Warehouse Picking: Strategies and Best Practice
For many businesses, warehouse picking is a fundamental part of the ordering process, ensuring that products are retrieved in the most efficient way. While technology and equipment can improve the process, there are several picking strategies warehouse workers can use that also help to reduce labour demands, increase the accuracy of order fulfilment, and enhance customer satisfaction.
Warehouse spaces come in all types and sizes and may change over time as businesses grow or pivot their products. For example, there are many configurations for warehouse storage systems, with it being common for warehouses to utilise pallet racking, warehouse shelving, and a mixture of technology and automation within their setups.
Picking systems therefore need to be carefully selected and routinely assessed to maintain productivity. Here are four possible options to consider that will help you to optimise your picking process.
The batch picking strategy involves the simultaneous recovery of stock for multiple customer orders, with the aim of reducing the time and energy of finding products. Once item lists have been formed, ‘maps’ can be created to guide pickers around the warehouse using the most time-efficient routes.
Also referred to as cluster picking, fulfilment batching or multi-order picking, this process can help to reduce the physical demand of locating, removing and transporting items, not only making it more efficient but also decreasing the likelihood of accidents and personal injury for workers.
Wave picking is a way of organising orders so that warehouse staff can retrieve similar products at the same time. Collections can be arranged by size, the same client, shipping method, or some other criteria, and can often prove more efficient for warehouses with large stock-keeping units (SKUs).
As well as providing an effective method of collection, the organisation of wave picking means that other warehouse processes, such as replenishment or cleaning, can be arranged to coincide with orders. However, it does mean that like products still need to be organised for distribution.
Another option is zone picking, which as the name suggests, involves separating the warehouse layout into different areas with workers assigned to specific zones. Also known as pick and pass, this method can be useful for more complicated multiple item orders, as pickers learn the products within their vicinity and can source them with greater efficiency.
Discrete picking is an ideal picking strategy for smaller warehouses. Discrete picking is when a warehouse worker receives each order individually and retrieves the items required. It’s a quick and easy method for businesses with low SKUs and allows for picking staff to be utilised elsewhere. However, in busy periods it can lengthen order fulfilment times and put teams under pressure.
Warehouse Picking Best Practice
Whichever picking method is used, there are many additional strategies that can be applied to any size or type of warehouse to improve its efficiency. These can include:
- Organising the shelving layout to minimise worker travel.
- Setting and monitoring specific and realistic productivity goals.
- Implementing an effective warehouse management system.
- Using digital tools to improve processes, such as picklist auto-generation.
- Providing real-time insights into orders to improve customer satisfaction.
At Quickline, we offer a range of products and services to benefit your warehouse processes. Get in touch with our team to find out how we can help.