Returns are costly, in more ways than one. Reverse logistics are time consuming and can get complicated. They require full-time employees who are able to focus on processing. The longer they take to process, the more likely it is that the customer who is waiting for a replacement or a refund gets upset and decides to never shop with that retailer again.
In some cases, items can be mis-picked to the point of not being available. This has a negative impact not just on customers that have already received the item and have to return it, but also those who are actually interested in it. In addition, the warehouse has to put in an order for additional items to make sure they have them in stock for future orders. Mis-picking throws the entire system off. While you can’t completely eliminate returns, there are ways to reduce them, and one of those ways is by improving item accuracy.
Item accuracy all starts on the front end, when a shipment comes to the warehouse. During receiving, spending time on the front end can ensure accuracy down the line. Instead of items sitting around and waiting to be put into their places, all items that come in through receiving should be processed immediately and stocked into a place that allows them to be picked. This ensures that when an order for an item comes in, it’s in a place that allows it to be accurately picked, instead of laying up against a wall somewhere else in the warehouse.
Computers exist to make things easier on us. RF scanners, complete with individual bar codes for each item in the warehouse, keep a running tally on stock numbers, cycle counts and the locations of specific items. If items are accurately scanned into the system on receipt, they should be easily found using an RF scanner. If nothing else, the scanner can tell the picker exactly where the item can be found. If the wrong item ends up in that location, a confirmation scan of the picked item will flag the picker of the error.
Making sure that the right items get to the right customers relies mostly on an attentive packer, but software exists to help this, as well as RF scanners. Scanners track packages as they’re boxed, labeled, and sent out the door for shipping. As long as the pickers did their jobs, the packer simply needs to make sure the numbers align, and the correct items can be on their way out the door. Once a package is with a carrier, tracking packages will help to ensure that the box gets where it belongs.