Choosing Your Pick Bins.
Ensuring your picking bins are suitable for the specific requirements of your inventory
Maybe you are start-up e-commerce business thinking about how you are going to manage your order picking and packing.
Maybe you are warehouse manager, tasked with improving the efficiency of your team of order/part pickers.
Perhaps you are a logistics manager fed up with the pressure placed on you by the need to get orders shipped instantly due to slow picking times.
You might even work in sales, marketing or web development and be frustrated that you are not able to offer shorter lead times to your web visitors and/or potential customers.
In all of these scenarios, using pick bins could help with the difficulties you are experiencing.
Why all pick bins are not the same
Moulded or Correx® (or even cardboard)? Custom picking bins or stock sizes? Should they be stackable? How durable do they need to be? Can my budget stretch to a specific type?
All of these are important questions.
Picking, shelf and parts bins can vary massively in terms of not only there cost and performance but in terms of their manufacture and how easily they can be integrated into your operations.
This is why it is important to analyse the factors – and requirements – that could affect the success of implementing pick bins or updating your current solution.
The 9 considerations before purchasing pick bins
But what are these factors?
If you consider the following 9 points when specifying and purchasing your order picking bins, you should end up with a suitable solution for your specific requirements.
Size/weight of products
Size of inventory
Value of product
Fragility of products
Availability of space
Regulations and industry sector
The rest of this guide covers these points, in turn, allowing you to ascertain the best type of picking bin for your specific application.
The amount of orders you fulfil – and therefore your stock turnover – can have a significant impact on the type of pick bin you should be using.
There are 2 schools of thought on this. The first is that, if you are turning over high volumes of products, the chances are you will be handling the bins a lot. This will cause them to wear out quickly, meaning that the cheapest possible bins (usually the cardboard K Bin type) should be used, as they will be cheaper to replace.
The other argument is that although they cost more upfront, plastic bins (either moulded or Correx®) will provide a longer-term solution. They will, in effect, not wear out so quickly, so their lifetime costs will actually be lower than cardboard k-bins for example.
So whilst Correx® picking bins are arguably the best compromise in this situation (being cost-effective and durable), you must also consider the protection required for your slower moving lines.
If you have products which do not sell in high volumes, they may be sat in storage for a prolonged period of time. As such, this means they will require more protection from dust, temperature changes (which may cause condensation) and moisture.
In this scenario, your pick bins should probably be plastic, to make sure you are not writing off large amounts of stock that have become unsellable during its time in storage.
On a similar note, the environment in which the pick bins will be used is an important factor to consider too.
If your warehouse or storage location is heated, clean and well managed, then you can probably take the risk of using cardboard bins as they will not come into contact with moisture, other substances or much dust.
However, not all warehouses or storage areas meet those criteria.
Dust and exhaust fumes from forklifts can settle on your bins (or products if not adequately protected) whilst changes in temperatures and even leaking roofs (it is surprisingly common) can see bins exposed to condensation, water and moisture.
In this situation, cardboard pick bins would neither protect their contents nor last very long. Plastic bins by contrast would offer much greater protection, would not disintegrate and – it must also be noted – can be cleaned (whereas cardboard cannot).
Size / weight of products
The size and weight of your products also influences the material choice for your picking bins.
If your products are fairly lightweight, then cardboard picking bins will most likely be suitable (although this in itself depends on the corrugated board grade type that is used).
However, heavier duty or weighty products would potentially lead to rips or tears in cardboard picking bins, and at best they would be quite difficult to handle.
Moulded plastic euro bins, on the other hand, would offer more than enough strength to alleviate this problem, but as they are only available in stock sizes, they may not necessarily be a suitable size for your products (although they should fit your racking).
The compromise – and best overall option – is Correx® bins. They can be designed to take the same weight as moulded bins, but as well as being more cost effective can also be manufactured to the specific size(s) demanded by your product range.
Fragility of products
Similarly to the above, the fragility of your products can influence the type of pick bin you use.
Items such as clothing, boxed items (such as DVDs, toys etc.) or even specific components should be fine in cardboard picking bins (although they would not be protected from moisture).
