The sorting process is an essential part of warehouse management. Sorting applies to both the inbound receiving of goods and the outbound picking of inventory. When goods are received, they must be sorted and placed in the correct location. Similarly, when products are picked for distribution to customers, they must be sorted and placed in containers that are appropriate for their destination.
For inbound receiving, sorting is usually only required if the goods are not arranged properly upon receiving them in the warehouse. For example, receiving goods from overseas containers. Another example is receiving many items but all in small quantities. The warehouse operative will need to sort them by item before putaway in the storage location.
For outbound, sorting is usually required if the warehouse performing batch picking, meaning multiple orders are picked together. The warehouse operative will then sort them accordingly to the correct respective individual order. Once sorting is completed, the warehouse operative will then pack the sorted order and then apply a shipping label to it, such as the Airway Bill label. This process is typical for an eCommerce warehouse.
The success of a warehouse operation depends largely on efficient and accurate of such sorting operations, especially for an eCommerce warehouse operation, where sorting is one of the core operations. The ability to execute accurately and efficiently defines how well the operations are performing.
There are many different methods and technologies that can be used to perform sorting operations in the warehouse. The most effective method depends on the type of product being stored and the frequency of the orders that need to be fulfilled. For example, if an inventory contains a large variety of products that have to be stored separately, a system-guided sorting operation, such as pick-to-light or using a handheld with a built-in barcode scanner would be quite effective. If the volume is larger, consider using a robotic warehouse operation. Whatever the technology used, the primary focus should be on delivering high productivity and accuracy at the lowest possible cost.
Below video clip shows a robotic warehouse operation with ready integration connectors with AC2 WAVE Warehouse Management System.
There are other different technologies that are commonly used for sorting operations in a warehouse. The type of technology used depends on the nature of the inventory being handled. One of the most common methods involves using workers to manually sort goods into different locations based on the information printed on the product packaging. This method is relatively inefficient and time-consuming as it requires a lot of work on the part of warehouse staff. A better approach is to use software-controlled automated equipment or handheld equipment to sort the products.
Different types of software and hardware can be integrated to create an automated sorting system. Some popular methods are Pick-to-Light, Sorting using Handheld and Robotic Warehouse Automation. Each of these methods has certain advantages and disadvantages. In general, picking efficiency is the primary factor when evaluating different sorting methods. However, other factors such as cost and ease of use should also be considered. Take note that the main advantage of robotic warehouse systems is that they significantly increase productivity and reduce operating costs by governing manual tasks and as such reduce human errors.
A few good cloud-based Warehouse Management Systems have built-in sorting capabilities that eliminate the need for external sorting systems and enable employees to focus on their primary duties. These systems typically implement item-level traceability to ensure that the right products are sent to the right customers. As these systems have become more advanced in recent years, they have become more sophisticated and flexible and are now capable of handling complex inventory handling operations with ease. In addition, they provide valuable information that can be used to streamline inventory management processes and enhance overall operational efficiency.
In addition to the tips outlined in this article, there are many valuable resources available to help you improve your operations. One book we highly recommend is 'Dodge It If You Can' by David Mouland and Aw Yang Uei. This book presents a real-life collection of anecdotal incidents from industry veterans who have built their careers from scratch, providing practical insights into navigating the challenges of business. Whether you're just starting out or looking to take your warehouse management to the next level, 'Dodge It If You Can' is a must-read for anyone interested in improving their business operations.