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11 February 2020

The Top 5 Order Picking Techniques You Should Know

Leif Jacobsen

Leif Jacobsen

Sales & Marketing Manager

Order Picking Carts FlexQube

Statistics show that 72% of consumers choose vendors based on their delivery speed and options and 41% are willing to pay for same-day delivery.

In a fast-paced world, delayed delivery times harm enterprises more than they may know. These statistics highlight the importance of quickly fulfilling orders to meet consumers’ expectations.

And where does order pricking fit into all these?

Order picking refers to the labor, shop floor transportation involved with pulling an item off the inventory shelf to fulfill a customer’s request. The process of order picking occurs across diverse industries including manufacturing, e-commerce, wholesale and retail marketing, and the hospitality industry. From the definition, it is also easy to note the important role order picking plays in consumer satisfaction. In layman terms, the more efficient a facilities order picking process is, the quicker a customer gets his or her order.

Thus, if your business fulfils orders then it requires an order picking technique or strategy to ensure efficiency. Also, if the business receives negative feedback that focuses on mixing orders, misplaced orders, and late delivery, the problem can be traced to order picking. In that vein, here are the top 5 order picking techniques enterprises must consider to enhance efficiency levels:

5 Order Picking Methods to Know

Zone Picking

The zonal method of picking orders focuses on creating dedicated picking zones for shop floor workers to pick items from. In this technique, several zones are created within the warehouse or shop floor that may serve as both storage and order pricking zones. It goes without saying that the store keeping unit of products (SKU) stored within zones must be accurate. Accurate SKUs and pick lists to simplify the order picking process when using the zone picking technique.

The process of picking orders from specified zones can be made easier using the right technology. The use of digital pick lists and automating the picking process ensures errors are reduced. Zone picking is generally employed by original equipment manufacturers who produce items consisting of assembled components.

Discrete Picking or Single Order Picking

The discrete picking method is the oldest technique deployed within shop floors. It involves pickers with pick lists going through the inventory to find selected items needed to fulfill an order. As expected, this is the most inefficient method as the picker may have to tour the entire facility to find individual items even with an SKU system in place. Thus, it is generally used in small warehouses or shop floors with a limited number of items. Alternatively, discrete picking is employed in large warehouses where heavy-duty equipment or items are required to fulfill an order.

Discrete picking relies on manual carts such as shelf carts to aid the picker. The single order picking system can also be digitized by using a digital pick list and automated picking equipment.

Batch or Multi-Order Picking

The batch picking process involves the picking of multiple orders at a time to speed up the entire process. In this scenario, a picker is given a pick list consisting of items in an order fulfillment batch and he or she is allowed to pick all the items at the same time.

The batch picking technique is designed for large warehouses with different storage areas across the shop floor. Thus, the picker visits all these storage centers and picks all the items needed for a particular order. This process is generally used to pick small items and it can also be automated.

Pick and Pass Picking

This method can be viewed as a subset of the zone picking method although some important differences exist. During pick and pass, a worker picks all the SKUs required from a particular zone in the warehouse before moving to another zone.

Its application involves picking all the items available in Zone A, before moving to zone B and other zones. Thus, items are picked by zone until they get to where they are processed for delivery or assembly.

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Wave Picking

This method involves a single picker preparing an order according to the fulfillment timeline attributed to the order. Thus orders are prioritized and the picker picks all the items across every zone required to fulfill an order. The wave technique can also be applied when multiple orders of a similar product must be fulfilled. In this situation, the picker prioritizes a batch of similar orders and picks the items needed to fulfill them.

The Importance of Material Handling in Order Picking and Fulfilment

The transportation of picked orders to fulfillment or assembly stations require supporting equipment. For picking strategies with manual material handling processes, carts, totes, and pallets are used. Kit carts, tugger carts, and shelf carts are great transporting equipment for small items within a wave, batch, or zone picking strategy.

Automated guided vehicles, robots, and tugger carts can also be used within small and large facilities where multiple orders must be picked. Using the right material handling equipment provides the following benefits:

  • Speedy order picking and fulfillment
  • Enhances order picking accuracy
  • Reduces the possibility of shop floor accidents
  • Reduces the workload of pickers

To learn more about simplifying your facility’s order picking processes, you can speak with a FlexQube engineer about the best order picking technology that meets your shop floor’s specific needs.

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