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Choosing the Right Order Picking Method for Your Warehouse Layout

Derrick Weiss
November 1, 2018

The picking method that you choose for your warehouse can make a huge difference in the efficiency with which your business runs and help keep the space organized and safe for all employees.

Not only that though, when you identify and use the order picking method that is ideal for your company, it will improve your customers’ experiences and overall satisfaction – which is the key to creating loyal repeat customers.

Use SkuNexus to facilitate your order picking methods and reduce headaches when managing inventory.

Why You Need to Identify Your Warehouse’s Ideal Picking Method

When you find the right picking method for your operation, you’ll enjoy various benefits including the following:

  • Save time – Customers expect to have their orders quickly and by the promised date. That means that your picking method needs to ensure that orders are out the door fast and that they are accurate. Efficiency in those areas will save you valuable time – and time equals money.
  • Save money – We all know that saving time means you’re saving money. But imagine what you could save if you were able to add 50 percent capacity without having to hire new employees! If that could happen, how much money would you be saving?
  • Balance of speed and accuracy – The goal of every warehouse operation is to fulfill orders both quickly and accurately. Perfect orders (picked correctly the first time, on time, and accurate) are possible when you use the ideal picking method.

As you are thinking about which type of order picking will work best for your warehouse, there are some key aspects to consider.

Answering the following questions will help you move in the right direction. Let’s take a look at those:

  • Safety – How can you keep your employees safe as you identify and implement a new order picking method?
  • Timing – When will your order pickers work? Will you have any cutoff for orders?
  • People – Do you have the right team right now?
  • Warehouse size – What is the size of your warehouse? How many employees are there?
  • Order volume and size – Will your average order size cause additional activity that may interfere with efficiency?
  • Products’ physical sizes – Are you utilizing space effectively, based on the sizes of the products you sell? Is there room for pickers to move around each other as they pick?

Common Types of Order Picking Methods

There are several types of order picking methods that are used depending on the above considerations. The most common techniques for picking are:

  • Discrete picking – This method is the most commonly used because it’s the most straightforward. With this method, each picker simply picks one whole order at a time, one line at a time. This method is simple, and it makes tracking picker accuracy easy, however, it requires more movement than other methods.
  • Zone picking – With this method, pickers are assigned to a specific area or zone, and they are responsible for picking any of the SKUs that are in their zone. The order passes through each zone until it contains all the products that are included in it.
  • Batch picking – This picking method involves one picker who picks products in a batch of orders, one SKU at a time. This type of picking works best when there are multiple orders to fill that contain the same SKU.
  • Cluster picking – This method involves picking multiple orders into order containers at the same time. The aim of this type of picking is to reduce travel time.
  • Wave picking – Similar to discrete picking, wave picking involves one picker picking one order, one SKU at a time. However, with wave picking, there is a scheduling window. In other words, picking is only scheduled for a specific time period during the day, not on an as needed basis.
  • Combination of methods – Many warehouses combine two or more of the above methods to improve efficiency and meet the needs of their specific warehouse.

Choosing the Best Order Picking Method

Choosing the right picking method for your company may seem a little daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.

The first step to making changes toward better efficiency is to consider the type of picking you are currently using. Do you have a system that is nailed-down, or are you operating with several methods?

How is your method working?

This is the key question you need to answer. Pay attention to your method, looking for strengths and weaknesses. Track and review the process with your warehouse KPIs to get an accurate picture of how it’s going.

Based on the data you collect regarding your current system, you can determine how and what you need to change.

  • When you consider how your warehouse is organized, do you believe that using a different picking method would improve it?
  • Does your entire warehouse need to be reorganized?

One way to get information that you may not realize is by asking your current pickers how they would improve the process.

They work with current processes day in and day out, they are the best sources to tell you what’s working and what isn’t.

Once you’ve made some adjustments, it essential that you track the changes to see if the modifications are working the way you want them to.

It may take some trial and error and recalibration along the way, but you will be able to determine the best order picking method for your warehouse, just be sure that you don’t make these types of changes during the holiday or other shopping seasons – keep things the way they are until it’s not crazy busy.

Conclusion

When you adopt the right picking method for your warehouse, you will see benefits in both your operations and customer satisfaction. So now, you need to take a look at your warehouse KPIs, determine what areas need improvement, and then adjust your order picking method to account for those areas. It’s an efficient way to optimize warehouse operations and prove to your customers that you care about their experiences.

If you are looking to streamline your warehouse operations, let SkuNexus help. Schedule a demo of our platform today. 

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