It’s no surprise that order picking is the most important activity in a warehouse.
But the speed and efficiency of order picking methods—or the lack thereof—can make or break even the largest retail and e-commerce businesses. Those with the fastest and most accurate order picking operations are the most likely to succeed. That’s why it’s important to choose the right picking method.
So let’s take a look at five of the most common and effective types of order picking systems warehouses are using today to increase productivity.
1. Single Order Picking
The single order picking method is probably one of the most common order picking systems used in warehouses.
The technique is simple, involving pickers who seek out SKUs (stock-keeping units) individually to fulfill a specific order one at a time. It’s one of the easier order picking methods, but it only works in any meaningful capacity for small warehouses where it makes sense to pick just a few orders from time to time.
2. Batch Picking
Batch picking is another type of order picking that helps to streamline the process. With batch picking, it’s possible to pick different SKUs in “batches” so a business can fulfill as many orders as possible in a short amount of time.
Warehouse personnel in this situation can use a consolidated pick list, which lets them pick several orders in a single pass, rather than having to go back to find missed orders. For medium to larger warehouses, batch picking is a proven method for improving efficiency.
3. Multi-Batch Order Picking
Multi-batch picking takes the batch picking system up a notch.
In this method, warehouse personnel can use multi-tiered carts and order containers to retrieve various SKUs for several different orders at the same time. This is one of the most efficient order picking methods, since it reduces time spent in the warehouse searching for and retrieving orders.
4. Cluster Picking
Cluster picking is a somewhat more sophisticated warehousing and picking technique.
It involves workers moving throughout the warehouse to find various SKUs on different pick lists. The warehouse staff then place the items in separate order containers, which are associated with different pick lists. This improves efficiency, since workers don’t have to make multiple trips back to the same pick location. There’s also no need for sorting, which is performed at each pick location itself.
5. Zone Picking
Finally, we come to the zone picking technique.
This is one of the most streamlined and efficient order picking systems. It’s only necessary, however, for large warehouses with numerous order fulfillments.
The system works by dividing the warehouse into zones, each with their assigned workers. The personnel in each zone review their pick lists and find the SKUs located there, and then pass the order carton on to the next zone once they’re done picking. And it can also be combined with pallet flow racking systems (learn more here) to reduce picking times even further.
It’s much like an assembly line system, with workers dedicated to their own zone, which reduces worker travel times and improves the overall efficiency of a warehouse.
The Best Order Picking Systems for Warehouses
In order to run a successful retail or e-commerce business, you need to adopt the quickest and most accurate order picking systems for your warehouse.
We’ve listed the most popular and effective picking methods in use today. Which one is appropriate for your business will depend on many factors, including the size of your warehouse, the total number of orders received, and the volume of items in each order.
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