Productivity and efficiency is the most popular subjects regarding warehouse logistics on LinkedIn. You don’t see many posts about quality, it is not at all as popular. However, it is extremely important with great quality for a company regardless if it is B2B or B2C. The customer’s quality experience from ordering to delivery is just as important as the costs of the total flow of goods if you want increased flow of new customers to your business and want to increase the turnover.
My opinion is that many companies complicates quality work in a warehouse and becomes narrow-minded. Managers have far too great focus on the employees (human mistakes) and often believes the employees doing picking mistakes or packing/delivery mistakes because of carelessness. I often hear how warehouse management keep on nagging about the same kind of mistakes month in and month out. It is very naive to believe that you can prevent an employee to do mistakes with reminders and nagging of every mistake. In case, the same error repeated constantly, there is a system error not the warehouse staff’s fault.
It is all about concentration and focusing. Scientific research have found out that a human being can focus on one process for about 45-60 minutes (maybe less). That is only focus on one easy process, how many processes do you have in one picking round? Moreover, how many hours do your employees work on a day? If you want to keep focus you need to take a break for a while after 45-60 minutes before next working pass. However, both you and I know that we cannot afford to take a break every hour, it would be a disaster for the efficiency in the warehouse. As I written in previous articles, time is everything in logistics!
What we need to do is to prevent employees to do wrong in the processes with help of technical solutions like verifications and questions in WMS. In this way we can help the staff to have focus and react before they do any wrong. To use verification and questions you need to have a competent WMS with these features. In an established WMS you can decide what verifications and questions you want to use. You can start a little easy and turn on more and more if you need too to keep the mistakes on an acceptable level.
Remember, if your company are going to invest in a WMS look at the quality features too don’t just look at the features that help you increase the efficiency. I have been part of a project when we reduced mistakes (both picking and delivery) with 57% and what we did was to use the WMS features (verifications including barcode scanning). We was afraid that the efficiency should decrease because we added more processes (barcode verifications and yes or no questions and dialog boxes in the WMS) but we were surprised, after less than a month the efficiency was at the same level as before.
We also saved a lot of money in overhead costs and transportation costs. To sort out picking mistakes and delivery mistakes costs more money than many companies understand. You need return transport to your warehouse and you need administrative resources. I often meet colleagues in the business who never analyzed the handling costs of mistakes on a deeper level. This is a very important factor when a company make a WMS ROI calculation. Look what features the WMS have to prevent mistakes in the process and if it is possible to turn off and on these features. Often you don´t need all of them, it is very individual from warehouse to warehouse. The traceability is also important including transparency. It should be easy to look at the history and track down backwards in the flow. I recommend the use of a good and competent TMS. The ideal solution is full transparency through the whole flow from picking to end customer. More about that in another article.
An interesting technology to look at is intelligent video analysis. A great quality tool that monitor and collect data in critical processes in the warehouse flow and then process the data with help of AI. You have full traceability and with AI you can also be proactive in real time to avoid mistakes. I am sure we will see more of this in near future. A great solution to avoid expensive mistakes in environments like e-commerce and e-grocery with small margins and time critical flow. A company too look at is Swedish SiB Solutions, they have developed this technology and implemented it in several operations.
Conclusion: Let technology help you with quality and prevent the “human factor” mistakes.