In any warehouse, order picking – the function of retrieving goods from their racking locations is one of the most labour-intensive and costly activities, with about 55% of warehouse resources going towards this single activity. Currently, with intense competition, manufacturing companies are under pressure to reduce operating costs and preserve profit margins. In this scenario, making order picking a cost-effective activity assumes a large role in the economical growth of a company.
Let us first take a look at the types of order picking:
Piece Picking: This is the most commonly used picking method wherein one order is picked one line at a time. In this style of picking, there are no scheduled orders and they may be picked at any time during the day.
Pros: It is simple and is useful for fast order fulfillment. It can be used for tracking the picker’s accuracy.
Cons: However, this method is not efficient as it involves high travel time for picking.
Zone Picking: In this method, pickers are assigned specific zones in the warehouse and they are responsible for picking all SKU’s from that zone only. Zone picking is ideal for situations wherein numerous orders come in at a time.
Pros: As pickers are assigned discrete zones, there is less interference with other pickers blocking aisles.
Cons: The method is not as efficient for warehouses where customer orders are infrequent or few in numbers.
Wave Picking: This is a combination of zone as well as batch picking. When several pickers move through the zones picking up orders only from those zones, they create a “wave” of simultaneous picking throughout the warehouse. This type of picking is more appropriate for warehouses with a great number of SKUs.
Pros: Since the individual sorting and consolidation is done later down the line, more items of similar size and shape can be picked up in one ‘wave’, enabling a faster process.
Cons: For all the downstream sorting into individual orders, equipment such as tilt-tray sorters may be necessary; this might be expensive, depending on the size and type of operations.
Batch Picking: In this system, multiple orders from the same product location are picked at the same time, minimizing repeat trips to each location. It is best used in situations where there is a dense concentration of SKUs over a large area.
Pros: It is time-saving. Also, as most batch-picked items are usually transported via carts, it is economical.
Cons: For large warehouses, it may result in overcrowding of carts with multiple pickers getting in each others’ zones.
In Europe, Japan and USA, automatic case picking (ACP) is common due to space and labour costs. ACP involves the use of robotics and other automated equipment. In this article, for the sake of clarity, we will focus on manual order picking.
The success of manual order picking depends on:
Apart from above, we have listed down major considerations and ways to improve order picking efficiency in a warehouse.
Some of the main things to do to reduce the distance for order picking are:
Efficiency in order picking is critical to warehousing operations as it determines throughput rates and order fulfilment and service levels. It also plays a fundamental role in ensuring customer satisfaction and the smooth, uninterrupted run of the logistics operations.
Especially, with concepts such as next-day and same-day deliveries becoming more and more common for major manufacturers and e-tailers, the speed and efficiency of order picking has assumed extremely high significance. Every second can mean the difference between a promised delivery on time, or not.
Hence, efficient and streamlined order picking is one of the most important functions in warehouse operations and needs to be reviewed and revised periodically for optimum performance.
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