Comparing Warehouse Order Picking Methods
Order picking is the process by which workers select inventory to fulfill customer orders. As this task can comprise as much as 55% of total warehouse operating expenses, choosing the appropriate order picking system is an important step toward ensuring success. There are a number of warehouse and distribution center order picking methods from which to choose and the ideal option will depend on several factors, including available equipment, staffing, and product demand.
Each order picking system comes with its own unique advantages. Popular options include:
- Single order picking
- Batch picking
- Zone picking
- Cluster picking
- Wave picking
- Order consolidation
- Advanced systems picking
Single Order Picking
Also known as discrete order picking, single order picking is one of the most common picking methods. It consists of a single picker going into the warehouse to fulfill one order at a time. It is a straightforward, simple system that allows for a great deal of flexibility in order fulfillment. Other benefits include:
- Rapid response times
- Optimization for paper-based picking
- Improved accuracy
Similar to single order picking, batch picking sends a single picker into the warehouse, this time to retrieve multiple orders. Batch picking can be completed either manually or automatically and is well-suited for situations when multiple orders have the same SKU.
A reduction in travel times per item makes this method particularly efficient. Picking speed and accuracy is further increased when warehouse managers choose to sort inventory by popularity, thus streamlining the batch picking process.
Zone picking assigns multiple pickers their own zone of the warehouse. When an order comes in, it is received and fulfilled by the picker in the relevant zone. This method is especially advantageous in situations involving orders with multiple components. Zone picking simplifies and organizes these orders to improve overall accuracy.
Advanced Systems Picking
In advanced systems picking, workers collect order components in bulk as they travel through various zones. They will then deliver these components to a central consolidation area, where pickers use predetermined systems to rapidly separate the bulk products into individual orders.
This particularly efficient picking method enables one picker to fulfill multiple orders at a time, often from a range of different SKUs. As the picker only needs to pass through the area once to collect all the desired inventory, they are able to completely eliminate any unnecessary travel time.
In order to ensure success, this method is best utilized in combination with voice clients, mobile handheld computers, wearable barcode scanners and warehouse mobile workstations. Tools such as these are highly effective in improving speed and accuracy when fulfilling multiple orders at once.
Ideal for warehouses which experience high demand, wave picking has some similarities to single order picking—one picker fulfills each order, line-by-line. Unlike single order picking, however, wave picking requires the picker to assess each order before completion in order to determine the most efficient picking options. The picker will then send out waves of orders throughout the scheduling window, all prioritized by order of importance.
Rather than fulfilling large orders by passing through each zone individually, order consolidation allows pickers in every zone to simultaneously select the desired SKUs for a single order. The pickers will then send their portions of the order to a central consolidation area. When each partial order is complete, workers will consolidate them into a complete order and send them to shipping. Although this method is somewhat advanced, it can increase efficiency in warehouses that frequently fulfill large orders of varied goods.
ORDER PICKING SOLUTIONS FROM ACD
At ACD Group, we offer a range of time-saving portable devices to help you implement the best order picking system for your unique needs. Our options include:
• Mobile Workstations
• Backhand scanner
• Pick by Voice
• Mobile Handheld Computer
The proper picking system supported by the right technology will improve order accuracy, boost employee morale, and increase customer satisfaction. To learn more about how we can assist you, contact us today.