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Warehouse Management Blog

Our team of Fulfilment Consultants share warehouse management best practice and advice.

Barcode system implementations on the rise to stops humans making mistakes.

How To

WRITTEN BY Oliver Rhodes /

25 June 2011

“Mistakes show us what needs improving. Without mistakes, how would we know what we had to work on?”

If you work in a warehouse without a barcode system you know where mistakes happen and it is likely you have already made steps to prevent them. A prime example of this is in preventing order picking mistakes. Take a look at this scenario:

John, the Warehouse Manager, gives his warehouse team the order ‘picking lists’ with a description of what to pick, the quantity required and possibly the item locations. Despite this, John knows that sometimes people go to pick items and end up with the right product type but in the wrong colour, size or specification.

To counter this he has told his warehouse staff that before any sales order is packed, it needs to be double checked by a different warehouse worker and signed off. Extra warehouse labour is now being used to increase order picking accuracy but packing has been slowed down. Most mispicks are now picked up and re-picked, but this also takes extra resources.

The reason the mispicks were happening has remained and sometimes the wrong thing is still being shipped. John has already thrown an extra human at the warehouse process to try and improve it, so what next?

The reality is that to the human eye two things can look the same and us humans make mistakes. FACT.

A barcode system will remove human error from the order picking process, fixing John’s problem and helping him to free up resources by removing the routine quality checks at packing. Here is how:

1. You can not pick the wrong thing with a barcode system

A barcode system will take the information that is printed onto the picking lists and show it on a handheld computer screen.

Firstly, when the order pickers go to pick an item they scan the location to confirm they are in the right place.

Secondly, they scan the item that they are being asked to pick. The barcode system verifies that the barcode scanned matches the pick list item. If the wrong product is scanned the order picker is alerted and told to try again.

With a barcode scan you can not pick the wrong product, assuming that items are correctly labelled.

2. The right thing has been picked first time

Because the right thing has been picked first time, items can go straight into packing and wrapping, ready to be shipped.

A barcode system can enable smaller teams that do not have dedicated pickers and packers to work more quickly without compromising accuracy. The same person who picks can pack, as you can be 99.99% confident that the right thing is being picked first time.

3. Random spot-checks, not routine quality checks

Still keep doing those random spot-checks; a barcode system may be very easy to use but remember it still has a human at the controls.

When i meet warehouse managers, we benchmark against 1 mis-pick in every 10,000 when using a barcode system. This is a realistic target for warehouses that put in a barcode system.


>> Human mistakes are inevitable.

>> A barcode system is an excellent way to automate order picking and other warehouse processes to remove the margin for human error.

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