There is no way to completely eliminate human error. However, increasing automation in the warehouse will minimize human error. Automation does not necessarily mean introducing robotics into your warehouse processes. The goal is to automate 80% of your warehouse processes, leaving the last 20% for value added functions, like personalization and gift wrapping. Implementing a warehouse management system will decrease human error exponentially.
Benefits of a warehouse management system (WMS):
- Limit touches
- Barcode Scanning
- Ensure methods are followed exactly
- Optimize warehouse layout
- Ensure consistency in the putaway (Optimize storage and retrieval)
- Create smart pick lists
- Employee Training
Anything that can be automated should be automated. When warehouse processes are automated it will eliminate the number of touches on each item. A “touch” occurs any time a human hand touches an item in inventory, i.e. upon receipt into the warehouse, putaway, pick, pack, etc. Automating these procedures will reduce the number of touches needed to complete each process. The fewer touches needed to complete a process the fewer chances there are for human error.
Barcode ScanningThe first step towards automating your warehouse is to implement the use of barcodes. Each item that enters into the warehouse should be assigned a barcode. Each barcode should be scanned into the warehouse management system to show that it has been received into inventory. Each time the item is touched it needs to be scanned. Scanning will accomplish two things:
- Ensure the correct item is chosen for each process
- Ability to track items as they move through the warehouse
Additionally, because everything is now scanned, there is less of a chance of human error due to recording the incorrect information.
Ensure Methods are followed Exactly
When workflows in the warehouse are automated, there will be necessary requirements to complete each task before allowing the user to move onto the next step. This will force the user to follow each stage of the process exactly as prescribed. Meticulously following each step of the process will eliminate any errors that can pop up down the line due to skipping a step in the name of efficiency.
Optimize Warehouse Layout
The warehouse management system (WMS) can use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to optimize your warehouse layout. The WMS has the ability to track which items normally sell together, or which items are most popular and sell the fastest. Using this information, and applying AI to “read” the data, the WMS can make informed suggestions on how to organize your warehouse.
Ensure Consistency in PutAway / Optimize Storage & Retrieval
Since the WMS is already tracking which items are frequently purchased together, it can help designate locations in the warehouse for items to be stored. When an item is scanned into inventory, the WMS will show where the item should be placed in the warehouse. If barcode scanning is enforced, when the item is put away, a scan of the warehouse location will ensure that the item is stored in the right place. And if the wrong location is scanned, the WMS will respond with an error indicating that it is waiting for the correct location scan. This will eliminate the possibility of an employee storing inventory in the wrong place. In addition, when an employee walks through the warehouse picking items for an order, it will ensure that the right items are picked. If the wrong item is scanned, an error will appear requesting the employee choose the correct item.
Create smart pick lists
With the WMS allocating warehouse locations for all items entered into inventory, it is now able to create a smart pick list. This means, the WMS will create a pick list that takes the picker through the warehouse in the most efficient way possible.
As with any changes in a warehouse, the most important thing is employee training. If you want to increase automation in the warehouse you need to have your employees on board. Since human nature is such that people are always looking for the easiest ways to accomplish a task, all steps need to be quick and easy to learn. Employees need to have ample training in the new system if you want it to be successful.
SkuNexus is an easy to use, fully customizable commerce operations platform. Click here to see how using SkuNexus will help you increase automation in the warehouse thereby reducing human error.