How Sortation Can Optimize Your Pick System
If you work in order fulfillment or materials handling, then you know just how important efficiency is to making your business successful. Efficiency allows you to save money on materials and labor costs; it allows you to process as many orders as possible during a day; it helps you to manufacture more goods and ship them to more customers. All of this efficiency has a direct impact on your bottom line: The more efficient you are, the more profitable you are.
Sortation plays a huge role in making any order fulfillment or materials handling operation more efficient, and that is namely because sortation touches every part of what you do. Even though the word “sorting” might make you think solely of receiving or packing or shipping, it has the potential to play a role in and impact every aspect of your business: Even picking.
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Sortation and Pick Systems
Order picking tends to be one of the single most labor-intensive tasks of any operation. If you aren’t allowing a sortation system to help make your order picking process more efficient, then that means you are relying on human workers to get the job done. Because walking and manually picking orders can account for more than 50 percent of the time associated with picking, this inefficiency means that you are wasting a lot of time—and with it, money.
If your order fulfillment operation doesn’t make use of any kind of sorting, then your workers are picking orders by hand, likely one order at a time. This means that pickers are walking lengthy pick-paths/travel paths and picking orders to carts to then bring back to be processed, packaged, and shipped. Because this is so inefficient, you are essentially wasting money on labor costs that you could otherwise be using for investments or enjoying as profit. And if you need to bring on additional workers to make up for this inefficiency then you are stuck with additional expenses on top of payroll (healthcare, retirement benefits, PTO, salary increases over time, etc.)
If you had a sortation system in place, you could cut down on a lot of this wasted time, boosting your productivity and lowering the number of workers needed to get the job done. Imagine a worker being able to go down a pick-path and pick items for 30 different orders at once. By then feeding those items into a sorter, the sorter can parcel everything out into the respective order.
This can reduce the time your workers spend walking each day by up to 40 percent, increasing the picker’s time per order, reducing labor hours, and allowing you to move workers to other areas of higher value work.
Selecting a Sorter for Your Pick System
Generally speaking, there are a lot of considerations for you to take into account when selecting the right sorter for your pick system. Though there is no specific sorter that is better suited to handle picking (compared to other applications), other factors may limit your options. Everything from product specification (geometry, weight, rigidity, etc.) to packaging (boxes vs. plastic bags, etc.) to space limitations (how much space is available for a sorter to occupy) will inform your decision.
Before making any decision, it can be helpful to ask yourself these important questions so that you are sure to be selecting the most appropriate sorter for your DC and to understand the advantages and disadvantages of different popular sorter varieties.
The Bottom Line
Though sortation may seem like something limited to certain aspects of your operation like packing and shipping it has the potential to impact nearly every process that you go through. Picking is one example of an application that can substantially benefit from the addition of a sorter.
By incorporating a sorter into your pick system, you can increase productivity and efficiency, decrease labor costs, and ultimately boost your bottom line.