Ecommerce has improved the shopping experience for many consumers, and as a result, shoppers are now placing more orders with smaller quantities – and they want they want their orders pronto. Warehouses across the country are feeling the pressure to keep up with the demands of today’s shoppers. And order picking, the process of pulling items from inventory in the warehouse to fulfill a customer order, is inarguably the most costly activity in a typical warehouse. With the big increases in smaller orders, how can you reign in the labor costs while meeting customer demand?
Here’s a look at the types of manual order picking and then some fundamental ways you can improve order picking productivity and efficiency.
Types of Manual Order Picking
This is the most simple (and most common) method of order picking in which an employee walks the warehouse with an order list and places items in a container. It is simple and is useful for fast order fulfillment, but it’s not usually very efficient because it involves the most travel time.
Pickers are each assigned a specific zone to pick from. The container may move through several sections (often along a conveyor belt) until the order is complete. Zone picking can work great in situations in which numerous orders come in at a time, but it’s not so efficient when customer orders are infrequent.
In batch picking, groups of orders from the same product location are picked at the same time, minimizing repeat trips to each location. It is best used in situations where there is a dense concentration of SKUs over a large area. Batch picking is time-saving, and because batch-picked items are usually transported by carts, it is economical, too.
Wave picking is a combination of zone picking and batch picking: you have multiple pickers in zones throughout the warehouse picking items in those zones only for an entire “wave” of orders. The individual sorting and consolidation is done later down the line. Wave picking works well for companies with large numbers of SKUs.
Ways to Improve Order Picking Productivity
Reduce travel time
Walking from one location to the next can easily account for up to 60 percent of order picking hours. So not only is it a no brainer that cutting back walking time will reduce labor costs but it also cuts down on errors caused by fatigue. Some ways to reduce travel time are:
Pick from both sides of the aisle
Pick multiple orders in a single trip ( batch picking, wave picking)
Stocking slow-moving items on inside aisles
Maximize floor level storage
You’ve probably heard that it costs more to pick vertically than it does to pick horizontally. This is generally accepted as true, so it makes sense to maximize your storage at floor level. But it’s also true that most warehouses have limited space to store at ground level. The best course is to stock fast-moving SKUs at floor level and store slower moving items at the higher levels.
Use the correct storage solutions
The types of racking and shelving you use for storage affects the efficiency of the picking operations. You’ll want to group items in the correct storage type to minimize handling. Slow-moving items are better stored in bins on shelves, while faster-moving SKUs should be placed in pallet racks.
Create hot zones
Group commonly ordered items together to form hot zones consisting of fast-moving items that generate most of the picking activity. Storing together 20% of SKUs that comprise 80% of the total number of orders will save travel and locating time.
Keep your SKUs separated
A lot of time can be wasted looking for and picking a particular SKU out of a mix. Create a specific pick location for each SKU.
Efficiency in order picking is critical to the profitability of your warehousing operations! Here at Next Level, we understand the impact of operational costs on any size business and we are committed to helping our customers increase profitability through lower material expenditures and cost efficient design solutions. Contact us today–we’re here to help!