Due to the unavoidable significance of the picking process in the warehouse ecosystem, various picking methods have been developed and implemented successfully. These modern picking methods have gained inessential status due to the accuracy and the productivity they bring.
What is Picking?
We are quite certain that every person who is reading this article has been to supermarkets at least once. You all must have seen that in such stores you need to go from one zone to the other looking for things that you need to buy and in all the different clusters different products are stored. In such a scenario, you assume the role of a warehouse picker with the store becoming a miniature representation of a warehouse.
This analogy is very simple but at the same time effective enough to make you understand how picking is an extremely essential task in the warehouse ecosystem. It is the first step in the process of fulfilling an order and erroneous picking would only lead to further complications. The way you never make mistakes in picking up correct products from the stores, you would never expect pickers to pick up faulty items from the warehouse racks. Wrong picking results in wrong items getting delivered to the customers, increased complexity in handling returns and refunds, incurred extra cost, and rapturous customer relationship. Hence, picking is perched at the centre of all the warehouse activities and the success of the order fulfilment is almost entirely dependent on that.
Due to this unavoidable significance that the picking process holds in the supply chain, various picking methods have been developed. It must be kept in mind that howsoever innocuous picking may seem to be, it is an expensive process with around 50%-60% of the warehouse expenditures being pumped into it. Hence, warehouses must adapt any picking method out of the following to bring the expenses down and their choice must be judiciously based on factors like:
- The warehouse size
- Quantity of order
- Pickers per order
- Number of orders fulfilled per day
- The number of orders that a single kind of item has been a part of
Types of Picking
Once warehouse managers have addressed all the above-mentioned issues, they can head for the most suitable order picking method out of all the customized solutions that are available to them and they are as follows:
- Single Order Picking: This is the most basic form of order picking in the warehouse where a picker is assigned one order at a time and makes a full trip of the warehouse retrieving items to fulfil that order. This method is extremely simple and is most effective in small warehouses as it is easy to accurately track the picking status in such cases. However, in larger enterprises it is not effective at all as the pick path is not optimized and thus can cost a lot of money and time because of its haphazard nature.
2. Batch Picking: Batch picking calls for multiple orders with similar and fewer SKUs. Instead of focusing on one order at a time, pickers are assigned multiple orders. Instead of gallivanting throughout the warehouse, pickers go to the storage location of a particular item and pick SKUs to fulfil multiple orders. This method works extremely well when the amount they are assigned is small. This method is extremely popular as it augments the productivity of the warehouse by restricting the travel time of the pickers.
3. Zone Picking: Zone picking can prove to be essential for warehouses that fulfil multiple orders in high volumes. In this method, a warehouse is divided into various physical zones, and pickers are sent to dedicated and specific zones. They are given the responsibility of picking all the items of all the orders that can be fulfilled from that zone. After the pickers have accomplished the task of picking all items from one zone, the baton is passed on to the next set of pickers in the next zone so that the products can be eventually consolidated before being shipped.
4. Wave Picking: Wave picking is another variation of zone picking. In this method, orders are divided into waves or types based on various factors like product type, customer location, storage location, and so on. After having picked the orders, items are sent for consolidation, instead of passing on to the next zone of pickers. This is the fundamental difference between wave picking and zone picking.
5. Cluster Picking: Cluster picking is an efficacious method for the pickers who have been assigned multiple batches of orders. Pickers go on picking the SKUs of the orders and put the retrieved SKUs in different containers according to the pick list or order. In this way, the pickers additionally accomplish the task of sorting out items, and also the hassle of going to the same zone over and over is ruled out as pikers complete their task of picking multiple orders at a single go.
Automated Picking Systems
Traditionally it is a picklist on paper that is handed over to the pickers before they are sent to the storage locations. However, in this current scenario where everyone is going the digital way, warehouses are also resorting to automated picking systems that do not require the usage of paper. Warehouse automation ventures drive the pickers through their routes and notify them in case they have picked up the wrong SKUs. Let us have a look at some of them.
- Voice Picking: Pickers wear a headset and are connected to the order management system through it. Instructions are given through the same and the pickers are guided to their designated places.
- Mobile Scanner Picking: In this system, pickers are equipped with mobile scanners that show them the items they need to pick and the locations they need to pick from. They need to scan the barcodes attached to the items and bins and in case they pick up the wrong items from the wrong locations, they are immediately notified. Such a system requires unique barcodes to be attached to all units, pallets, locations.
- Pick-to-Light: In pick-to-light system, the picker scans the barcode that is attached to the shipping carton that holds the SKUs from a single order. Once it is scanned, the pick-to-light LEDs of the items from that particular order start glowing. Picker follows those lights and thus easily accomplishes his task with minimum travel time and hassle.
There are other methods of picking as well wherein robots can be employed to do the hard lifting or divergent methodologies of picking can be yoked to ensure optimum results. However, it must be mentioned that without a proper warehouse management system to trace the locations of the wares and manage the inventory levels, such complex picking modules can never be implemented. WMS has an absolute grasp over the stock in the warehouse and it has become inessential in the day and age of competitive market where promptness and accuracy in delivery have become a hallmark of good business ethics. Therefore companies should do away with the hackneyed practices and start taking recourse to sophisticated warehouse management systems to optimize their picking process. Contact Rattusapps and book a free demo to know how the dedicated team has developed a one-stop solution for warehouse management that harbors features that can optimize the pick paths through various means.