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Proper Bin Labeling Will Increase Productivity

© David Pimborough –

By: Maureen Paraventi

Simple though they may be, heavy duty bins play an important role in warehouses and distribution centers. They are durable, waterproof, easy to clean and resistant to chemicals, all of which make them key players in storing, picking and inventory management. However, their usefulness may be limited if they are difficult to locate when they are needed. If employees cannot find what they are looking for, time is wasted, errors are made and orders aren’t shipped on time. Labeling bins properly can enhance productivity and should be considered an essential part of supply chain efficiency. It enhances warehouse management by combining the simple (i.e., plastic bins) with the complex (IT technologies). Failure to pay attention to labeling best practices means that pickers will be hindered in their ability to do their jobs effectively – and customer loyalty will be strained by delayed deliveries.

First, make sure you are using the types of bins appropriate for the items that must be stored or the fulfilment process being used. Stackable and nestable bins are good space-savers, because they can be nested when empty. They can sit on shelves or hang on rails, panels or carts. Shelf bins are placed on – you guessed it – shelving. Straight-wall containers hold a great deal of material, and can be stacked and palletized. Want bin contents to be visible or hidden? There are clear bins or bins with detached lids and lids that are permanently attached. Do you need to store more than one type of product? Choose a bin that can hold dividers. Bins with open hopper fronts make picking fast and easy.

Having the right kinds of bins for the products, hardware, fasteners, parts, microchips, bulk items or whatever else is being stored is only part of the equation. Labeling those bins will ensure that the items are accessible. It is also important to have the right types of labels. For instance, the ever-increasing need to maximize space means that shelving is going skyward. If there are stock locations in your warehouse that are hard to reach, long-range labels may be the solution. They can be scanned from up to 45 feet away. There are also removable labels, which give you the flexibility to make changes as bin contents change. Retro-reflective labels with microscopic glass beads take barcode scanning to the next level and make it faster and more accurate.

Labeling Basics

  • It may seem common sense, but it’s worth noting: make sure the bin is clean, because labels won’t stick to bins that are covered in dust.
  • Use high-quality labels that are made of durable materials and use strong adhesives. A label is no good if it is has fallen off a bin and is sitting on the floor.
  • Don’t just order one label per bin if you want to be able to capture data from various angles. Whether you are ordering labels or printing them on site, have enough duplicates for as many sides of the bin as you need labeled.
  • Use labels that are durable enough to withstand the environment in which they’ll be used and still be readable. Laminated labels are a good choice for bins that are exposed to extreme conditions.
  • Label designs should be simple, large enough to hold the necessary information and easy to read. Crowding symbols and codes into a too-small label will not facilitate scanning.
  • Labels should include both a barcode image, which enables employees using barcode scanners to locate inventory quickly. Handheld scanners are useful especially spacious buildings, because of their portability.
  • Labels should also feature letters and numbers that can be read by people. Color coding can provide a quick way to identify contents, as long as it is used consistently throughout a facility. Consistency should also apply to where labels are located on bins. Having labels all in the same place, such as the upper right corner of a bin, will help employees locate them faster.
  • License Plate Number (LPN) labels with unique reference numbers are a good choice when a lot of information is required on labels, such as order status, shipping destination and hazard alerts related to the bin’s contents. A high-quality scanner must be used to read it, but the label data will be captured quickly, no matter how extensive it is.

Whether the bins in your facility are used on shelving racks or pallet racks, for storage or shipping – or both – labeling them correctly will help increase and maintain productivity. WMHS

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