Macgregor Partners

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Common Mistakes with Count Back in a Warehouse Environment

Several issues can arise in a multitude of different areas in a warehouse environment. A common area for mistakes involves something as simple as counting. Making these errors can cause a lot of problems in the system. User error accounts for a large portion of mistakes in a warehouse. A big area where these common mistakes happen is in count back.

A count back count is a count task that requires the picking operator to capture the remaining quantity in the pick location after a completed pick. The system will display the UOM (unit of measure) levels that are configured in the system and the user can count based on any of these levels. Most common UOM levels are Pallet, Layer, Case, Each.

The best practice for these types of count backs is for the user to count the highest level remaining first. For example, a full pallet is 80 cases but the remaining quantity is 79 or less, the user will be required to enter through the pallet UOM and move on to the layer UOM. The layer is a set number of cases that are stacked on top of each other to create the full pallet.  Next, the user will count how many full layers are remaining until a partial layer is identified. At this point the user will count the remaining cases until no additional cases remain to be counted. If there are loose products (eaches) left in the location that does not fill a full case UOM, then the user will need to count that product in the each field, if available.

At this time, the user will be able to complete the count. If successful, the system will allow the user to continue picking to another location or complete the pick list if this is the last location. The user will have two total chances to count back the location correctly. The user also has two chances at this point to make a mistake.  If the users’ first count is incorrect, they will be immediately prompted to recount the location. If this is still incorrect the user will be “locked” out by the system. They will have to wait for another user with the permissions to do an audit count. The user is unable to do any additional system work at this time until the count has been cleared.

One of the most common mistakes seen when performing count backs is the user counts only on one UOM level. For example, the user would count 1 PA when in fact the location should be counted as 5 layers 6 cases for a total of 60 cases. Or counting the location in its entirety for each counting level, for example, 1 pallet + 5 layers + 6 cases for a total of 132. The counting errors are easy to make when not identifying the proper layers and cases that go into making the full pallet.

Another common mistake seen is the operator counts the location back correctly but enters through and continues to count the location in sequence without completing (F6) the count. When they finally realize this issue or have asked for assistance, they have told the location that there is three times the amount of product in the location than there is, physically causing the user to have to recount the location a second time or creating an Audit count. These simple mistakes often compound on each other and cause for delays, multiple people on the task, and audits that can be avoided.

The most common mistake seen with a count back audit process is the auditor counts the remaining product in the location only. When in fact they are supposed to be counting what the picker has on their pallet plus what is left in the pick location. When they fail to do this, the system will adjust the missing amount of product out of the location and then confirm the pick from the user. This now creates another discrepancy in the location for the amount that was picked, which will result in not only lost inventory but will also create additional users being “locked out” during picking. The errors cause a larger dip in production output.

Counting cases, layers, and pallets sounds simple enough. Addition and subtraction. When there are errors, it has a wide-ranging and detrimental effect on the productivity of not only the picker, but also the other people that have the access permissions who have to stop what they’re doing to come fix the issue. The counting errors can be drastically reduced if the person double-checks their math beforehand and makes sure what they have is correct. With a reduction in these errors, the warehouse will run more efficiently and most importantly, accurately.