Pack station design for eCommerce
As supply chain managers streamline the entire order flow, pack station design becomes a critical component of enabling quality, accuracy and speed. A poor configuration is likely to be a process bottleneck that disrupts the outbound flow can lead to packing errors and ultimately late deliveries.
A pack station that is ergonomically efficient will provide a working envelope that enables the operator to comfortably access items (the reach zone) and supports a flow that ensures that the correct products are packed in an efficient manner.
Some guidelines include:
- Support equipment, material and dispensers should be reachable to operators, regardless of their stature
- Consider the inbound presentation of goods to the operator, validation and pack steps, and outbound flow to avoid the need to twist, turn, and bend to move products and supplies
- Rollers integrated into a worktop make it easier to handle and rotate goods and lifting equipment may be advisable for heavier products
- Avoid clutter within the working envelope by mounting computers, scanners, printers and equipment above or below the work surface
- Packaging materials of appropriate sizes and fill product should all be within easy reach (above or below) and can be replenished frequently throughout the day
- Validation steps – scans, weight checks, and photo capture can all be designed within the station, and warnings to operators should be highly visual, clear and unambiguous
- As in all flows consider the process in line with the layout to minimise the number of keystrokes or scans and where possible print labels and documentation in line to avoid the need for a separate matching process
- Orders should not be mixed on the work surface and a clear space should be defined for non-conforming orders to remove them from the flow
- Consider separate stations for highly complex orders and where possible group similar order types together (e.g. single line orders) for greater efficiency
- Carts and conveyors can reduce handling if operators must travel with the packed goods to the despatch area
- Back and leg strain can be eased by providing padded floor mats
As the business evolves, so too will the needs of the pack stations and those that use them. Remember that the best ideas can come from those that are closest to the process. Provide operators with an opportunity to provide inputs and pay close attention to the shortcuts that they try to take as these may be indications of failure in the initial design.