SELECTING THE RIGHT PICKING METHOD CAN TRANSFORM YOUR WAREHOUSE
Order picking is the process of finding and extracting products from a warehouse to fulfill customer orders. Compared to other stages like shipping, storage, and receiving, order picking forms as much as 55% of operating costs in a fulfillment and distribution centre. Selecting the picking method that best suits your operation can significantly affect productivity, order turnaround windows and accuracy.
Picking is the part of the fulfillment process that can directly either enhance or jeopardise customer satisfaction, so you should regularly review the efficiency of the methods you’re currently using, noting their strengths and weaknesses.
Here are some of the key performance indicators you can use when analysing the efficiency of your current picking method:
- Productivity – this is measured by the pick rate. Note that the actual amount of time it takes to remove a product from its stored location is constant regardless of the picking method used. Thus, productivity gains are measured by calculating reduced travel time.
- Cycle time – the amount of time it takes to get an order from receipt to shipping.
- Accuracy – inventory and order accuracy are critical for running a smooth operation and achieving customer satisfaction. Missing, damaged or misplaced inventory represents a tangible profit loss, and so does returned orders. There are different types of picking methods. Choosing the best method will depend on the characteristics of the product being handled, complexity and size of the operation, order volume and size.
Every company has unique requirements, and one order picking solution may suit one business and not another. Often, a combination of picking methods is required to handle varied product and order characteristics.
So, is it time for your business to review and/or streamline its picking method? We have enlisted the main picking methods below. Have a read and share with us which method your DC currently uses and how you feel the method could be improved.
Single / Discrete Order Picking
Single or discrete order picking is the simplest and most common type of picking. A picker is assigned one order and then goes through the warehouse to gather each item from the list, one line at a time. Although simple, this method can be slow and inefficient as workers walk around the whole warehouse to fulfill only one order.
Like single picking, wave picking involves one worker picking one order, one SKU at a time. The main difference is wave picking relies on a scheduling window, in other words, order picking is scheduled at specific and optimal times of the day. Conversely, discrete picking happens on an ‘as needed’ basis.
This picking method entails one worker picking a group (batch) of orders, one SKU at a time. Pickers only need to travel to a pick location for a specific SKU once to fill multiple orders, minimizing travel time and increasing productivity. This is the best method when there are multiple orders with the same SKU.
In this method, pickers are assigned a specific and physically defined zone in the pick area. The picker assigned to each zone is responsible for picking all SKUs located in the zone for each order until all products have been picked.
Pick and Pass
If an order requires SKUs that are in multiple zones, the order is filled after it passes through each zone.
With this method, workers pick into multiple order containers (totes with distinct or batch orders) at the same time. This type of picking aims to reduce travel time.
Picking with Technology
If you’re using one or a combination of the above methods, but are still experiencing problems with accuracy, inefficiency and low productivity, don’t despair! The right technology can streamline any picking method by managing priorities, allocations and optimising fulfillment strategies based on inventory position and customer-based rules. Increased fill rates and decreased cycle times will enable you to avoid costly shipping delays and backorders that jeopardise valuable customer relationships. Furthermore, cycle counts, spot checks and real-time information verification ensure warehouse staff are not wasting time looking for misplaced or missing items.
Finally, a WMS will allow you to maintain high inventory accuracy, optimise store replenishment, avoid over-stock and improve in-stock availability for popular items.
Automation will optimise all processes within your supply chain, shrinking turnaround windows. Increased fill rates and decreased cycle times will enable you to avoid costly shipping delays and backorders that jeopardise valuable customer relationships.
iWMS is an independent software developer, innovator and team augmentation partner with years of global experience in consulting, building, and supporting WMS solutions. We offer proven industry-leading software from Körber Supply Chain for warehouse and supply chain management.
iWMS is based in South Africa, the Americas, Australasia and India.This gives iWMS access to the best resources and IT talent globally enabling us to ensure that the right level of experience is available for all projects at any given time.
Please contact us if you are looking for a warehouse and supply chain management system service provider for enterprises.