However, anything with delicate parts, specialist surfaces which cannot show visible imperfections, glass and highly calibrated items would not receive adequate protection unless using moulded plastic bins.
Saying that in extreme cases it would probably be worth considering foam lined bins (or using Bubble-board fabric or foam covered dividers) to provide additional protection for your items.
You may also need to consider specialist materials such as anti-static Correx® to protect items such as electronics or microchips that could be damaged by electrostatic charges.
Value of product
When thinking of the fragility of your product inventory, you should also consider its value as well.
There is arguably little point in over-specifying your bins to protect low-value products (think party supplies, cleaning products, stationary etc.), but if your items are expensive (computer hardware or software, specialist components, high-end fashion etc.) then the cost of replacing or writing off items damaged in storage is usually in excess of the extra you would have spent on quality picking bins.
The thought process should be exactly the same as with the fragility of your products. How much protection does your inventory need (including from handling and storage in the environment in which they are stored), and choose accordingly.
Size of inventory
The amount of products you hold in stock at any one time can influence the types of pick bin you use.
If you have a vast, sprawling array of product lines then it simply might not be cost-effective to kit out your warehouse with expensive moulded plastic bins.
However, you should also consider that, if using corrugated cardboard, you will likely have the need to replace them more frequently – making them cheaper in the short term but more expensive in the long term.
If you can, using plastic bins in the first place will be more cost effective. But, this may not fit within your company’s budget, and using cardboard picking bins is definitely better than not using picking bins at all.
As mentioned above, the budget available to purchase your picking bins will influence the solution you can realistically expect to settle on.
Corrugated cardboard bins such as K bins are the cheapest, but will most likely need replacing more frequently (driving up the long-term costs).
At the other end of the scale, moulded plastic bins offer exceptional longevity, but do incur a hefty upfront cost (although, longer term, this can work out more cost effective than constantly replacing cardboard).
Arguably the best compromise – as ever – is Correx®. Correx® offers much-improved durability and lifespan over corrugated cardboard but is considerably cheaper than moulded plastic bins. Whilst not lasting quite as long as moulded bins (but not far off – and offering equivalent performance), they are the best combination of reasonable upfront costs and long-term cost effectiveness.
Availability of space
The amount – and type – of space you have available can also be a factor in your decision.
This can be particularly important if you experience peaks and troughs in terms of orders (and therefore picking and packing), and need to adjust your order picking and storage capacity accordingly.
For example, if you have periods where you do not need to store or process as many orders, Correx® bins offer the opportunity to be collapsed and stored flat – freeing up space for other activities such as increased production.
Whilst corrugated bins offer this but struggle to cope with being assembled/collapsed too many times, whereas moulded bins will always take up a considerable amount of space (although this is arguably not an issue if they are in constant use).
Besides this, many plastic (both Correx® and moulded) bins are free standing and can be stacked. This means they can be used without racking (i.e. if you have under-utilised floor space), which is something that cardboard cannot really offer.
Regulations and industry sector
Finally, your industry sector, and any regulations applying to your products, should also be considered.
For example, some of your products may need to be kept sterile, which something that cannot be so easily achieved with cardboard (Correx® and moulded plastic, however, can both be used for cleanroom applications and medical sectors).
Fibres from cardboard may also contaminate your products, and cardboard cannot be easily cleaned, unlike plastic bins.
The counterpoint is that, if your company is particularly environmentally focused, then cardboard is considerably easier to recycle than plastics (although this is of course still possible).
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Making a decision on the best pick bins for your business
Whilst you should use all of the relevant factors highlighted above to make a decision, it is often the case that one particular factor outweighs the others when making a decision.
However, in essence, corrugated cardboard is often the best choice if your products are very low value, or you have a very limited budget (or don’t mind constantly replacing your bins).
Moulded plastic the strongest and longest lasting solution, but has a cost to match (which may not be an issue if your products are particularly high in value themselves).
Correx® offers the best compromise between these two extremes, being cost-effective, providing good protection for its contents and also being durable with a good lifetime cost. It is, therefore, the ideal choice for the majority of applications.
However, should you require advice on deciding the best pick bin type for your particular application, feel free to contact the team at GWP who will be happy to advise on your specific criteria.