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Running an eCommerce business involves the inevitable challenge of anticipating customer orders and having strategies to distribute products effectively in a specific amount of time. An efficient warehouse order picking method is an excellent means that can leave your business in a better position in terms of customer satisfaction and managing inventory more effectively.

In this article, we will detail how warehouse picking can improve your business, taking note of the various types of warehouse picking processes that you can choose from and the direct way they can impact your company.

What is Warehouse Picking?

In case you aren’t familiar, warehouse picking refers to the process of preparing a customer order. For example, say you receive ten orders for different skincare products stored in your inventory warehouse. In this case, your team of pickers will sort through the warehouse and find the products that need to be sent out in customer orders in the next few days by using the picking strategy your company has chosen. This is known as the picking process.

The selected items will then be packaged and sent to the shipping facility to make their way to your customer eventually. The trouble with warehouse picking is that there is a significant opportunity for human error to cause havoc. It is no surprise that sometimes orders can be picked wrong, resulting in customers receiving incorrect items.

To successfully complete warehouse picking, your company should consider various elements before even getting to the process stage. For example, consider the size of the company, demand for certain products, if there is a budget for autonomous mobile robots to be used in the process and the products in stock.

Having an idea of the above elements will help you determine the best way to delegate your picking and shipping operations per your business needs. For example, there are various picking processes that you can choose, depending on your business’ size and type, to ensure that your company is pursuing the warehouse picking process most efficiently.

The Top Five Warehouse Picking Strategies

There are five popular ways that businesses operate to fulfil their warehouse picking in the best ways. Below we will take you through these processes;

Zone Picking

If your business receives many high-volume orders, zone picking is one of the best strategies for you to choose from. In the process of zone picking, the warehouse is split into different zones, where pickers are assigned to specific individual zones to pick and process orders from their section. Although this operation is slightly more disjointed, with team members working independently, it can help with order accuracy amongst different areas.

Discrete Picking

Perhaps the most simple picking strategy is discrete picking, which sees pickers complete orders one at a time by picking each item until the order is complete with all items. This process is ideal for smaller warehouses or if you are a small business with limited staff and SKUs. The trouble with this picking process is that it is labour intensive and requires a lot of time spent on individual order picking.

On the other hand, discrete picking makes orders easy to track and can assist well in order fulfilment due to your pickers’ hands-on work.

Batch Picking

As the name suggests, batch picking works by pickers retrieving multiple orders of the same SKU. For example, say if your best-selling product was a facial scrub and you knew that you would receive a high number of orders for this one item daily. In this case, batch picking would be an efficient picking process for you to implement, as these products in high demand will need to be continuously picked.

Wave Picking

Wave picking is a highly efficient process, working differently from the abovementioned strategies. For example, with the other picking strategies, pickers will work chronologically regarding order picking, whereas with wave picking, pickers anticipate order curve trends. This helps to optimise orders, grouping together waves of orders and making them a priority.

This order-picking process can work best for big companies and warehouses with definitive trends in orders and items that need picking more frequently than others.

Pick and Pass

The easiest way to describe this picking system is by envisioning a big warehouse version of pass the parcel. Instead of one worker going through the entire warehouse, picking orders independently either in their own zone or going to different sections, this process sees workers operate as a team.

For instance, say an order came in with five products, all of which are kept in different storage locations in the inventory warehouse. In the pick and pass process, workers will add their item from their section to the order and pass the package to the next section, where a new worker will continue the process. This process is excellent for leveraging worker safety, as you can prevent your team from entering different sections while also incorporating storage technology to oversee multi item orders.

How to Implement These Order Picking Strategies

 

The above strategies will only work if your warehouse is managed effectively, allowing these strategies to work at their optimal level. Here are some of the best practices that your warehouse should have in place;

Cohesive Layout

If your warehouse isn’t set up in an organised layout, it will be incredibly challenging for the above picking methods to work in their best ways. For example, there should be a clear route for pickers to take regarding their stations, storage locations and loading areas. And the way your inventory is stored also plays a role in how efficiently your pickers can get their job done, with well-organised stock making their jobs so much easier.

Warehouse Management System

As with all elements of your business, a management system should be implemented regarding your warehouse order picking. Again, this will optimise the efficiency of the warehouse picking process as a whole by using methods that show pickers’ inventory availability, order statuses, and new orders. In addition, this will help the business workflow as updates will come in real-time, allowing pickers to anticipate demand increases whilst managers can detect when more labour will be required.

Use Technology

As we stated before, the main issue with warehouse picking is that human error can account for many inaccuracies regarding items in the order, which can lower customer satisfaction and lead to a more time-consuming overall process. Again, using technology will help to reduce these risks, with mobile scanner based picking becoming a particularly popular picking method.

For example, mobile scanner based picking works by warehouse workers downloading a mobile app to scan SKUs of items ordered by customers. This helps the workers gain more order picker accuracy that keeps up with customer demand whilst letting warehouse managers see which orders are being scanned and picked in real-time.

This can also work by using voice picking technology, which sees warehouse workers wear headsets connected to an order management system. The workers then receive instructions helping them to know where to go to collect order items within the warehouse, which can increase accuracy and productivity. This is because workers no longer need to look at orders that come in manually and are instead notified in a different, more practical way.

Final Thoughts

Having an efficient warehouse picking strategy in place can be a game changer when it comes to the inventory picking and packing process, allowing for less time to be consumed due to fewer picking errors occurring.

The best way to optimise your warehouse operations is by introducing a technology-based management system that helps warehouse workers get their job done more efficiently. Pair this technology with one of the five strategies we detailed above, and you should have a foolproof warehouse picking system in place that both your company and warehouse staff will benefit from.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is picking important in a warehouse?

An efficient warehouse picking system in place will ensure that your business is picking and packing inventory in the best way to increase order accuracy, eliminate time-consuming processes and result in better customer satisfaction.

How can we improve the warehouse picking process?

You can improve your warehouse picking by being vigilant with how you store and organise your inventory. For example, a warehouse with clearly labelled sections will be easier for workers to navigate than a poorly signed and set-out warehouse.

How can I improve my warehouse pick and pack?

Besides choosing a good order picking process such as zone picking, wave picking, batch picking, or discrete picking, having your warehouse managed in an organised way with updated inventories and suitable storage sections is paramount to having a good warehouse picking method.

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