Making your last mile a profitable operation requires a set of automation processes and best practices that will improve your order fulfillment and also add to your bottom line.

The past two years have meant quick pivots for retailers everywhere, and while implementing or adopting quick solutions might have helped to adapt to the disruption, adopting long-term and robust solutions is now in the heads of retail executives.

Here are our recommendations to optimize your picking operation to make your last mile a profitable one!

You’re Not Alone

Chances are, you’ve been wrestling with the idea (or proof!) that your delivery process isn’t efficient enough. Well, you’re not alone. A number of grocery chain retailers moved into quick-commerce deliveries simply because their competition did so too. In fact, more than 10 companies, half of which were established in 2020, currently compete across Europe with this business delivery model. In the US, that number seems to get higher by the day.

For many retailers, the result of quick-commerce has been, well, chaotic. A study showed that 86% of retailers have suffered downturns in customer satisfaction year over year, one of the main reasons being due to late deliveries through their online platforms.

While navigating through this new landscape of e-commerce and consumer expectations, you should know that most players in the market are also trying to ‘figure it out.’

The Loyalty Era Has Come To an End

At a time when consumers have plenty of options to choose from, loyalty isn’t a given—it must be earned. According to a study, 69% of customers are less likely to shop with a retailer again if their orders weren’t delivered on time. 

Why do late deliveries happen in the first place? Well, there are multiple reasons that can contribute to this end result. At the very least, if a retailer has no way of measuring picking times, deliveries simply won’t happen within the stipulated delivery time. 

Technology and resources are among the top reasons why some retailers have adapted quickly while others have struggled. When COVID-19 happened, supermarkets were forced to close, and the ‘Amazon’s’ of the world took immediate action due to their infrastructure, deep pockets and other tech-related activities. On the other hand, companies that were less tech-savvy at the time struggled to adjust. And there were significant processes to alter, especially with the rapid arrival of dark stores. 

Some of these processes included: 

  • Assembly of picking team
  • Assembly of courier fleet
  • Order alerts
  • Order assignment
  • Stock registration

And so on…

With such a sudden implementation of new processes and/or technology, many hiccups occurred. Stories of pickers running around like headless chickens trying to keep up with picking (and delivery) times abounded. Yet, savvy business owners know that without solid processes in place, these challenges will remain.  

A Lackluster Ad Hoc Solution Isn’t Going To Cut It

Business owners are becoming more aware of the danger of a ‘shoestring’ picking operation. Pen and paper are slowly disappearing from the workplace. Companies like H-E-B and Walmart are implementing solutions that lead their workforce towards on-time deliveries.

Multi-picking features, in particular, have proven to be vital for an effective picking operation. According to Covey, 98.1% of online shoppers say that delivery impacts their brand loyalty.

Bottom line: If you don’t have data around your picking team or deliveries, you’re likely setting your business up for failure.

5 Tips to Optimize Your Picking Process

  1. Get Auto Order Assignment in Place

Assigning orders to the most optimal picker decreases the duration of the picking and packaging process. It also provides accountability for each order, enabling efficiency.

  1. Install Barcode Scanning

Barcode scanning completely automates the data entry process and significantly reduces the risks associated with manual errors. In other words, accuracy will increase tremendously since the system will tell you exactly when a not-ordered-product was picked. Consequently, your ‘delivered in full’ order metric will improve.

  1. Implement Picking Routes

Picking Routes keep your pickers from running around like headless chickens, since they don’t have to memorize where a certain product lies in the store. Instead, the app tells them which product to pick, how to get there, what’s next (based on proximity), and so on. In short: stop thinking, start packing!

When implementing picking routes, some of the parameters that are taken into account are:

  • Zones
  • Location heights
  • The sorting code that is used to indicate the best route through inventory

It might also be able to take along products from other orders so pickers can go through the store once and fulfill several orders, however that depends on the sophistication of the software you might want to get your hands on.

  1. Consider Zone Picking

Single-tasking makes operations more effective, which is why having dedicated pickers per zone can significantly decrease time picking. By going with zone picking you will:

  • Decrease store congestion with workers operating in specific zones
  • Helps with social distancing 
  • Minimizes the time an order stays in the warehouse
  1. Don’t Just Trust the Process, Appoint a Quality Assurer

Having a platform that orchestrates the entire fulfillment & delivery operation saves you possible delays, order cancellations, inefficient picking and packing process, and behind-schedule deliveries. 

An operation dashboard enables organizations to fully understand, prioritize and resolve critical issues in real time.

Choosing the right picking method—or a mix of picking methods—plus deploying warehouse automation technology is the perfect strategy to ensure a smooth and seamless pick-and-packing process.

Looking for a robust end-to-end solution to your picking, logistics and delivery operations? We’d love to help! Book a demo today to learn more.