When a logistics and fulfillment provider, like Barrett Distribution, engages with a company, continuous improvement of order accuracy is a key component to the partnership’s success. Order accuracy is the one tangible, logistical element that ties a company to its customer. As soon as an order is placed, a bond and trust are formed. In the world of order fulfillment, order accuracy is one of the primary reasons businesses outsource to companies like Barrett Distribution. If there is anyone who has a direct impact on this critical link in the supply chain it’s the Senior Operations Manager at Barrett Distribution, Chuck Collins. We recently asked Chuck a few questions related to the topic, and he was kind enough to offer great insight into the focus that companies like Barrett Distribution lend towards order accuracy.
Q: Tell us about the facility that you manage at Barrett Distribution.
A: I am the Senior Operations Manager at the Southborough, Massachusetts location for Barrett Distribution. It is a dedicated facility that spans about 350,000 square feet. The facility services the distribution needs of a privately held food manufacturing company located in Massachusetts.
Q: With Barrett Distribution, How important is order accuracy?
A: It starts at the top with Barrett Distribution. At every facility throughout the company, Barrett sets benchmark quality objectives. Order accuracy is one of the quality objectives we focus upon, so we are always monitoring this metric.
Q: Because you are dealing with a specific brand at the dedicated facility, is it less or more difficult to achieve the order accuracy objective set forth by the Barrett Distribution?
A: In short, it is both. It is more difficult to achieve, because there is a tremendous amount of case picking involved at this facility. While there is less volume here, each line item heading out the door could have up to 170-180 line items and each line item may consist of 1-2 cases. When there is this much unit picking and human interaction taking place, there is a larger potential for error. This makes it tougher to reach the quality objectives set forth for our location. However, since most of the volume is case picking, at this facility, we do not have the data and order entry challenges that some of our other locations have. So, this makes the order accuracy element a little easier, as we know exactly where our challenges are, and do not have to worry about the data entry elements.
Q: When it comes to order accuracy, what is the most important element to achieve acceptable results?
A: The two most important elements in order accuracy are people and technology. At this particular location, finding the right people is definitely the most important ingredient to order accuracy. We are always looking for people who are detailed-oriented, as their responsibilities require them to pay attention to the information within the order, line-by-line. At Barrett Distribution, we perform an audit of every order that goes out the door. Any inaccurate orders are tracked, recorded, and analyzed for the purposes of root cause analysis and process improvement. We focus on training and ensure that all team members are partnered together to help one another improve our order accuracy.
Q: What other measures do you take at your facility to ensure orders are accurate?
A: We spent a lot of time with our operations team and engineering group to layout the facility to ensure and improve order accuracy. We have a process of “Picking in Sequence," where the distribution pick line “snakes” through the warehouse in an orderly fashion and with a purpose based on the order profile and velocity of the items in an order. The team members have a process of scanning the location, scanning the pallet code, product UPC and picking the quantity prompted on the RF gun. Our investments in warehouse management technology has really helped our labor efficiency and order accuracy over the years.
Q. How do you prevent picking errors from occurring?
A. We have many internal measures & controls that will help prevent inaccurate orders from leaving the facility. We are not perfect, and know that errors do happen. On the rare occasion, when an order is inaccurately shipped, we analyze what happened and how it happened, so we can prevent it from taking place in the future.
Q. Is there additional pressures on the industry today as it relates to order accuracy?
A. Order accuracy has always been an important challenge and objective to address in the industry. The recent increase in consumer demand and expectations with services like “same-day delivery” has tightened the time window, while increased the volume. This has certainly placed more pressure on everyone in our industry.
Q. What separates Barrett Distribution from other 3PL options out there?
A. I have been with Barrett Distribution for the past seventeen years. Barrett has always been focused on our customers and continuous improvement. This initiative starts from the top down. I work in a place where quality & performance objectives are shared with everyone in a transparent fashion, so that every team member is on the same page and knows what is expected of them. The objectives & results are reported by individual, and this helps everyone focus on the customer’s needs and continually strive for improvement in our service. With everything that has changed in our industry, Barrett Distribution has continued to focus on their people. Technology is very important to the logistics industry, but Barrett Distribution has proven that there is nothing more important than their people.
About Chuck Collins:
Chuck Collins has been with Barrett Distribution for 17 years. He is the Operations Manager for the Southborough, MA facility.