Order selecting is a fast paced job in the warehouse. This is why it is important to learn how to order select faster. This position requires you to constantly be on the move and using your time wisely.
Order selecting is sometimes called order picking, I’m sure you know the duties of the position but if you don’t then let me break it down real quick.
What Does An Order Selector Do?
A warehouse holds inventory for stores. For example, a store like Toys R Us (Currently out of business) has a main store where customers go shopping. They also have a warehouse where they hold all of the products that are not in the store.
When they need more products shipped to the store they will put in orders to the warehouse. These orders are lists of what they need to be shipped to the store. Once the lists get to the warehouse the order selectors go and pull the products from designated locations in the warehouse.
This is the main purpose of an order selector. They use equipment like an electric pallet jack to get around and pull orders faster. They jump on an off the pallet jack and stack inventory on to a pallet that is attached to the back of the pallet jack.
This process is supposed to be done in a specific amount of time and it varies depending on the requirements of the warehouse. The orders can come in different sizes from a few products to pull to around 400 orders to pull.
The time to pull all the orders depends on the size of the list. At my warehouse job I used to pull 300 orders in an hour in a half to two hours.
How To Order Select Faster
Picking faster can be the reason you keep your order selecting job or lose it. Usually warehouses give you a probation period where you learn how to pick according the warehouse regulations.
During the probation period you will be watched according to your picking speed and accuracy. At the first they will watch for your accuracy so that you don’t pick the wrong items.
After a while the supervisors will want you to up your picking speed. This is what can make or break you. Usually when they watch for your accuracy they won’t care too much about your speed. When they start to see you are picking the orders correctly, they will hold you to a higher standard.
I was in pain a lot when I was working in my last warehouse job due to back problems. If this is something that is keeping you from picking faster you should do like I did and get a back brace, it really helps and that’s the truth.
Here are some ways that you can pick orders faster:
Don’t hold the items too long – after you pick an item from its location quickly put it on the pallet, don’t take too long second guessing where to put it or if it is the right product. Only do this if you are comfortable at picking with good accuracy, if your accuracy is not up to par then focus on getting better first to avoid miss picks.
Stay out of the middle isle – when you park your electric pallet jack in the middle of the isle while picking you may block other pickers from getting past you.
Even though parking in the middle and not pulling to the side of the isle seems like a faster way to pick from the left and right side of the isle, it may slow you up if you are in a busy warehouse with lots of other order selectors that need to get past you. You’ll constantly have to let people past who need to get through.
Stack items quicker on the pallet – don’t waste time trying to get the right items in the right place when building your pallet. Practice fitting items in place so that you can put it on the pallet and go.
If you take long trying to figure out where to put the item at you can waste a lot of time over the whole course of the day. Doing this often will add up to lots of time wasted where you could have been finishing orders faster.
Drive a faster electric pallet jack – when you are order selecting you most likely will have to ride an electric pallet jack. If you don’t know what a pallet jack is then you can read up on it here.
There are pallet jacks that go faster than others, if you have access to a faster pallet jack then you could finish up orders faster than you would riding a slower one.
Treat your job like a work out – think of your order selecting job as a free gym membership. You will be constantly moving and rarely getting the chance to sit down and rest.
This can get you in shape if you are out of shape. Every day lifting items and moving fast can knock off some weight and trim certain areas up. This can be your motivation to work faster if being in shape is what you want.
Don’t stand around talking – sometimes it can be tempting to join in on a conversation with co-workers talking about the football game or what’s going on the upcoming weekend but while you are on the clock getting timed to finish an order this can take up valuable time.
Some other people may be ahead of schedule so they have time to talk, or they may not care as much, if you want to order select faster than you should avoid the small talk and stay working.
Prepare your pallet jack before you start – while order selecting you may need things like bags to throw away your garbage. Some warehouses give you your order in a stack of slips that peel off to stick onto the item, this is for sorting and to label the item as you go.
These slips peel off leaving a paper to throw away. I usually tie bags on each side of the pallet jack as it can be a lot of slips to throw away and being prepared before you start will save you a trip to get bags.
Build your pallet right the first time – overtime you will start to get better at building pallets. Each order that you complete will have many different items on the pallet. It can be difficult sometimes to get all the items to fit properly.
This takes practice so don’t get discouraged, just focus on building the pallet right so that you don’t have to restack the pallet. I’ve seen pallets tip over and fall everywhere, if this happens then your time is drastically wasted.
