Custom Options & Design.
Maximise the benefits offered by your order picking bins
Chances are your direct rivals are already using them.
As a result, they can fulfil orders quickly and efficiently. They can keep their customers happy with short lead times. They have minimised damage to their inventory during storage. They have most likely reduced their labour costs or used the efficiency gains to help process more orders.
All this through effective use of order picking bins.
So what can you do? You obviously want your business to offer at least as good a service as your rivals, and preferably better. But how do you do this if they are already using picking bins and effective order picking and packing processes?
One answer could be looking at advanced tactics with your order picking and packaging processes.
A simpler answer, however, could be to take advantage of the customisation options available when using specific order picking equipment, and picking bins in particular.
Advantages of order picking bins
Order picking bins (or shelf or parts bins) provide a number of obvious and hidden benefits to your operations.
Starting with the obvious, they can be used to effectively organise and segment your inventory, allowing you to more effectively manage your inventory.
More importantly than this however, they allow your team of warehouse staff to pick orders much more quickly and efficiently.
This has a number of direct and indirect benefits. Firstly, it reduces your labour costs – as more orders can be picked per person in each working day. Secondly, it allows you to fulfil more orders and grow your business. It also helps to improve staff morale, effectively making their job easier and less frustrating.
This indirectly affects your relationships with your customers too. Orders are despatched quicker. Order picking errors are minimised. Stock does not become damaged in storage.
Ultimately, you provide a better, quicker service to your customers, who in turn are much more likely to engage in repeat business and recommend your company and products to others. The bottom line is that this helps your overall sales.
7 options to enhance your order picking bins
You may already be using picking bins, however. As mentioned at the beginning, your competitors may well be using picking bins or similar products too, diluting or negating any advantage you may have had over them.
So what do you do?
Well, there are at least 7 options to enhance your order picking bins, each of which can drive down costs, aid productivity, and potentially give you an edge on your competition.
The main customisation options available (depending on the specific solution you choose), are as follows:
Changing strength/material thickness
Freestanding or shelf design
Please continue reading below for further information on how you can use these options to your advantage.
When requesting specific colours of picking bins, many businesses first thoughts are to tie this in with the branding of their company.
This makes perfect sense.
It makes your warehouse look smart. If you ever give customers or suppliers a tour in reinforces your brand message. It can even help create employee affinity with your brand.
And with stock picking bins available in a wide range of colours (and custom equivalents available in almost any hue) many companies will match their company branding where possible.
However, another approach to take is to use the colour of your picking bins as a way of clearly highlighting different ranges and products.
For example, if you are a fashion retailer you could use green bins for evening wear, red bins for shoes, blue bins for casual items etc.
This will at a very basic level help your order picking team find – and recall – where specific items are stored in your warehouse or storage facility. And any efficiency gains can be passed to your customers through shorter lead times.
Similarly to the colours of your bins, if this is not practical (or you wish to remain very tightly on brand) then labels can be used as an alternative.
In fact, it is widely seen to be good practice to use labels and colour coding, as the colours can indicate a product group or range, with the labels providing specific information on the individual products or sizes etc. held within.
Whilst self-adhesive labels can be used, a more flexible solution is integrated or separately attached label holders. These allow for card inserts to be held in place, which can then be removed and changed of your product range is frequently updated.
Again, this can help minimise time spent looking for a product, which in turn allows you to offer faster fulfilment of your orders.
Many people will also look at the option of printing their picking bins.
Whilst this can be used for stock segmentation, it is not suitable if your product lines are likely to change often. It also only lends itself to adding the higher level product ranges or groups rather than specific items, due to the setup costs of the printing (digital print can alleviate this to a degree, however).
Where printed picking bins really come into their own however is through adding branding and company logos.
Whilst not essential, it can certainly help to improve the appearance of your warehouse or storage areas and can add an air of professionalism (which can be important if people from outside your business are likely to ever be taken to your warehouse).
Moving back to more practical customisation options, if you decide to go down the route of using either Correx® material or corrugated cardboard, it is possible to specify custom sized picking bins.
Whilst most standard bins are designed to work alongside the common sizes of racking (hence why they are sometimes called rack bins or shelf bins), this may not be suitable for your own setup or for your specific products.
By choosing custom sizes, these can be tailored specifically to your products, the amount of stock you would like to hold of each, and can even incorporate features (such as internal print) that will quickly highlight when you are running low on a particular line.
It should also be mentioned that another inherent benefit of using custom sized bins is that, not being moulded, it is usually possible to fold them flat. The key benefit of this is that they can be collapsed and stored flat when not in use, saving you space and also making them suitable for use during peak times if required.
Free standing or shelf
Besides the size of your picking bins, there are in fact a number of differing designs that you could specify.
For example, you may wish to have picking bins with a fully open front, or a semi open front. You may prefer to have bins that resemble boxes or some that even incorporate an opening / closing feature at the front.
However, besides “shelf bins”, it is possible to create what is known as “stacking boxes” or “stacking bins”.
These, instead of sitting on shelves or racking, are free standing and can be used at the end of aisles or other underutilised floor space. Saying that they can also be created to specific sizes that fit within your racking, truly maximising the space available to you.
By stacking bins, you can also create “columns” of products, again grouping by types, sizes or colours that will allow easier picking and stock checking.
Further to this, both stacking bins and shelf equivalents can be subdivided using internal dividers and partitions.
The obvious use of this is to allow you to keep multiple differing sizes or colours of a product in one, large outer bin, again making your warehouse staff life easier when retrieving products.
There are other uses, however.
For example, dividers could be used to visually highlight stock levels – for example, if 2 of 4 compartments are empty, a reorder or additional manufacturing needs to take place.
Besides this, internal dividers can actually offer differing properties too. For example, using Bubble-board material that is covered with foam or material can help to eliminate surface scratches or blemishes when items are stored or moved I the picking bins, whilst the dividers can also be used to separate items of this type and prevent them damaging the surfaces of each other.
Strength / Material thickness
If looking to specify custom picking bins, it is possible for you to choose a material that is most suitable for your application.
For example, for light items you may use a relatively lightweight grade of cardboard or plastic Correx, as this will still provide the requisite organisation and protection, whilst minimising costs.
However, for protection and safe storage of heavier items, a stronger, more durable material should be used. Whilst this will cost more initially, it is important to consider the lifetime costs at this stage – a more robust product will cost more but will also last longer, and should also protect its contents better too.
This is why moulded plastic bins are also very popular, offering as they do exceptional protection, but they are frequently over specified (and can be very expensive) for many applications.
Saying that, it must be noted that Correx in particular can be designed and manufactured to provide exceptional strength, which is comparable to moulded plastic euro bins but at a much more cost effective price point.
Finally, if you are producing specialist items which need additional protection in storage, then you may be able to take advantage of picking bins with particular properties.
For example, if your inventory consists of microchips and other static sensitive devices or components, you could consider an anti-static options such as Corriplast (conductive Correx) or even Corstat.
You can also source corrugated cardboard picking bins that are resistant to moisture (although plastic bins offer this by default), bins with smooth coated walls to prevent damage and even solutions with VCI corrosion inhibiting properties (although other design criteria need to be met for this to be effective).
The clear benefits of these types of products are minimising, or in many cases completely eradicating damage caused to items during spells in storage (which are then effectively written off as a cost to your business).
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Custom options to enhance your picking bins
It is obviously important to not only provide your customers with the highest levels of service but to also gain any competitive advantage that you can over your competition.
So whilst the efficiency, productivity and cost gains from using custom picking bin options may be relatively small when taken in isolation, they can add up to really drive improvements across your warehouse and order fulfilment processes.