Selecting the right picking method can transform your warehouse

Order picking is the process of finding and extracting products from a warehouse to fulfil customer orders.

Compared to other stages like shipping, storage, and receiving, order picking forms as much as 55% of operation costs in a fulfilment and distribution centre. Selecting the picking method that best suit your operations can significantly affect productivity, order turnaround windows and accuracy.

Picking is the part of the fulfilment process that can directly either enhance or jeopardize customer satisfaction, so you should regularly review the efficiency of the methods you’re currently using, noting their strengths and weaknesses.

Here are some of the key performance indicators you can use when analysing the efficacy of your current picking method:

·         Productivity – this is measured by pick rate. Note that the actual amount of time it takes to remove a product from its stored location is constant regardless of the picking method used. Thus, productivity gains are measured by calculating reduced travel time.

·         Cycle time – the amount of time it takes to get an order from receipt to shipping.

·         Accuracy – inventory and order accuracy are critical for running a smooth operation and achieving customer satisfaction. Missing, damaged or misplaced inventory represent a tangible profit loss, and so does returned orders.

There are many different types of picking methods. Choosing the best method will depend on the characteristics of the product being handled, complexity and size of the operation, order volume and size.

Every company has unique requirements, and one order picking solution may suit one business and not another. Many times, a combination of picking methods is required to handle varied product and order characteristics.

So, is it time for your business to review and/or streamline its picking method? We have enlisted the main picking methods below. Have a read and share with us which method your DC currently uses and how you feel the method could be improved!


Single / Discrete Order Picking

Single or discrete order picking is the simplest and most common type of picking. A picker is assigned one order and then goes through the warehouse to gather each item from the list, one line at a time.

Although simple, this method can be slow and inefficient as workers walk around the whole warehouse to fulfil only one order.


Wave Picking

Like single picking, wave picking involves one worker picking one order, one SKU at a time.  The main difference is wave picking relies on a scheduling window, in other words, order picking is scheduled at specific and optimal times of the day. Conversely, discrete picking happens on an ‘as needed’ basis.


Batch Picking

This picking method entails one worker picking a group (batch) of orders, one SKU at a time. Pickers only needs to travel to a pick location for a specific SKU once to fill multiple orders, minimizing travel time and increasing productivity.

This is the best method when there are multiple orders with the same SKU.


Zone Picking

In this method, pickers are assigned a specific and physically defined zone in the pick area. The picker assigned to each zone is responsible for picking all SKUs located in the zone for each order until it all products have been picked.


Pick and Pass

If an order requires SKUs that are in multiple zones, the order is filled after it passes through each zone.


Cluster Picking

With this method, workers pick into multiple order into containers (totes with distinct or batch orders) at the same time. The aim of this type of picking is to reduce travel time.


Picking with Technology

If you’re using one or a combination of the above methods, but are still experiencing problems with accuracy, inefficiency and low productivity, don’t despair! The right technology can streamline any picking method by managing priorities, allocations and optimizing fulfilment strategies based on inventory position and customer-based rules.

Increased fill rates and decreased cycle times will enable you to avoid costly shipping delays and backorders that jeopardize valuable customer relationships.

Furthermore, cycle counts, spot checks and real-time information verification ensures warehouse staff are not wasting time looking for misplaced or missing items.

Finally, an WMS will allow you to maintain high inventory accuracy, optimize store replenishment, avoid over-stock and improve in-stock availability for popular items.


Warehouse Automation

Automation will optimise all processes within your supply chain, shrinking turnaround windows. Increased fill rates and decreased cycle times will enable you to avoid costly shipping delays and backorders that jeopardize valuable customer relationships.

No matter your business size, a warehouse management system will benefit you. With the HighJump platform, iWMS Australasia can offer your business a tailored, configurable and scalable solution that will meet your exact business needs today and for years to come.

Contact us to discuss your business requirements.