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April 03, 2024

4 Reasons Pick Velocity Beats Storage Density for Your Warehouse

Author Icon Mary Hart, Senior Content Marketing Manager

Worker picking a box off of a shelf in a warehouse

As a warehouse manager, you can feel like you’re in the circus juggling optimization and productivity because customers expect their orders to be fulfilled and delivered with lightning speed. This heightened expectation has put immense pressure on warehouses to streamline their operations and optimize every aspect of the order fulfillment process. 

One area that often receives significant attention is storage density — the ratio of available storage space to total warehouse space or the amount of space used to store each item in your warehouse. While maximizing storage density is undoubtedly important, an overlooked yet equally crucial metric is pick velocity — the speed at which orders are picked and moved through your warehouse. 

As customer expectations for faster delivery times continue to rise, warehouse managers across all industries must prioritize optimizing pick velocity over solely focusing on storage density. There are many reasons to improve pick velocity, including accelerating order fulfillment, creating happier customers, and driving business growth. Let’s take a look at why pick velocity should be a top priority for warehouse managers who want speedy fulfillment without being surrounded by clutter.

The Need for Warehouse Speed

In the age of eCommerce and on-demand services, customers expect their orders to be fulfilled and delivered within days, if not on the same day. This heightened expectation has put immense pressure on warehouses to streamline their operations and optimize every aspect of the order fulfillment process. While having ample storage space is essential, it means little if your orders can’t be picked and processed efficiently.

Improving pick velocity directly impacts your ability to meet customer demand and delivery timelines. By increasing the speed at which orders are picked, you can improve warehouse throughput capacity and reduce order cycle times, ensuring that orders are shipped out promptly and minimizing the risk of late deliveries or stockouts.

So where's the downside? Well, an overemphasis on pace over perfection can lead to errors that tank your efficiency long-term. Think about it: burnt out workers can easily make mistakes, which leads to inaccurate orders going out along with lessened customer trust and profits. And when overly fatigued workers keep quitting, retention rates take a dive while hiring/training costs soar. Saving seconds per pick simply isn't sustainable without the proper precautions. That’s where automation comes in.

It’s Not Just about Storage

Of course you want to maximize the space in your warehouse to use every last square inch and cut the fat out of inventory expenses. If you can double warehouse capacity with some clever reconfiguring (think about the game Tetris and moving the lines just right), you’ll reap the cost savings. But that storage density reconfiguring comes with a price — even tiny footprint expansions require deep pockets for remodeling or offsite overflow storage.

Yes, you can fill your warehouse up to the ceiling with products, but cramming that material too densely and too high makes it tougher for workers to pick items quickly. There are plenty of goods-to-person (G2P) systems that can handle the height, but if there’s a failure in the system, your products are stranded up there and not able to be picked. Finding the right density balance means optimizing product accessibility AND availability, not just inches.

The Benefits of Improved Pick Velocity

The benefits of optimizing pick velocity extend far beyond merely accelerating order fulfillment and getting as many products into your warehouse as possible. When orders are picked and processed more efficiently, it creates a ripple effect that positively impacts various aspects of warehouse operations:

  1. Increased Labor Productivity: By reducing the time and effort required for picking, your warehouse can improve labor productivity and better utilize your workforce. This, in turn, can lead to cost savings and improved profitability.
  2. Reduced Fulfillment Costs: Faster pick rates translate into lower fulfillment costs per order, as you can process more orders with the same resources. This improved cost-efficiency can provide a competitive advantage in a market where margins are often razor-thin.
  3. Enhanced Customer Happiness: Timely and accurate order fulfillment is a key driver of customer satisfaction. By improving pick velocity, warehouses can consistently meet or exceed customer expectations, fostering loyalty and repeat business.
  4. Increased Operational Agility: A warehouse with optimized pick velocity is better equipped to handle fluctuations in demand and adapt to changing market conditions. This agility enables warehouses to respond quickly to shifting customer needs and capitalize on emerging opportunities.

Improve Pick Velocity with Automation

So, what should you do to increase your pick velocity? Warehouse automation in the form of robotics can take your warehouse pick velocity to the next level in terms of order accuracy and employee retention and safety.

Precision + Speed = Order Accuracy

Unlike easily fatigued humans, robots maintain consistent speed and quality while transporting goods across your warehouse. For time-sensitive order fulfillment, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) working alongside humans retrieve and move inventory with unbelievable efficiency. We're talking doubling or even tripling productivity rates.

Safer Conditions + Happier Staff

Physical strain on your workers creates a huge chunk of your warehouse’s growing pains with endless walking and heavy lifting grinding down associates over years and even months. Automating transport tasks to AMRs provides huge ergonomic benefits and a reduction in injuries for your workers along with the opportunity to upskill your employees.

In summary, warehouse AMRs help managers realize the best of both worlds when you’re balancing pick velocity and storage density. Automation eliminates the compromise between fast fulfillment, organized inventory, and safe working conditions with your human workers and robots working as an efficient team for fully optimized operations.

Want to explore revolutionizing your warehouse’s productivity and pick velocity? Let's talk about the Locus Robotics solutions that are tailored to your unique environment!