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The Visible Value Blog

Our number one tip to optimise picking performance

Posted by Maria Casu

September 6, 2017 at 4:04 AM

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Has any industry undergone such rapid change in a short period as warehousing? From being seen as a line item cost, businesses now look to warehouses to create a competitive edge by improving the quality of customer service, and the speed and accuracy of deliveries. What’s more, innovation is necessary as the sheer volume and challenge of warehousing work is changing. Our customers tell me that orders are more complex, SKUs are rising fast, peaks are ever more extreme and new workflows need to be introduced (e.g. for proof of delivery and processing returns).

So it’s no surprise then that 70%[1] of warehouse managers say they’re under pressure to move to more efficient processes. Of course, there’s lot of things you can do to boost performance. But for me, the best bang for buck comes from taking a close look at picking. Why? Well for one, we estimate that it accounts for over two thirds of operating costs. And by deploying proven technology – based on multi-modal picking, the returns can be eye-opening.



So what’s multi-modal picking? And how does it work? There are typically 4 components to a multi-modal picking system:

  1. Voice picking: Automated voice solutions translate picking orders into voice commands relayed via a headset to pickers. This allows teams to keep their hands and eyes free to focus on finding and picking items.
  2. Location and comms’ software: Location software can map the layout of your warehouse and working in tandem with your camera and scanning technology can help operators to find products on the floor. Should they need assistance, intuitive Voice Over IP systems allow them to speak freely to colleagues and managers to quickly get the support they need.
  3. Wearable devices: New lightweight and ergonomic devices are comfortable to wear and allow teams to keep their hands free for more convenient and natural working. The devices display all the usual information your pickers need and are designed to snap on and off the wrist and ring bands, allowing them to be hygienically shared across your teams.
  4. Mobile computers and handheld scanners: Mobile devices deliver more accurate, faster and farther scanning through lighter and more ergonomic designs that reduce fatigue. Productivity improvements are noteworthy. For instance, where pickers have to do a high level of scanning, our TC8000 mobile computer helps users achieve productivity gains of around 14% – that’s an extra hour per user over a typical shift.

Multi-modal picking augments your team with highly intuitive devices that allow them to move freely and prompt them with all the info they need, when they need it. The solutions ensure complete identification accuracy, reduce human error, accelerate picking and optimise inventory management. To give you an idea, where our customers replace paper systems with multi-modal solutions, we see exceptional productivity gains – of up to 40 to 50%. But even adding a multi-modal solution to a computer-based picking process can deliver improvements – of up to 10%. These are big numbers – and they’re needed too.



Things aren’t about to get any easier in the warehouse with 83% of managers believing they’ll be shipping more by 2020 and 60% saying the number of SKUs will rise[2]. Introducing new technology has to play a role in adjusting to the new normal – which increasingly is next-day and in the future is likely to be same-day ­– delivery.

There’s something else at play here too. By 2020, 50% of the workforce are expected to be millennials[1]. And gone are the days when employees would accept that their personal devices are simply more intuitive, powerful and enjoyable than the tech they use at work. It doesn’t have to be that way and our new Android-based touch devices are reducing training times significantly. Given the challenges that warehouses face, I believe now is the time for you to take a closer look at how Android-based computers and scanners could enhance your data capture, improve real-time visibility and assist your teams in working in a more natural, faster, accurate – and enjoyable way.

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[1] The Warehouse Manager’s Guide to Improving Efficiency – Zebra Technologies

[2] Zebra 2020 Warehouse Vision report


Topics: EMEA, mobile devices, Warehouse Management, Warehouse, Productivity, Android