Warehouses are the backbone of the global economy, and order picking is essential for their operations. As demand for goods increases, efficient and accurate order picking methods are essential. In this blog post, we’ll discuss five of the most popular techniques and how they can improve your warehouse operations.
Why Do Warehouse Order Picking Methods Matter?
Order picking is a critical part of the supply chain that involves selecting, packing, and delivering goods to customers. It’s one of the most labor-intensive operations in any warehouse, and it can be time-consuming and costly if not done correctly. Finding the right order picking solution will help you streamline this process, reduce costs, and provide better customer service. However, when comparing order picking methods, you may find it difficult to understand how one way differs from another or how to pick the right one for your facility.
Order Picking Solutions for Your Consideration
The best place to start in finding the right order picking technique is research. Taking the time to understand your options gives you the information to evaluate your current solutions and identify areas for improvement. When you know what you want, making room for new implementations is easier.
Here’s a breakdown of the most effective order picking solutions:
The main idea behind batch picking is to group the orders to be picked, packed, and shipped in one go. This eliminates the need for pickers to go back and forth between locations, minimizing pick time.
While there are many advantages to batch picking, it has disadvantages. Some stock may not fit the batch criteria and, therefore, cannot be part of the batch. These out-of-batch orders will then have to wait for the next batch, which can negatively impact your service level. It’s also a more resource-intensive procedure, since the number of people involved and the space needed to accommodate them increases.
Batch picking strategies:
- Minimize pick time
- Increase the accuracy of order picking
- Streamline the picking process
- Are cost effective
In terms of automation, discrete picking is considered a form of order picking. This order picking method involves selecting individual items instead of groups of items. This process is usually carried out for small orders. Each item in the order has its own SKU and is picked independently of other items in the same order. Discrete picking allows for higher accuracy, eliminating the errors that might occur when dealing with multiple SKUs in one batch.
However, due to the time-consuming nature of discrete picking, it is unsuitable for large orders and can be inefficient for warehouse throughput. It also requires significant labor, as each item must be picked from its respective location and placed into a container.
The key benefits of a discrete order picking system include:
- Increased accuracy
- Ideal for small orders with multiple SKUs
- Reduced labor costs
Your supply chain is complex, but preventing issues is easier with Polymatic. We watch for potential disruptions and evaluate your environment for opportunities. We also optimize your space for new order picking solutions, ensuring a solid throughput rate and continued customer satisfaction.
Cluster picking is a method of order picking that combines discrete order picking and batch order picking. It’s typically used in warehouses where most products are stored in bins or pallets. Items are grouped together based on size, shape, weight, or other features. A cluster picker then takes all the items in the group to a staging area, where they are packaged and shipped.
Cluster picking is ideal for warehouses with high-volume throughput because it can maximize the number of orders processed daily. However, warehouse operators must ensure enough space to stage these clusters before they can be packaged and shipped.
Advantages of the cluster order picking process include:
- Maximized volume throughput
- Optimized picking accuracy
- Reduced order errors
- Improved warehouse efficiency
Wave picking combines the accuracy and control of discrete picking with the speed of cluster picking. Wave orders are grouped by product, customer, or order number, and a single “wave” of items is picked at once. The entire wave can then be sent to a staging area for packing before being shipped out. Wave picking maximizes the efficiency of warehouse operations while ensuring accuracy and pick speed. Pickers need only focus on one type of item at a time, minimizing distractions and allowing them to pick faster.
Wave picking suits large warehouses where pickers must walk long distances to collect orders. By grouping items together by order, pickers can walk these “waves” without traveling great distances or through different aisles. This makes it easier to manage large orders while reducing walking time for pickers—a win-win situation no matter the size of the warehouse operation.
Wave picking helps warehouse managers:
- Achieve higher pick rates
- Reduce order errors
- Minimize walking time for pickers
- Streamline warehouse operations
- Optimize workflow
Zone picking assigns fixed locations to orders. This means the same area is used for each pick, allowing pickers to become familiar with their zones.
In zone picking, orders are broken down into smaller batches or waves and assigned to different pickers or zones in the warehouse. Each picker is responsible for their zone, collecting all the items in their area and packing them accordingly before moving on to the next zone. This is a great way to manage large orders at once, and it allows for more efficient use of resources by assigning pickers to specific tasks. It also helps reduce the walking time for pickers, leading to increased productivity.
Zone picking improves the order fulfillment process by promoting:
- More efficient use of resources by assigning pickers to specific tasks
- Increased productivity due to reduced walking time for pickers
- Easier inventory management, as all items are assigned to specific zones
Polymatic Is Your Guide to Order Picking Strategies
When it comes to your warehouse, you don’t want to settle for anything less than optimal. With state-of-the-art technologies, you can expect a level of efficiency and accuracy that leads to unparalleled customer service.
Polymatic Solutions puts speed, precision, and organization at the forefront of our order picking strategies. We’ll customize a plan that fits your specific goals so you can spend more time on other essential tasks for your business—all while achieving faster fulfillment rates and consistent productivity.
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At Polymatic, your design is our mission. We learn your short and long-term goals and provide stellar warehouse solutions that refine and reinforce your supply chain.