Pace yourself – you may think that moving very quickly will get you to pick an order faster; it can, but what about the rest of the day? You may burn yourself out too early in the shift and be moving sluggish later.
Instead of blasting through your order learn to keep a steady pace that allows you to finish every order at an acceptable time.
It’s better to finish every order on time than to finish have of your orders early then the other half behind. Keeping a steady pace will save you energy and keep you from making too many errors.
Get to know your warehouse – knowing your warehouse helps your production a lot. When you get new orders you know exactly where the items are located so it’s easier to pick faster.
I’ve seen new workers waste a lot of time going all the way to one side of the warehouse to pick an order only to find out the location really was all the way on the other side of the warehouse.
Riding around on your electric pallet jack from one side to the other can take up lots of time depending on how big the warehouse is where you work. Know your warehouse locations and this can save you a lot of time when picking.
Warehouse Picking Time Standards
Each warehouse is different but they all have one thing in common, they have time standards on how long it takes to pick each order. If you have a small order, they have a time for that, if you have a large order, they have a time for that.
Here are a few ways that the time standards are determined for your warehouse. It can vary but for the most part these are the main ways that orders are timed.
These days most warehouses if not all are using computer programming to determine what orders are needed and how long they are needed to be picked by.
A lot of this is estimates based on key factors that the computer calculates. The calculations present a time estimate that you should complete the order and this is what you are judged by when it comes to picking orders on time.
The warehouse is a big factor in how long it takes to finish an order. If you are in a large warehouse then you can expect to have more time to finish the order than if you were in a smaller warehouse.
The reason for this is because in a larger warehouse you may be required to pick items in different sections of the warehouse that takes a while to travel to.
For example when I was order selecting I had to pick orders in the refrigerated area as well as the furniture area that was located on the opposite side of the large warehouse.
It would be the equivalent of traveling around a few blocks. This is a factor that is considered when determining time standards.
Speed of equipment
The speed of the equipment is another factor when determining a time standard for order selecting. This is mainly because the faster your pallet jack or whatever else type equipment you are order selecting from then the faster you can travel to destinations.
I’ve been in a warehouse where the “new guy” gets the slower pallet jack then after you’ve been there for at least a week to a month you can upgrade to a faster one. I’ve been the new guy and the jack that I used was real slow.
It made a difference when I finally upgraded to a faster jack. I was able to travel to locations faster which put me ahead of those who traveled slower.
Size of items
The size is a big factor when determining the speed of picking an order. If you have an order that has lots of heavy items then it will be reasonable to take longer than when picking an order full of super light items.
The heavy items at my old warehouse job weighed up to 90lbs. maybe more. It took time getting it off the rack and putting it on the pallet.
Sometimes I would get 1 item to pick in an order and it would be a very heavy item. I would get about 12 minutes to pick one item. If that were a small light item it would have been maybe 6 minutes.
Why Do Warehouses Have Picking Standards?
There has to be some type of order when it comes to getting work done on time. There are a few reasons why orders have to be timed in a warehouse. Productivity is much needed so that the orders get shipped on time to the stores.
The process of the stores getting their products all start with the order selector. The order selector picks the products the products are staged at the dock to be ready to load into the truck trailers. After the items are loaded then they are shipped to the store.
Here is a small break down of why warehouses have picking standards:
To get items shipped in time
If the orders took long to get picked then the stores may not get the products that they ordered on time.
This can cause lots of time and money when you consider every factor that involves the process. This is why warehouse shot callers are very strict about picking accuracy and speed.
To evaluate the performance of order selectors
The big dogs of the warehouse need to know that they have reliable workers who will be consistent with picking orders with accuracy and speed. This is why they are very strict about the time in which you pick.
They will give you a month or two to get used to the job requirements then they will release the training wheels and start to hold you to a higher standard.
This is the reason so many people either get laid off or quit, it becomes tough to survive and it can be challenging.
To determine pay rate for incentives
Incentives are chances to make more money in the warehouse. When your warehouse offers the chance to earn incentives this means that if you pick at a certain speed then you can raise your pay rate.
Usually an incentive is added when the average time of each order you do is well above the required level, this is usually over the period of a week or two, depending on if you get paid weekly or biweekly.
Incentives create a new motivation for order selectors to pick faster in order to boost their pay rate. This is a way that the big dogs of the warehouse reward quick productivity.
Learn more about back braces here.