Picking method - Picking : the division of the warehouse ?

30. September 2021

The order picking process in warehouses requires companies to have excellent product management but also to optimize time and space. Picking can be a real challenge.

 

In order to improve efficiency and productivity in warehouses, companies need to adapt their picking. To do so, it is necessary to optimize the layout, gestures, movements and schedules of employees. 

The key to an adapted and optimized picking method;

- Productivity on the part of your operators,

- A management of flows and movements within the warehouse,

- Optimal maintenance and safety for your teams.

 

What is picking?

Picking is the search for the different products contained in the orders in order to be able to proceed with their packaging.

 

There are two main methods for picking preparation:

There are two main methods of picking:

 

Goods to Man:

This method corresponds to the installation of automated storage and order preparation solutions reserved for warehouses. This method is adapted to companies that collect a high number of orders per day.

 

Man to Goods:

The goal is to perform manual logistics order picking. 

 Some companies implement both methods to optimize and meet their challenges.

 

Picking: a challenge?

The supply chain has undergone and is still undergoing many upheavals that require resilience and adaptation on the part of companies.

As a result of these upheavals, companies are becoming aware of the importance of the sorting and picking process, of optimizing space and manpower, and of maintaining a certain rigor in order to satisfy customers.

 

The difficulties of companies in warehouses:

- Loss of time when collecting products in the warehouse: poor inventory and location management

- Frequent but useless displacements within the warehouse

 

Apart from that, there are different types of picking used in warehouses:

1.         The height of the racks:

- Ground level picking: unit placed on the ground,

- Low level picking: shelving at man's height,

- Picking at medium height: with handling equipment,

- High-level picking: 10 meters high.

2.         Picking route

- Picking by article: remove a product and prepare the order immediately afterwards,

- Wave or group picking: first the products are picked and placed in the picking racks, then the orders are packed individually,

- Discrete picking: one employee picks one order at a time and picks an item line by line and then moves on to the next order,

- Zone picking: the order picking route is organized according to the location of the goods,

- Cluster Picking: this allows you to collect items for different orders at the same time by grouping them by common characteristics, called "clusters",

- Wave or group picking: first the products are picked and placed in picking racks, then the orders are packed individually.

 

 

Now, here are some examples of more advanced picking methods to find order in your warehouses.

Be careful, there is no best picking method, it must only be adapted to your company and will depend on your SKU combination, product typologies, your activity sector, your customers' expectations and demands, etc.

 

o Picking based on SKU (stock keeping unit)

This corresponds to establishing a list for each product / order that the employee can go to the right aisle and find the product directly.

 

Advantages:

- Quick and easy implementation (software assistance / task automation),

- Eliminates the need for additional steps: once the product is found the orders go directly into the package.

 

Disadvantages:

- Inefficient if the company has a large SKU: brings inaccuracies,

- It is important for employees to know the warehouse layout correctly, which can take a few months, so it is difficult to recruit and train new employees quickly

 

o Picking by locations

This method is common and corresponds to a high order volume.

The orders are distributed on a picking list so that the employees can go through the warehouse in the order of the locations (classified according to the dimension, the weight, the size of the object).

This saves time and productivity since once the list of items is complete, the employees' carts/bins are filled and ready to be shipped.

 

Benefits:

- Eliminates a step in the picking chain: sorting: warehouses are sorted / stored,

- Allows location assignments for each product and employee.

 

Disadvantages:

- There are exceptions for bulky or irregular items,

- Requires employees to browse the shelves to find the item (waste of energy, waste of time)

 

o Zone Picking

This allows warehouse employees to be deployed by assigned zone: they only select items in their zones, e.g. dry, fresh frozen, hazardous, bulky, etc.

For zone picking to work properly, it is necessary to have a modern warehouse management solution (WMS)

 

Advantages:

- More efficient employees because fewer steps to take: distributed by zone

 

Disadvantages:

- Requires additional technology investment and planning (may not be effective for small facilities),

- Less efficient for small orders: requires multiple transfers per zone, so adding unnecessary tasks to the picking process is not necessary for small facilities. 

