Order picking is very important for any kind of business. It is one of the primary aspects of the eCommerce business as it forms the backbone of the business institution. The success of the order fulfillment operations depends upon the efficiency of the order picking system. If you compare 50 percent of the fulfillment operations and 55 percent of the warehouse operations, the order picking operation is the most crucial activity among all the fulfillment activities that are being conducted daily. Thus, any business needs to have a suitable and effective order picking system. There are many ways of order picking that the warehouses conduct to boost the accuracy and productivity of the business.
The most successful companies are the once that execute the order picking system most efficiently and accurately. As the order picking system comes under the crucial activities, as a business owner you need to be very careful and particular about choosing the best order picking system that is most suitable for your eCommerce business. Now let us discuss some of the order picking systems that are used in recent times.
Picking systems that are used today
Six major picking systems of the warehouses are used today and it is applicable worldwide.
In this type of order picking, the pickers go through the entire warehouse. They retrieve the SKUs form the warehouse one at a time to fulfill a single order one at a time. This is a slow process as every single order is fulfilled at a time and it is most useful for smaller warehouses where the order fulfillment types are very simple. This is way different from the batch or cluster order picking. This is an effective process and the possibility of mistake or error is very low as only a single order is being picked up. However, this process is not at all effective for the larger warehouses where they need to fulfill a large volume of orders.
In this type of order picking, the picker optimizes the entre picking system by collecting multiple SKUs at one time to fulfill multiple orders at a single time. this helps in minimizing the transportation time of the orders and speeds up the entire order fulfillment process. This is very beneficial for the warehouse that receives a huge amount of orders containing the same SKUs. Batch picking helps in quick order fulfillment. Pickers usually use a consolidated list for picking up SKUs for several orders. this system is not that significant for the smaller warehouses. It is very unnecessary for the smaller eCommerce business as their demand for order fulfillment is less.
Multiple batch order picking
This order picking system reduces the picking times considerably by picking several items at once for several orders. Pickers generally use multiple tired carts used for picking orders to collect multiple SKUs for multiple orders. This picking system is mostly sued when the orders are coming from many different areas. The batch picking system is beneficial as it minimizes the overall transporting time as the workers need to go through the facility just once for several orders. This system is very efficient for the warehouse with larger volumes of orders.
A cluster picking system is used to fulfill several orders at a single time. As we have seen in the above methodology, the process of cluster picking is also quite similar to that. Similarly, here the workers go round the warehouse retrieving multiple SKUs that is on the pick-up list and collects it into a separate bin or container. Each container has specific items for different order fulfillments and is associated with different pick-up lists. This eliminates the process of several trips to the same pick-up location. Even sorting is not necessary for this process as the pickers pick up the items at each pick location and this sorts out each item according to the specific pick-up list. This makes it way easier for the worker to complete the order fulfillment and it is also speeding up the operations of the firm. However, proper warehouse management solutions are required to complete this process as it requires proper assignment and scheduling of clusters.
This picking system is a combination of both the zone and batch picking. This picking system is crucial and beneficial for the warehouse that receives large volumes of orders every day. The orders are grouped or organized into waves or sets according to different factors like order frequency, customer location, delivery date, order type, picking zones, etc. Pickers collect multiple SKUs simultaneously for different zones and send the items for consolidation and sorting into single individual shipments that are to be completed in specific locations. Waves are assigned to specific pickers and they are arranged to increase the efficiency of the firm.
Zone picking is done in a very organized way. Each worker is assigned to each for conducting the picking process. firstly, the areas are divided into certain specific zones and then particular workers are assigned to each zone. The process is similar to all the above only it occurs in specific zones. The workers go around the warehouse retrieving the SKUs that are listed on the picklist, in their particular zone. After every item of that particular zone has been picked and collected, it is stored in a carton and is forwarded to another zone. In this way, all the SKUs are picked, collected, and passed through the zone to zone. Then all these orders are packed and made ready for shipment in a central consolidated location. This system reduces transportation time through several fulfillment centers as the workers do their job only in the assigned zones while picking particular items of that zone.
Automated warehouse picking systems
The automated systems of the warehouse picking are best suited for the modern warehouse with the right technologies.
This particular picking system requires the installation of certain LED pick lights and barcode scanners on shelves and rack throughout the entire warehouse. The system is very interesting. As soon as the barcode scanner scans the particular carton, the LEDs for the listed SKUs begins to glow. In this way, the workers know the location of the SKUs in their picklist and they retrieve the same after identifying its location. This is a completely automated process that helps in reducing the manual effort and the chances of error in the warehouse.
This is also a completely automated process where the picker receives verbal real-time information and instruction on the items that need to be picked and the item’s exact location. The information is received by the pickers through a headset that is associated with an order management system. This helps the workers to speed up their pick-up process and to increase accuracy in their work. After the picking is done, the pickers verbally inform that the picking task is been completed.
Mobile scanner picking
For this system to work properly every item in the warehouse should have a unique barcode. Workers are provided with mobile scanners that display the pick-up list and also the exact location of the SKUs that are on the list. Each item is scanned as they are picked and if an item that is not on the list is scanned then the scanner displays an error sign. In this way, the workers are notified if they pick any wrong item that is probably not on the list. The feature of error-detection helps in improving the accuracy of the picking process of the firm. Warehouse managers also provide some optimized picking routes to the workers to increase their work efficiency.
Collaborative mobile robots
As technological advancement has evolved within the years, more and more robots are being used for the order picking activities. Before the workers had to put in the physical effort to pick up items and to push their carts from aisle to aisle and rack to rack. But now the situation has changed for the better. With the evolvement of the collaborative mobile robots, now the human operators have full access to these robots during the picking process. They don’t need to put in any manual force to collect the items or move the cartons. This has increased the work efficiency and has sped up the operative activities during picking processes.
The different warehouse picking systems has been designed to increase the work efficiency of the firm and mainly to speed up the entire process. This helps in order fulfillment and also helps in the overall development of the firm as more and more can be fulfilled by opting for these various picking methods. Companies can use more than one of the picking methods to optimize their operative facilities and to streamline order fulfillment in particular distribution centers. For your business to grow, you need to assess the needs and the production type of your company before choosing the picking method. Choose the most suitable picking method according to your business ventures.