Commentary

Opinion: How mobile order picking can help fulfil omnichannel demand

Mobile order picking can help retailers in their challenge of having to pick more frequently and in smaller numbers, according to Samuel Mueller, CEO, Scandit. 

Retail logistics operations are under increasing pressure when it comes to order picking in the warehouse. The rapid increase in orders prompted by the rise in online shopping, as well as the short delivery timescales that are now routinely promised to e-commerce customers, have presented challenges to logistics managers. Not only do items often need picking more frequently, but also in smaller numbers, and this carries labour and cost implications.

One way that retail organisations can improve efficiency in the omnichannel order picking process is by using data capture applications on smartphones or tablets.  Not only does this speed up picking, but it also helps with ensuring the correct products are packed into the proper shipments. Compared to paper-based order picking, retailers can fulfil more orders and they can also cut down on the number of staff involved.

Retail operations can provide their warehouse staff with access to mobile barcode scanning apps, either through their own smartphone devices on a BYOD basis, or via company-owned mobiles. Either way, mobile order picking apps can be used in conjunction with other leading-edge picking technologies, such as pick-to-light systems and counting scales. This opens the door to even greater gains in efficiency and reductions in cost and time.

Increasing order accuracy 

In addition, picking with mobile data capture increases order accuracy by minimising the impact of human error. This has the knock-on effect of improving the all-important customer experience, which builds long-term loyalty. Mobile order picking can also help retailers to save on the cost of processing returns and shipping replacement items when mistakes are made.

Given the demands that customers are making for faster deliveries and the growth in different collection and drop off options, shorter order-picking cycle times can also support next-day or even same-day order fulfilment. Customers increasingly expect rapid availability of online purchases and to meet these expectations through click-and-collect and PUDO (Pick-Up-Drop-Off) programs or through home delivery, it is essential that they ensure fast, accurate order picking in the warehouse.

Another key advantage of picking with mobile data capture in the seamless retailing environment is the ability to pick and pack orders in areas outside warehouses. This includes omnichannel retail touchpoints such as stores, parking lots, or even in the homes of third-party contractors.

The ability to pick orders closer to the customer is a key component of seamless fulfilment programs such as click-and-collect, buy online pickup in store (BOPIS), order pickup from lockers and other remote locations, or same-day delivery. Order picking in a regional distribution centre may not fulfil purchases quickly enough to meet the demands of the modern omnichannel shopper.

Finally, mobile order picking can help save sales that would otherwise be lost due to out-of-stock products. A retailer can quickly pick an order for an item that is out of stock at one store from another nearby store and fulfil the purchase in a timely manner.

Customers expect access to the product they want, when and where they want them. Mobile order picking supports the flexible fulfilment needed to satisfy this expectation.

Image credit: Scandit

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