Warehouse Management Systems are becoming more popular as supply chain logistics become ever more complication along with increasing customer demands.  With an escalating volume of inventory movement, many organizations are turning to technology to streamline operations and meet these challenges.

Advanced technology through Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) allow companies to respond to evolving market pressures and deliver on ever-shrinking time to delivery windows. These systems efficiently capture every scan, every movement of inventory and are designed to make both accuracy along with cost reduction a top priority.  The following article can give you some insight into methods, obtained through warehouse technology, for achieving better warehouse management that are key to modern business supply chain logistics in addition to reaching your organization’s goals.

Picking Options:

The flexibility to have multiple inventory picking options can greatly increase warehouse efficiency.  The Picking functionality in warehouse management systems is another core functionality designed to move the paper picking process to a wireless device by the most optimum method available.

Warehouses come in different shapes and sizes. Some are “wide open” in a square shaped space. Others are contained in buildings on multiple floors, utilizing elevators to transport materials Warehouses will have varying ceiling heights. Some might have yard space. Materials handling will differ by product shape and size.  As a result, the warehouse racking infrastructure will vary by product size. Many warehouses keep large products in bulk stacks or pallet racks. While with small products, picking efficiency may be increased by storing smaller products in flow racking or static shelving.

Product velocity and order types also affect warehouse layout and consequently the picking strategies. Companies that ship single-sku (stock keeping unit) pallets of product to customers will have significantly different warehouse operations than ones that ship trailer loads of mixed-sku pallets (grocery is a good example of this). Even subtle differences in customer requirements for consumer products wholesalers will have substantial effects on the materials handling and picking. Operations that ship to retail distribution centers will have different fulfillment requirements than those that ship directly to stores.

Everyone can probably agree that customer demand appear to only be increasing recently and that supply chain movement is becoming ever so complex. Warehouse Management System have an abundance of picking styles that will accommodate a warehouse manager’s fulfillment strategy independent of warehouse layout, product size, velocity and order characteristics. Let’s explore these.

Wave Picking: The Wave Picking function allows a picker to gather multiple orders simultaneously on a pick run. Orders are picked directly into serialized shipping cartons. The advantage of Wave Picking is that orders are picked and packed and checked in a single handling step using bar code scanners. Wave picking is very effective for operations that pick to cart when there is an average of one or two shipping cartons per order. It is also effective for high volume operations that pick product out of flow racking to conveyor belts that whisk away boxes after they have been filled.

Batch Picking: There is a subtle difference between Batch Picking and Wave Picking. Rather than picking multiple orders directly into shipping cartons, Batch Picking does not prompt the picker to specify the sales order during the gathering process. The result is a “Batch” of product for multiple orders is gathered, and then sits in a staging area until distributed into the individual order pallets or cartons for shipment. The advantage of Batch Picking is that more product cube can be gathered in a single pass of the warehouse.

However, warehouses need to ensure that they have enough space to stage the orders that have been batch picked. Batch picking is effective for operations that will benefit from maximizing order consolidation, especially in larger warehouses where the amount of travelling required to gather orders would be substantially decreased by maximizing the cube gathered in a single pass. Operations with limited picking equipment resources (like man-up or narrow-aisle equipment) should consider batch picking to maximize equipment utilization.

Cluster Picking: Cluster Picking is a workflow that can significantly reduce average travel time per pick. With Cluster Picking, multiple orders are grouped into small clusters or waves. An order picker will pick all orders within the wave in one pass using a consolidated pick list. Usually the picker will use a multi-tiered picking cart maintaining a separate tote or carton on the cart for each order. Wave sizes usually run from 4 to 12 orders per wave depending on the average picks per order in that specific operation. In operations with low picks per order, Wave Picking can greatly reduce travel time by allowing the picker to make additional picks while in the same area.

Zone Picking: Zone Picking is the order picking version of the assembly line. In Zone Picking, the picking area is broken up into individual pick zones. Order pickers are assigned a specific zone, and only pick items within that zone. This method divides up aisles of bins so that individual pickers only work in a specified number of aisles.

In Zone Picking it’s important to balance the number of picks from zone to zone to maintain a consistent flow. Zones are usually sized to accommodate enough picks for one or two order pickers.

Creating fast pick areas close to the conveyor is essential in achieving high productivity in zone picking. Zone Picking is most effective in large operations with high total numbers of SKUs, high total numbers of orders, and low to moderate picks per order. Separate zones also provide for specialization of picking techniques such as having automated material handling systems in one zone and manual handling in the next.

Efficient inventory picking s just one area in which WMS can greatly improve accuracy and control the proper flow of inventory. Warehouse technology encompasses receiving, picking, packing and shipping goods in the best manner possible.  This not only saves time and money, however, also keeps your company competitive along with being up-to-date with the latest supply chain movement standards.

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Posted by iCepts Technology Group, Inc a HighJump WMS Partner in Pennsylvania