Increased productivity and profits leads to more opportunity to reward employees. There are forces at work which influence decision makers to reconsider hiring full time workers. The graph below shows the recent trends of full time vs. part time workers.
Order Pickers In Your Warehouse
Consider revisiting the status of your order pickers if you haven't done so in the last few years. Customer service demands, changes in technology, automation, and best practices offers new thoughts to improving the efficiency of your warehouse while keeping order pickers motivated, and ultimately maximize your bottom line. Order pickers are important. Empowering them with support, training, equipment and acknowledgement can be a win-win.