An integral process in warehouse management, the speed and accuracy of order picking is essential to achieving seamless workflow and higher level business objectives including productivity, customer satisfaction, and ultimately profitability. Uncertain labor and increasing warehouse operation costs prioritize effective resource management of people and processes. Inefficient order picking processes waste valuable time and resources, working against warehouse leaders’ strategies and making operational goals unattainable or expensive to achieve.
Order picking is widely reported to account for 50% to 55% of total warehouse operational costs. Consequently, identifying the right picking strategy can have a significant impact on the bottom line, with the potential to increase both warehouse productivity and profitability. Key performance indicators (KPIs) such as throughput, order accuracy, and order cycle time should be set and tracked, making adjustments as needed.
Businesses can use a variety of order picking methods and types to create the best strategy to support an efficient, profitable operation. Certain methods may be more efficient than others depending on a number of warehouse operations factors:
Warehouse order picking strategies should be customized to fit your business’s unique fulfillment needs and goals with aims to increase throughput and reduce cycle time and costs. Evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of various picking methods and supporting technologies can help to determine the right method or combination of methods that provide the greatest benefit to your business.
Zone picking, or pick and pass picking, organizes the warehouse into several discrete zones, with dedicated order pickers assigned to work within a specific zone and only picking SKUs within that zone. Multiple zones, which may include both storage and picking zones, are created on the warehouse floor. Orders may pass through several zones for completion and consolidated for shipping if multiple SKUs throughout the warehouse are required.
Also known as single order picking, discrete order picking is the most common and oldest picking method used in warehouses. Typically referring to a printed pick list, one worker compiles each piece of necessary inventory in the order, one line at a time. Once the order is complete it is packed and sent for shipping.
Batch picking, or multi-order picking, enables workers to pick multiple SKUs from multiple orders at the same time. The orders are grouped into small batches and the worker is given a pick list that includes items in a batch and picks one SKU at a time for a batch of multiple orders. Batch picking works best for companies with orders that have a small number of SKUs.
Optimizing order picking can have a significant impact on customer experience and profitability. An individual or a combination of order picking methods can be tailored and implemented in manual operations to streamline fulfillment. The efficiency and accuracy of these order picking methods can be enhanced with technology such as automated mobile robots (AMRs) that can work alongside people and across zones to boost productivity and worker satisfaction.
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