 

o Single conveyor pick

Single conveyor picking involves a software investment for zone picking:

- Hardware investment: purchase of a conveyor is required.

Workers move the bins along the conveyors through the different zones of the warehouse. The employee can then remove or add an item for packing.

 

Benefits:

- Eliminates the number of steps taken by employees / order pickers,

- Environmental option: cycles are shorter and faster. 

 

Disadvantages:

- Represents a significant investment (automated conveyor, software),

- Requires regular checks on equipment and picking quality.

 

o Hybrid batch picking at the conveyor

Workers can pick in a fluid area based on the current "wave" where they place items at the end of the aisles, "empty" their carts into a conveyor that takes the items to a sorter that then delivers them with the rest of the order.

Benefits:

- Gains in efficiency: less investment required,

- Retains the rigor and accuracy rate for assigning each product.

 

Disadvantage:

- Requires a tailored and efficient process for oversized or irregular items.

 

o Batch Picking:

"Batch picking" is a method of picking orders. It is an immediate picking of a set of articles and therefore the preparation of different orders containing the same SKU code.

 

There are three types of batch picking:

- The traditional batch picking: the picked articles are deposited in a cart / order picker bins and then go to the packaging area to proceed with the picking. This avoids the important step of sorting, so the products put in the carts are more numerous and are carried out in a single trip.

 

- Pick-to-cart or picking with carts: employees walk through the warehouse with a cart equipped with compatible picking materials. The cart contains boxes with barcodes which allows the employee to place the order directly in the box and link the barcode to the bottom. This facilitates the picking process and avoids order errors.

 

- The pick-to-box: all the carts carry orders to be shipped later. Three operations are performed during this process: product collection, consolidation and picking. This requires employees to be coordinated in order to carry out the order management without errors. 

 

o Wave Picking:

 

"Wave picking" is a method for picking goods in warehouses.

It allows to proceed in several steps:

- Gathering of products: orders are grouped together according to different criteria: route, size, weight, deadlines, etc.

- Assign each employee a different wave: employees collect their products according to their assigned zones to save time and route. They have to respect the time required, which is between 1 and 4 hours for a wave, depending on the type of warehouse.

- Proceed to the finalization of the order preparation process: in the zone designed for picking, the products are packed, sorted and shipped.

 

Wave picking is very efficient and combines the use of many methods:

- Batch picking: orders are grouped together in batches and by identical characteristics: composition, size, weight, lead time, number.

 

- Zone picking: groups of orders are assigned to the employee according to the location of the goods. This saves time and avoids confusion between employees.

 

When the picking wave is finished, the orders are grouped together, finalized in a design zone and then sorted and picked.

 WMS use with zone picking:

 The WMS use during Wave picking allows to establish the duration of each wave automatically. The schedules of the employees are then designed. In order to have an adapted solution of picking by zone it is important to have an innovative and modern solution.

 The software such as Monstock then takes care of the whole picking process. This allows companies to benefit from many advantages.

- Optimization of the sorting process,

- Distribution of the waves between the preparers and schedules,

- Improved management of contingencies and risks,

- Monitoring the evolution of operations.

How to improve your warehouse management?

- Determine the type of activity:

Companies first determine their logistics activities and needs in order to opt for an adapted picking process.

This is to ensure that you are getting the most out of your business by responding correctly to your customers' demand. To do this, the distribution and picking mode is crucial:

- "Small logistics"

- Structured logistics

- Industrialized logistics

 

- Setting up an intelligent picking system:

Companies choose the type of order picking according to the volumes, sizes of the objects to be packed and the size of the warehouse.

 Here are some methods of order preparation:

- Chronological order to send orders as quickly as possible

- It is not only a question of speed of order dispatch but also of logic. It is possible to classify the articles by chronological order but also by common criteria: same method of preparation to the chain for a session of orders, or a collection by a carrier for a country, a weight, etc.

