Fast-paced warehouse functions such as pick and pack fulfillment need clear standards to ensure the job gets done in the best possible way. Therefore, any efficient fulfillment operation will establish productivity standards that span the entire length of the operation, from the moment a trailer full of inventory hits the dock door until the individual item gets shipped to the end customer. These productivity standards play a similar role to warehouse key performance indicators (KPIs), though they skew more toward individual associates or teams.
5 Reasons to Implement Productivity Standards for Pick and Pack Operations
Productivity standards vary between warehouses. Management should always ensure that associates responsible for picking and packing have clearly defined expectations in place tailored to the needs of the warehouse operation. Fulfillment centers gain a variety of benefits when pick and pack fulfillment follows productivity standards, such as:
- Optimizing performance. When warehouse associates overexert themselves to keep up with unrealistic performance measures, details can get missed and they may increase the risk of accidents or repetitive stress injuries. Conversely, if associates underperform, they impact the profitability and effectiveness of the fulfillment operation. Reasonable productivity measures ensure that warehouse associates maintain a good throughput without sacrificing safety.
- Better employee communication. Productivity standards communicate clear expectations to the warehouse team, allowing associates to measure their performance and how it stacks up. Management can also leverage the data to benchmark performance for pick and pack team members. This capability allows warehouse leaders to engage and re-train associates with poor performance or reward associates who excel above the established standard.
- Identifying staffing requirements. Setting reasonable expectations for each warehouse associate helps managers determine ideal staffing needs. For example, too many pickers on the floor drive up labor costs unnecessarily. In contrast, not enough pickers can slow down picking and packing and harm on-time delivery rates.
- Determining technology needs. Pick and pack fulfillment operations often incorporate automated technology such as conveyor belts or robotics to improve throughput, but not all fulfillment operations require automation. Without clear productivity guidelines to weigh associate capabilities against the volume of work, warehouses may inadvertently invest in expensive technology they don’t need.
- Maximizing profitability. All fulfillment centers seek to improve profit margins. A set of core productivity standards based on a thorough operational analysis will help eliminate wasteful spending caused by poorly aligned processes.
Identifying Ideal Productivity Standards for Pick and Pack Fulfillment
While professional organizations publish carefully developed sets of productivity guidelines that fulfillment operations can draw inspiration from, it’s important to remember that every fulfillment warehouse is unique. Many distinct factors in a fulfillment operation may influence productivity guidelines, such as the commodity type handled, the facility layout, the size of the labor force, available technology, and much more. Some typical productivity criteria you can build upon may include:
- Order lines picked per hour
- Order lines packed per hour
- Maximum time allotted for kit building
Pinpointing opportunities to develop productivity standards begins with time studies on existing processes. For example, monitor pickers for an hour or two and determine:
- Orders and lines/items they pick in the allotted time
- The amount of downtime required for water and restroom breaks
- Which processes, actions, or products require more time to handle
Once you have sufficient data, you can extrapolate associated productivity standards based on what you’ve learned. Warehouse management systems (WMS) and warehouse execution systems (WES) may also provide more complex data sets to fuel the development of more robust productivity standards. For example, scan data and timestamps can tell you when and where products get picked. Then, comparing data across many orders can help develop a clear set of pick and pack averages that may function as a solid basis for productivity standards.
To generate an ideal set of pick and pack fulfillment productivity standards, use some combination of time study data, input from warehouse software, and feedback from management and warehouse associates.
Make Sure Your 3PL Has Productivity Standards in Place
For brands that rely on a 3PL for order fulfillment services, productivity standards in the warehouse play an additional role as the basis for determining the cost of activities performed by the 3PL. Poorly calibrated assumptions about productivity can lead to inaccurate pricing.
At Amware Fulfillment, we have developed and implemented a comprehensive set of productivity standards at every facility in our national network of fulfillment centers. Each of our fulfillment operations follows careful productivity criteria explicitly developed to meet the needs of the individual facility and the customers it serves. To see how we can improve productivity for your order fulfillment operations, please contact us today.