Order cycle time is a critical metric in any warehouse or distribution center. Order cycle is the it takes to receive and fulfill a customer order. It encompasses all the steps involved from when the order is placed to when the products are delivered to the customer. The length of time it takes to complete this entire process is the order cycle.
Shortening the order cycle results in increased customer satisfaction and loyalty and is often a key goal for warehouse and distribution center managers. The length of the order cycle can depend on several factors, including the availability of inventory, the efficiency of the warehouse processes, and the shipping method chosen by the customer.
There are several factors that can impact the order cycle time and cause it to vary.
• Process efficiency: The overall effectiveness of your production or order fulfillment processes.
• Inventory management: The accuracy of inventory tracking and demand forecasting.
• Warehouse layout: The organization of your warehouse and the ease of product accessibility.
• Automation: The degree to which tasks are automated, reducing human error and labor costs.
• Equipment reliability: The performance and maintenance of your equipment.
• Communication and collaboration: The level of coordination between departments and team members.
• Workload: The volume of orders or tasks being handled simultaneously.
5 Ways To Improve Order Cycle Times
We’ve summarized how you can optimize your order fulfillment operations with five essential steps to improving your order cycle times. For a deeper dive into the order fulfillment process read our Ultimate Guide to Order Fulfillment.
1. Automate Your Order Entry Process
Manual order entry is time-consuming and error-prone, leading to delays in the order cycle. By automating your order entry process with software, you can eliminate errors and reduce the time it takes to process a customer order. Automation streamlines the order cycle and enables your team to focus on other tasks, further improving efficiency.
2. Enhance Inventory Visibility and Control
Well-organized inventory is essential for a faster order cycle time. Utilize a centralized inventory management system that offers real-time inventory updates and data access. With accurate, up-to-date inventory data, you can minimize stockouts, overstocks, and other issues that can cause delays in your order fulfillment cycle time.
3. Streamline Your Warehouse Layout
The efficiency of your warehouse layout directly affects your order life cycle. Ensure your warehouse is designed to minimize travel time for pickers and facilitate the movement of goods. This may include implementing a zone picking system, utilizing vertical space with automated storage and retrieval systems, or organizing (slotting) items according to demand to reduce order cycle time.
4. Integrate Order Fulfillment Technologies
Leverage advanced order fulfillment technologies such as pick-to-light, voice-directed picking, automated storage and retrieval systems and autonomous mobile robots to increase picking accuracy and speed. These technologies reduce human error and labor costs while improving your order fulfillment cycle time.
5. Monitor and Optimize Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Regularly monitoring and benchmarking KPIs related to order cycle time such as order accuracy, picking speeds and SKU velocity can help you identify areas of improvement to further speed order cycle times. Set targets for each KPI and use data-driven insights to make strategic adjustments to your processes. This continuous improvement mindset will ensure your order cycle stays streamlined and efficient.
Improving your order cycle time is crucial for customer satisfaction and business growth. By following these five key steps, you'll optimize your order life cycle and drive operational excellence.
For a deeper dive into the order fulfillment process read our Ultimate Guide to Order Fulfillment.
Enhance Order Fulfillment with ASRS to Speed Order Cycle Times
Many warehouse and distribution centers find the most time consuming portion of the order fulfillment process is physically filling the orders, or picking the parts. Leveraging goods-to-person warehouse automation within the order fulfillment process can significantly improve cycle time through the following ways:
• Enhanced space utilization: ASRS systems maximize vertical space usage, resulting in a more efficient use or valuable warehouse space.
• Faster retrieval times: ASRS can quickly locate and retrieve items and deliver them directly to the worker, reducing the time spent searching for products.
• Reduced labor costs: ASRS can automate repetitive tasks such as label printing, allowing workers to focus on more critical tasks.
• Improved inventory accuracy: ASRS systems can provide real-time inventory data, minimizing stock discrepancies and improving inventory accuracy and forecasting.
• Increased safety: ASRS reduces the need for manual handling, lowering the risk of accidents and product damage.