Picking and Printing on the Go

Posted September 23, 2009

A Midwestern distribution center knew that it was losing valuable time in its picking operations. To fill an order, the forklift driver would receive a printed pick list from the shipping office and then drive through the distribution center to pick up the listed pallets. Once he had completed the picking operation, he would return to the shipping office to pick up the required shipping labels based on the number of cartons on each pallet. There had to be an easier way.

The company now uses bar coding throughout this process to automate the development of the pick list, ensure picking accuracy and prepare items for shipping. Forklift-mounted Zebra® portable printers enable the forklift driver to print on-demand shipping labels— saving the trip back to the shipping office.

Each forklift is now equipped with a small LCD screen that displays the pick list items in an order that optimizes the path to order fulfillment. The screen is updated continuously from the company’s enterprise-wide wireless network. For each item, the driver scans the product and the shelf label, communicating the selection to the network. If it is the correct good, the network automatically sends a confirmation to appear on the LCD screen and sends the shipping label information to the Zebra printer, ensuring that the label is the right match for the picked item.

The introduction of bar coding has cut picking time in half, while reaching nearly 100 percent picking accuracy. The application is so efficient, it even saves mileage on the forklifts, enabling the company to extend the life of its costly vehicles.

Filed under: Case Studies