Warehouse Picking, Staging, Quality Assurance, and Packing Must Support Occupational Health and Safety

The height of the holiday shipping-season is coming very soon. 3PLs (third party logistics companies), warehouses, distribution centers (DCs) are ready to pick up the pace when high volumes hit. Delivering to the ever-faster demand for same day and next day delivery can cause firms to compromise the principles of occupational health and safety.

There is only so much labor and during this shipping season new and less experienced labor are prone to less training, equipment familiarity, and at greater risk. New technology optimization contains features that keep DCs in the black and workers safe.

Picking is usually the most important process in inventory processing science. For most inventory-centric companies, the outbound side of the inventory is where companies generate profit and the most labor intensive. It is also where occupational health and safety is at greatest risk.

OSHA reports that more than 145,000 people work in over 7,000 warehouses. The fatal injury rate for the warehousing industry is higher than the national average for all industries. Potential hazards for workers in warehousing include unsafe use of forklifts, improper stacking of products, and failure to use proper personal protective equipment. Other dangers include failure to follow proper lockout/tagout procedures, inadequate fire safety provisions, and repetitive motion injuries.

Manual Lifting/Handling Hazards

Back injuries may occur from improper lifting or overexertion and this can be solved by providing general ergonomics training and task-specific training. Using solutions like WithoutWire allows warehouse workers to utilize best practice ergonomic behaviors.

By picking each, case, and pallet in separate zones, fast parallel picks are a smart method to combine a set of picks into one wave set. Options include auto-shipping or moving to packing with secondary QA (quality assurance) check.

License plates are automatically assigned during picks for optimal staging, packing, shipping, and site transfer receipts. Another facet of operational labor reduction impacts cross site moves. While they do not significantly reduce scans, they simplify accounting data entry processes. A collection of inventory items or “License Plates” reduces scans and improves occupational health and safety.

License plates can transform a scan-a-thon into a one scan wonder. The concept behind license plates starts with the idea of a collection. Tracking a collection using a serialized identifier (license plate number), can use a single scan for movements and transactions against a collection of inventory items. License plates bring efficiency in movements and transactions, as well as QA processing and traceability reporting.

Providing more than thirty picking configurations helps to support the safest methodologies. Short-picks, unpick cancelled orders, or partially staged picks with a hold status ensures fewer touches, reducing the chance for injury. By auto-assigning or manually assigning orders in round robin fashion, order picks with routes are automatically distributed in reverse stop order.

Fewer Touches Reduces Improper Lifting and Repetitive Motion Hazards

Poor design of operations can lead to musculoskeletal disorders in workers. The fewer touches in warehouse picking, staging, QA, and packing the better. Obviously when possible the use of powered equipment is better than requiring a manual lift for heavy materials. Reducing lifts from shoulder height and from floor height by repositioning the shelf or bin also reduces injuries.

Providing employees with task-oriented ergonomic training and the tools to minimize repetitive injuries is an occupational health and safety imperative while simultaneously improving cycle times.

Cycle Count Improves Bottom Line and Safety

A cycle count is an inventory auditing procedure, where a small subset of inventory, in a specific location, is counted on a specified day. Cycle counts are different than traditional physical inventory because a full physical inventory may stop an operation at a facility while all items are counted at once. Cycle counts are less disruptive to daily operations, providing an ongoing measure of inventory accuracy and procedure execution and can be tailored to focus on items with higher value, higher movement volume, or that are critical to business processes. Once a cycle count is created and assigned to a user, that user can safely use their Android or iOS device to complete that count without injury.

Posted by Travis Smith on Jul 22, 2019