Productivity and accuracy in fulfillment are two constant challenges in today’s distribution centers (DC). As the Amazon affect begins to make every company a multi-channel fulfillment company, knowing if you are picking the right order or, more importantly, picking the order in the right way becomes an important determinant in the overall productivity of your operations.
At a macro there are two basic pick methodologies – Process Based Picking and Layout Based Picking. Process Based Picking focuses on how the order is picked while layout based picking focuses on how the pick area is organized and operational flow.
Batch Picking. Batch picking allows the picker to collect all the products required in a wave (a group of orders) before packing them into cartons. For each pick, you are guided to the pick bin, and told the product and quantity to pick, but not the cartons into which to pack the items. Instead, you place the products in aggregate onto a pallet, cart, or into totes and bring them to a sorting area where you then segregate them into cartons for the appropriate orders.
This method of picking is particularly well suited to a warehouse layout that is not conducive to bringing cartons through aisles of pick bins. It is also an efficient way to pick a large number of orders (each with a few lines), as it lets you split the picking and packing functions between two people.
When planning a Batch Pick process, consideration must be given to pack station space and configuration. At the pack station, the pack operators will be breaking down the batch of inventory into discrete orders (this is often referred to as a secondary pick) so there should be adequate space and equipment to support the inventory and handling. Similar to Wave Picking, the primary benefit of batch picking is reduced travel time associated per order. However, process benefits should also factor in the increased space and labor required to perform the secondary pick process at the pack stations. Pick labor versus pack labor is the balance to measure when Batch Picking.
Keep these objectives in mind as you develop your overall picking strategy:
Keep pickers picking…not waiting…Keep a queue of orders and/or products available to the picker. This requires an effective replenishment strategy if you are using a forward pick/reserve storage layout.
Keep pickers picking…and not doing non-pick tasks…Do not bog pickers down with other tasks such as carton erection and taping, labeling, wrapping, adding dunnage, etc. Pickers are typically your most skilled warehouse resource.
Minimize product touches…Ideally, it is best to design your pick process so that there is sufficient accuracy at the time of picking to eliminate the need for subsequent checking and repacking. Each unit of product is touched only by the pickers’ hands before the carton is sealed and transported to an outbound truck.
Minimize travel…Pick from both sides of the aisle from properly sized pick modules. Unused space between pick modules and pick lanes can unnecessarily lengthen a pick path. Segregate slow movers from fast moving SKUs to avoid repetitive, unproductive travel past them when not needed.
Consider picking very slow moving SKUs from reserve storage rather than forward pick bins. Seek opportunities to batch pick many smaller orders in one trip. Pick all one-line, single-piece orders together since no sorting is necessary to break them down into a discrete order level.
Learn more about Features in Warehouse Management Systems: