What is the best warehouse order picking method for your business?
Picking the right warehouse picking method can influence directly your customers and their satisfaction. That’s why companies should take a careful look at their current warehouse picking method and identify ways to streamline the picking process and ultimately, reduce the cost of picking and the cost as this will directly influence the company’s bottom line.
What is a warehouse picking strategy?
It’s the way (or combination of ways) to assemble all the goods in the warehouse that have to be shipped to customers at a given moment.
So, it’s the logistical process used by a company, to be able to assemble the goods that need to be shipped to the customer is the most efficient and accurate way.
What type of warehouse order picking methods are there?
Order picking can be accomplished in one step by picking the products directly into the box or pallet (Pick & Pack in 1 step) which will be shipped.
Or it could be in achieved in a 2 steps process. First by picking the products into a temporary (CART) location and then package the orders to be shipping to the customer.
There are difference order picking methods depending on whether a company is picking for one customer / address at a time (order-based picking) or whether it is picking for more than one.
When dealing with order-based picking, there are still different warehouse picking methods to choose from:
- Guided FIFO (First in first out) picking – which is picking the oldest product first to ensure stock rotation.
- Free Ad-hoc picking – which means there is no stock allocated for the picking process, that is, you can select the available free items
- Zone picking - in case the order needs to be fulfilled by different pickers in different zones.
- Pick to Box – in this case, boxes are taken into the warehouse so products that are picked are placed immediately in their boxes.
- Full pallet picking
When choosing to pick for more than one customer, the picker only run through the warehouse once to gather the goods for all these customers.
The available order picking methods available are:
- Cluster picking
- Batch picking
Selecting a warehouse picking method usually depend on the physical organization of the company, and the size of items a company is dealing with.
For example: if you are a food and beverage manufacturer, you’ll want to use a FEFO picking strategy because, food products can go bad, and they have a predefined shelf life.
What is the impact of choosing the wrong picking method?
The biggest impact is on the time spent to complete these operations. As order picking is a very labor-intensive activity.
If a company is dealing with small orders, and they are picked one by one, the picker will be walking marathons in the warehouse.
Choosing the wrong strategy can also result in more mistakes, which means wrong items are shipped to the wrong customer.
Is order-based picking the most time-consuming picking strategy?
There are different factors that influence the time it takes to pick orders.
That generally depends on the size of the orders, or the size of the goods. Sometime, the complexity of the order (need for cutting of fabric, assembling kit) may influence as well.
For example, if a company receives order for multiple pallets of goods, it does not make sense to cluster or batch pick it.
Is there a recommended order picking method for eCommerce?
Web shop orders are typically very small in nature. When you buy shoes, you won’t buy 7 pairs of them at the same time.
The average Amazon order is for 1.3 pieces. This means it’s crucial to be able to do some sort of grouped picking for a large set of orders.
eCommerce orders can be by Then there are even 2 possibilities cart picking or trolleys picking.
A shopping cart picking which is also called wave picking, is when the picking list are consolidated into one list. Once all the goods are gathered in the cart, they can be split and packaged for each specific order.
The WMS system will then find the smallest order first for this item. To prevent you from starting with a big order and thus having to search for the items in the cart.
The 2nd option is to use a sectional cart (like a rack on wheels) – we call this multi-picking. Each section will then correspond with a customers’ order. So, when we come at a location of a product: we will pick 1 piece for customer A in section 1, and another piece for customer B in section 2. When the picking is complete, every section corresponds to 1 customer order.
In this process we can package into boxes after picking. Or we could have prepared boxes before picking and picked immediately into the box.
Is it any different for wholesale and distribution business?
Wholesalers usually have a more limited number of SKU’s but more stock of these items.
Because of the large amount of stock, they usually need more steered FIFO processes to ensure they do not hold on to specific stock for too long.
Wholesales typically also supply more full pallets, so optimizations between full pallet picks and box/item picks could be relevant.
Distribution customers are typically building the pallets using different products, with a bigger variety of SKU’s and smaller quantities. But even they could benefit from optimizing the operations for larger orders versus smaller orders.
What are all the factors that needs to be taken into consideration when selecting a warehouse picking strategy?
The 2 most important are order size and product size.
Dealing with large orders or large products will most likely work best on an order by order base
However, small orders or small products will fit a wave or multi-picking.
Of course, the order count and the type of shipping methods can also impact the warehouse picking method. For example: grouping in waves per carrier because a certain carrier picks up the goods earlier.
How does picking the right warehouse picking strategy affects the company’s bottom line?
It’s crucial for any company with a lot of picking operations to choose the correct strategy or a combination of strategies.
The main impacts of a good strategy are:
- Ensuring correct orders – less than 0,5 % wrong items shipped should be the goal
- Picking efficiency – do more work with fewer people
- Clear processes mean stable picking KPI – so when you know how long it will take you can make sure to properly plan your carriers and deliver what you promised
The picking processes in the Produmex WMS are designed with our customers and based on best practices.
A lot of our customers were working paper based before implementing a WMS.
The difference between a manual and paper-based order picking and the picking strategies offers by a WMS system is most of the time like night and day.
With Produmex WMS a company can:
- Have Less manual operations in preparation to picking (A pick-list robot can make pick-list and group into waves automatically)
- No need to pre-allocate or assign pick-lists to specific pickers – done in the system manual or automatic
- Very intuitive processes on the WMS handheld ensures very quick & flexible pick operations (for example: always 1 product per bin ? no need to scan the bin)
- No need for manual data entry or manipulation – can be all scanned
- The user cannot make mistakes, wrong items or batches are refused when scanned
- Double item scans can be forced (1 during pick – again during packing)
- Ensure you always have the correct documents to go with the goods (label & delivery document)
- Complete LIVE visibility on the picking operations – dashboard with open lines, priorities carts, …
Here is what some of our customers have to say:
- We have so many fewer mistakes ? fewer returns to manage
- We are so much faster than before ? minimal increase in productivity is 25% - usually a lot more
- I’m so happy we don’t have to make manual changes to the labels & document anymore
- I now have the visibility to call for extra manpower for the next shift or send guys home when I see we are going to be able to ship everything today