Even if my pickers pick the order accurately can the packers miss something out or send it to the wrong address? Will a WMS help improve customer satisfaction here?

Absolutely. When used properly a WMS can improve customer satisfaction if this is being affected by inaccuracy in either picking or packing.

As with many software solutions, effectiveness depends partially on user processes outside of the system. Perhaps even more so, as a WMS manages a largely physical process unlike say a CRM system. This means that a WMS can provide many safety checks for your operation, but it cannot totally make up for the absence of procedure or common sense! But given those are in place, a WMS can definitely reduce errors and improve customer satisfaction.

The point about accurate picking versus inaccurate packing (or vice versa) is an interesting one. Many warehouse managers prefer to live with some picking inaccuracy, as any errors can then be caught at the packing stage before despatch to customer. Conversely some believe that the picking stage is where accuracy is paramount, and that a further packing stage – if solely for the purpose of eradicating errors – should be unnecessary. And yes, there are also some people who take a ‘belt and braces’ approach and like to do both!

Once we move away from the single order pick scenario there are some picking methodologies that suit one view more than the other. Cluster picking, also sometimes known as ‘pick and pack’ is focused on achieving a pick, check and ideally, pack within a single physical process. Allowing several orders to be simultaneously picked direct to their despatch media is an excellent way, if done properly, to consolidate all of this as a picking activity and remove any further processes.

Alternatively, a ‘bulk pick and sort’ approach tends to lean towards the packing stage as the place to eradicate errors. Similarly designed to pick multiple orders, but this time in bulk quantity rather than broken down by order, it is more of ‘grab-it-all-sort-it-out later’ approach. Although the bulk pick can be done with accuracy, it is at the sorting stage where the order assembly is done and therefore the emphasis is on accuracy being a function of the packing rather than picking process.

Ultimately whatever your preference, the key thing is that your WMS (probably the only type of system to offer the right functionality) offers the validation methods you need for either picking or packing. This means that various methods, as above, should be available and the processes should offer verification of actions via real time barcode scanning. This can include options to scan locations, check digits, products, batch codes and serial numbers. With each additional scan check there is, of course, some impact on productivity.

On the packing side a process that provides real time scan verification of orders is essential, especially if this is not done at picking. This means at the least that ordered product will be verified correctly, and using either a mandatory ‘all item’ scan or single scan and count confirmation will ensure numeric accuracy. With these features, and logical physical processes alongside, most of the common errors – wrong product, quantity or destination – can be largely eradicated.