Warehouses and distribution centres play a key part in the supply chain. However, in such a fast-paced environment it can be challenging to continually deliver successful performance figures against key metrics. One of the main struggles for warehouse managers is maintaining a consistently high pick accuracy rate, as variables like human error, time pressures, and supplier faults can all result in picking the wrong item or miscounting quantities.

Over time these errors add up and, in some cases, a mere half a percent of incorrect picks can cost business hundreds of thousands of pounds a year in product giveaway, correction costs or contract penalties, not to mention the negative impact on customer service.

But when half a percent of pick accuracy can have such an effect on a business’s bottom line, and with so many variables involved, how can you keep pick accuracy, well, accurate?

Many warehouses have implemented technologies such as voice-to-pick or pick-to-light systems, both of which instruct the pick operator to a location within the warehouse. However, although both systems get the pick operator to the correct location quickly, they do not account for human error and cannot verify the operator picked the correct quantity from the correct bin.

As speed is a key factor influencing accuracy, some warehouses slow down the pick process to give pick operators more time to spend verifying correct parts and quantities, however this results in cost implications as businesses then need to increase labour to cope with the reduced number of picks which is not usually a viable option.

For heating technology manufacturer, Vaillant, neither of these options offered a solution to the inefficiency problems they were facing in their warehouse inventory management operation.

Vaillant manufacture a wide range of commercial and domestic heating solutions at their Derbyshire production facility. Within the pick process, parts were picked and counted into totes by hand, before being transferred to the assembly area where they were fitted into boilers.

The accuracy of the parts supplied to the assembly area is critical to ensure efficient production, but assemblers were continually running out of components due to short or incorrect counts. These inaccuracies resulted in unnecessary stoppages in production which not only led to the company missing efficiency targets, but the cost of downtime, impact on lead-times and knock-on effect on inventory was proving costly and had the potential to impact delivery times.

With profitability, uptime and reputation at stake, Vaillant needed an innovative solution to help both improve picking accuracy and keep a better track of their inventory. With traditional systems not able to offer what they needed, they turned to the Mobile Picking Solution (MPS) from Avery Weigh-Tronix. The MPS is a new solution, which brings technology to the point of pick; eliminating manual counting while verifying pick accuracy. It also integrates seamlessly with other pick management systems (such as voice-to-pick or pick-to-light systems) to increase their level of accuracy and efficiency.

The Mobile Picking Solution (MPS) is a robust yet configurable mobile picking workstation equipped with touch screen terminal, picking software, onboard battery power, warehouse management (WMS) integration software and a highly accurate durable scale for weight verification.

Simple, on-screen instructions or icons are used to guide the operator through the picking process by displaying images of the item to be picked and the quantity required. This use of imagery and simple, step-by-step prompts ensure that the pick instructions are so easy to follow it delivers a minimum picking accuracy of 99.75% at the point of pick.

Since introducing the MPS to their pick process, Vaillant have improved count accuracy by 4% and increased count speeds by 50%, as well as virtually eliminating recounts. By verifying pick accuracy at the point of pick, the logistics picking team are now increasingly confident in supplying the correct parts to the production line meaning there are now no stoppages due to incorrect or insufficient parts.

The MPS has also integrated directly with Vaillant’s warehouse management system to increase efficiency and cut the cost of inventory management. The mobile picking solution enables the Vaillant order picking team to verify inventory in real time, eliminating the costly efforts and downtime associated with inventory counts.

The results have made a massive impact to the business’s bottom line. By improving overall production line efficiency Vaillant have improved fulfilment and shipping accuracy and enhanced overall workflow productivity – protecting their service quality and reputation.

Stewart Campbell, Avery Weigh- Tronix.