Back to basics: cutting logistics costs with better inventory management

Part 3: Improved logistics processes: picking, returns and verification

Improved Picking Processes

Picking needs to be scan confirmed and system directed wherever possible. Manual checking and the use of paper pick sheets should be reserved for only the smallest of operations. If you’re not sure, assume that going digital will help your efficiency. Individual businesses may find that RF or voice picking, or even pick-to-light systems work best for them.

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These kinds of systems offer improved inventory control by giving more accurate orders. RF and voice picking systems are also very flexible. You can easily adapt them to new picking strategies and needs, and are also useful in many other logistics applications, including shipping, replenishment, put-away and receiving.

Improved Return Processes

Returns are all to frequent in almost any business, and they can cause a number of logistics management problems of they are not handles correctly. The most common problems are caused by failing to validate the quality of a returned order before entering it back into inventory, not assuring that expired or obsolete products are not filtered out of inventory, or timing irregularities when entering a returned order into the inventory books.

You’ll need a well trained staff and proper support systems to avoid these and many more problems. You’ll need to monitor the returns metrics that are most relevant to your situation carefully, and perform an analysis on a root-cause level to see what can be done to lower the number of returns that are made.

Verification of Order Accuracy

Your order verification should also be automated as much as is possible. This is most efficient if your shipping system is already conveyor-based. Carton weight can be verified with a weigh-in-motion system. These are very accurate and efficient, but only work if your SKU database lists weights very accurately. I don’t need to tell you how important good SKUs are to logistics.

If you are using a less efficient or non-automated verification system, you’ll need to focus on verifying only orders picked by employees with known accuracy issues and orders for customers who report more errors.


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