Efficient Order Picking Methods for Warehouse Managers

December 18, 2019

Warehouse ordering practices can determine how efficient your warehouse operations are. Modern consumers are accustomed to fast deliveries and efficient order picking is essential for streamlining your warehouse order picking system.

Order picking may seem like a simple process, yet reports show that it can amount to an average of 55% of operational costs for a distribution center.

So, how should your customer’s orders be fulfilled? Depending on your own warehouse’s unique needs, selecting a method can help you develop an order picking system that will benefit both your business and your customers.

Pick and Pack

“Picking and packing” are the warehouse order picking practices that fill orders, get them packed, and loaded onto trucks for delivery. Here we have the most efficient pick and pack methods to implement so your warehouse can fulfill orders quickly and accurately.

Zone Picking

This order picking method involves dividing the warehouse into specific zones and assigning workers to only work in a certain zone. Zone picking is an especially efficient method when an order needs to be compiled that contains multiple units. Since each worker is designated a certain zone and manages whatever needs to be picked there, zone picking improves accuracy.

Pick and Pass

This order picking system method is a type of zone picking. A pick and pass method works when the warehouse is divided into strategic zones organized based on inventory characteristics. For example, high volume stock keeping units (SKUs) may be placed in zones positioned closer to the loading dock so workers can quickly pick more popular products.

With the pick and pass method, workers can focus on specific inventory zones and allocate their time to order picking the specific units and passing them along to the next zone. Bins or totes move through each zone to collect SKUs if multiple orders need to be filled out at once.

This method allows labor to be allocated efficiently in zones that are in more demand and are more popular than low volume zones. It is also a quick method to ensure orders are delivered from the warehouse quickly and accurately.

Single Order Picking

The most common type of picking, single order picking provides the picker with one order to complete at a time. The worker must go through the warehouse and find each item needed to complete the order. Since single order picking is usually not optimized and forces the worker to make a full trip through the warehouse to complete a single order, it is not an efficient order picking method and can stall overall productivity.

Batch Picking

With a batch picking method, warehouses can increase the pace for order fulfillment. Managers assess which orders have priority for increased pace. Orders determined to have higher priority are placed in batches by their stock keeping unit. This minimizes travel time for the pickers. As a result, pickers are in the best location in the warehouse to fulfill the order. By picking multiple orders simultaneously, workers are able to reduce trips to other locations and make the order picking process much more efficient.

There are two types of batch picking: manual and automated. Manual batch picking allows the worker to pick the SKUs needed for multiple orders. In an automatic picking environment, horizontal or vertical carousels are responsible for delivering the SKU’s to the picker.

When multiple small orders need to be delivered, multi-batch picking is more effective. This is used when orders are coming from different areas in the warehouse and reduces order picking time by compiling the numerous orders all together. This process minimizes the amount of time workers need to travel in the warehouses and to process multiple SKUs.

Cluster Picking

When speed is the utmost priority for an order, cluster picking is an efficient, quick method. A single picker compiles multiple orders at a time with a variety of SKUs. Since speed is the main advantage of cluster picking, there can be issues with accuracy. To ensure cluster picking is successful, resources and technologies are needed such as automated equipment and mobile carts.

Mobile carts are especially useful for cluster picking. A worker can pass through a pick zone and load as many SKUs as needed in the cart in one trip to avoid unnecessary travel.

Wave Picking

If your warehouse is faced with a combination of high demand orders and diverse inventory, wave picking may be the best method. A single worker prepares all orders at the same time, but the items will be sorted out and organized later based on their individual shipments and priorities. The orders that are highest priority will be assessed first and shipped to maximize order picking operation efficiency. This method ensures “waves” of orders are compiled and shipped throughout the day based on importance.

Choosing the Best Warehouse Order Picking Equipment for Your Warehouse Needs

Warehouse tools and machinery can be an integral asset to make sure your order picking methods run as efficiently as possible. An order picking forklift is an especially helpful tool for streamlining your order picking system. This piece of equipment allows operators to pick up and deliver inventory for orders. They are designed to take the operator up to the pallet rack with or without a load so the worker can gather the right items. An order picking forklift is especially useful because it can reach heights that are out of reach without the vehicle—but is still faster and safer to deploy than a simple ladder. Additionally, they’re designed for jobs that require the operator to be at the same level as pallet racks so they are an ideal example of efficient order picking equipment.

An order picking forklift also effectively navigates through narrow aisles due to its size, so it’s ideal for warehouses with tight spaces and industrial shelving. These indoor forklifts are electrically operated, so they create minimal noise disturbance and run on recharging batteries. Forklift batteries can be either rented or bought used for further money-saving benefits.

Optimize Your Warehouse Layout and Rack Systems for Order Picking

Structuring your warehouse layout to align with your order picking system is a crucial way to improve efficiency and productivity. Organizing your warehouse space to be free of hazards and to help minimize mistakes is a key element of an efficient order picking system. If your pickers can’t find what they’re supposed to be looking for, how can that item be delivered? Optimizing your warehouse layout through pallet racks and an organized order picking system is critical for success.

Is there not enough space in your warehouse? Space optimization is crucial for efficiency. If there are shipment boxes or improperly stored equipment cluttering your floor space, they can block narrow aisles that your pickers need to access to find the right inventory. An order picking forklift is designed for the tight spaces between pallet racks, but they cannot move through an entirely blocked aisle! Your warehouse layout should be designed to allow easy access for optimal order picking.

Space optimization and overall warehouse organization can be achieved through pallet racks. This organizational shelving method reduce disorganization and are versatile enough to hold anywhere between 2,000 to 6,000 lbs of weight. Pallet racks can also be installed to whatever space dimension necessary for your warehouse. They can store inventory upwards instead of having it cluttering the ground floor, allowing workers and forklifts to move around with ease when order picking or during other operations.

Depending on your storage needs and what order picking method your warehouse chooses, the pallet racks can be customized and designed for any style warehouse and can be used to allow for smoother stock transition from your warehouse floor to your loading dock.

Are you ready to improve your order picking system and utilize better space optimization practices? Contact a Southern States Enterprises representative today to ask about our selection of pallet racks, and to learn more about our used and rental batteries for order picking forklifts.

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