Like any job, there’s a learning curve to being a good order picker. The job can be hard for new entrants for a variety of reasons, but it doesn’t have to be.
I’m going to list a few reasons why this might be so from my own experience.
I’m also going to list a few ways to make it easier for you as a newcomer.
Hopefully, this will help you make an informed decision before taking on that order picking job.
Reasons Why Order Picking Can Be Hard
Challenge Making Your Numbers
Virtually all warehouses have quotas that they expect pickers to meet during their shift or as a weekly average.
These quotas are usually in terms of the number of items you are expected to pick per hour.
As a new order picker, making your numbers can be hard at first. It is possible to push yourself to the limit but still come up short.
This happens all the time to almost all inexperienced pickers. There are many reasons for this.
Taking too long to put items on a pallet, parking your order picker far away from the slot you’re picking from, problem with voice terminal and picking items in singles instead of multiples are some that come to mind.
Not Knowing the Layout of the Warehouse
Warehouses and distribution centers are enormous places. Some are as big as fourteen football fields.
For this reason, it becomes very easy to get lost for newer people. Voice picking systems make it easy by telling you which aisles and slots you should be in while doing your assignments.
However, this doesn’t help if you don’t know where to find a particular aisle, for example.
The time you spend finding directions after you’re lost eats into your allotted time for a given assignment and in turn lowering your performance numbers.
Having Trouble With Your Voice Picking Device
The voice picking system has to “know” your voice in order to understand you. When you first train it, some of the words may not have come out clearly. So you find yourself having to repeat the same words in order for it to understand.
This happens even to people who have worked with the system for a while and have retrained it several times. It just isn’t perfect and may get quite frustrating when using it.
Most warehouse jobs are repetitive in nature and order picking is no different. You do the same thing day in day out.
This becomes very apparent the longer you stay at your job. You pick items from slots, put them in pallets, wrap them and take them to a staging area or a trailer.
It’s easy to start feeling like a cog in the machine and burn out.
Trouble Operating Order Picker/Cherry Picker
Order pickers require complete attention from the operator to use effectively.
You need to be aware of your surroundings at all times so that you don’t hit people, machinery or building structures in the warehouse.
Many new workers with acrophobia might easily lose control when they work while elevated too high.
It is important to take it easy in the beginning and get used to your equipment. Proper training also helps.
Navigating through corners can also be a difficult endeavor for novice pickers.
Some of the order pickers may also be faulty making them a hassle to operate. For example, old order pickers rock from side to side when driving them which can lead to accidents.
Trouble Dealing With Your Peers
Order picking is a social job. You’ve got to be courteous to fellow selectors, reach truck operators and cleaning crew e.g. making way for them to pass.
If you have trouble building rapport with your colleagues, then you may experience problems fitting in and doing your job successfully.
Problem Lifting Heavy Loads
Some of the items you will be lifting will be quite heavy. In fact, in some warehouses, you need an assistant to help you lift some of the items.
You will need to be strong and learn proper lifting techniques to last long in this line of work.
Difficult Work Environment
During the summer months, the warm areas of the warehouse can get uncomfortably hot. On the other hand, the colder areas such as the freezer can get very cold during the winter.
This can be a rough experience for some people even with the right kind of clothing. Also consider that this is the environment you will be working in for at least five days a week.
High Employee Turnover
The warehouse picker job is a revolving door of people joining and quitting/getting terminated every day. It can be very difficult to form work relationships and can consequently be very demoralizing.
When you see your friends quitting every day, you may also be tempted to do the same.
Challenge With the Shift/Work Hours
Are you comfortable working the night shift lifting heavy loads and driving very heavy machinery? Will your family be happy with your work hours?
These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself before starting your order picking job.
In some warehouses, you might find that the only open positions for order picker is in the night shift. There’s usually not much demand for this shift, and for good reason – it messes up your circadian rhythm.
How to Make Being an Order Picker Easier
Give yourself time to grow. You won’t start out being an expert; almost no one ever does.
It will take a few months for you to do the job at an acceptable standard. This is why most warehouses give out a probationary period of three or more months.
They know the challenges that new guys face and are willing to give you time to develop.
Listen and Observe
In the first few days, you’ll have trainers to show you the ropes. These are usually very experienced guys and if you follow the advice they give you, you’ll be ahead of the pack.
A lot of people don’t listen and want to do things they’re own way only to learn from their mistakes.
In the beginning, also try and observe what experienced guys are doing in terms of stacking product, driving order pickers, etc and try to imitate that, but only if it makes sense.
Change Your Mindset
A lot has been said about the growth mindset but it very much applies here. You need to believe that you’ll get better with time, which is true.
Don’t let your ego get the better of you every time you mess up. It isn’t the end of the world. Everyone makes mistakes and as long as you’re working on getting better, you’ll be fine.
You Have to Want It
You need to really want this job to show up every day. This is because it is going to challenge you in all kinds of ways including the ones I’ve listed above.
Falling pallets, joint pains and malfunctioning equipment are some of the things you will have to contend with.
You will need the grit and determination to rise above this and go to work every day.