Logistics & Materials Handling Blog

Order Picking in the Warehouse

by Paul Hinz
Filed under: Warehousing

Order picking is an important aspect within any warehouse. It forms as much as 55% of operation costs within any distribution centre, compared to shipping, storage and receiving stages and has a direct impact on customer satisfaction levels. The ability to both quickly and accurately process customer orders is now an essential part of doing business.

This week’s blog will determine how you can improve upon order picking processes, as well as, how to choose the correct method of order picking for your warehouse.

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What is order picking?

Order picking is the process of pulling items from inventory to fill a customer order. It is seen as the most labour intensive activity within a warehouse.

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How to improve upon order picking processes within your Warehouse

Use ABC item analysis

If 10% of your items completely satisfy 50% of your orders, then these are “A” items. Set up a short pick line for these items and place slower moving “B” items in the next closest area and the slowest “C” moving items farthest away.

Ensure 100% product availability

Design your replenishment system so that the picker does not have to face an empty pick slot that is waiting for replenishment. Keep a specified minimum level of inventory in each location and replenish items that have fallen below the minimum level each day.

Use barcodes to verify everything before you pick

If your order picking system verifies every step of the picking process twice, you are more likely to catch mistakes, preferably whilst the picker is still in front of the pick slot where the correction is easily made.

Minimise product touches

Regardless of what order picking method a company uses, it is important to identify and record the number of times an item is handled from the time it is ordered to the time it leaves the facility. The pick process should allow enough accuracy that further repacking, QC checking, or shipping checking is not required.

Consider different storage strategies

Different storage strategies can boost efficiency within a warehouse. For example, slotting may improve storage intensity, reduce accidents or product damage, reduce congestion and improve retrieval times. Review storage strategies on a regular basis in order to align your practices with seasonal demand.

Reassess your routing practices

The layout of your storage spaces can have a negative impact on your routing practices. Setting out specific zones for items that are commonly ordered together, product categories, business types, or order size can enhance travel times.

Barcode order picking

Different order picking methods:

There are many order picking methods. These include:

• Zone picking: Each order picker is assigned a specific zone and will only realise order picking within this zone.

• Batch picking: An order picker is assigned and picks multiple orders simultaneously, minimising trips to each location.

• Wave picking: A variation of zone and batch picking. Rather than orders moving from one zone to the next for picking, all zones are picked at the same time and the items are later sorted and consolidated into individual orders/shipments

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How to choose the correct order picking method for your warehouse:

It is essential to implement an order picking method that is right for your business and customers. To determine which will work for you, it is important to consider the following:

• The type of operation you have
• Characteristics of product being handled
• Total number of transactions and orders
• Picks per order
• Quantity of pick
• Picks per SKU
• Total number of SKUs
• Whether you are handling piece pick, case pick, or full-pallet loads

Sometimes a combination of picking methods is needed to handle diverse product and order characteristics.

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As the importance of order picking grows, so does the importance placed upon accuracy and timeliness. However, in order to improve upon order picking processes within your warehouse, you must choose an order picking method that is suitable for your business.