- (Heavy or bulky products, fresh products, customizable products). The goal is to avoid wasting time going back and forth in the warehouse looking for similar items

- Another method: prepare orders by specific criteria: weight, location, etc.

 

Improved inventory management:

The risks of warehouses are the management of stocks and the storage of products which can be sometimes disorganized or stored in an incorrect way.

Companies also need to improve their inventory system as well as the overall warehouse layout to reduce picking time and distance between items. These are grouped by class or category to save time.

 

- Optimization of logistic picking:

Definition of logical and practical locations for your business:

- The goal is to take as little time as possible to pick products,

- Optimize the space and facilitate the handling of the products: put the most voluminous objects in more spacious aisles and conversely for the smaller objects to be stored together for a gain of space,

- Organize the location of products according to the rotation,

. To face the quality control of the orders:

- Avoiding routing errors and customer dissatisfaction as much as possible

- Quality control must be performed at each step of the logistic process: reception, inventory, picking, packing, shipping

- Scanning to verify all items ordered and shipped

- Guarantee the content of the package and have a complete traceability,

 

. Optimization of the working environment of the employees:

- Limit unnecessary travel,

- Define to whom the area is defined,

- Limiting the carrying of heavy loads: Equip its warehouses appropriately to limit the carrying of loads as much as possible = keep a logistics team in good health and on the long term

- Use of quality equipment: stock management solution, labelling for identification, scanning, barcode, RFID, etc.

 

Through a mobile workstation:

Employees take time for picking and packing orders. To do this, you need to eliminate unnecessary back and forth, inefficient operations that you can automate such as labeling, order forms, stacking of products, delivery notes, shipping notes, etc.

 

The mobile workstation then allows employees to move around and work continuously as the goal is to reduce walking time. This station, fully integrated into your warehouse, offers considerable results and allows you to

- Enter data as you go,

- Eliminate round-trips: place each product on the basket as you go,

- Label items in real time,

- Reduce errors,

- Select and pack at the same time,

- Minimize the number of contacts per item,

The goal is to allow workers to pick, label, scan and pack at the same time for much more efficient operations.

 

By Buffer Zone

 The so-called buffer zone is a precise and dedicated space in the warehouse where items are deposited for a specific period of time and intended for a production process (packaging, orders, raw materials, etc.). The products are stored in this area so that they can be quickly packed and shipped. This saves time and increases productivity.

 In order to proceed in the best way for the buffer area it is necessary to take accordingly the space but also the type of operation to be performed to ensure the replenishment of this area.

 Advantages:

- Optimization of the surface: the space must be optimized to receive a maximum of goods.

- Proximity and coordination between zones: this space cannot be located anywhere in the warehouse, it must be coherent: close to the production units, close to the loading areas in order to coordinate and connect the work zones between them and increase the number of orders and shipments.

- Increased productivity: benefit from available space to ensure the supply of the process

- Reduction of errors: products are classified, categorized and stored in a way that limits errors and saves time.

 

By voice systems:

Workers can work more efficiently: without holding scanners/documents in but + able to pick many more products without errors or lags.

- Implementation of voice commands via headsets: faster picking rate by limiting hand occupation, however no longer have the product visual.

 

Portable devices:

Find scanners or other collection tools that are light and compact enough to wear around the wrist or neck with enough battery to last a day. The equipment must be compatible with the environment: cold, seveso, etc.

 

It is a question of pointing the laser towards the code or the RFID reading module towards the tags to identify the products as they are picked up:

- Identify products more quickly and trace unknowns in real time,

- Limit handling and reduce the risk of breakage,

- Investment to be expected,

 

Heat mapping:

Allows you to see how activities are progressing within the warehouse and prevent bottlenecks or delays in picking.

Modern mobile solutions allow to see the activity of the employees in companies: movement, zone, duration by activity, etc.

Help in the management and organization of stocks and measures to optimize the management in warehouses.

 - Specialization of employee tasks:

- Management positions,

- Specialized his collaborators on missions: receptions, picking, packing, control, shipments, etc.

 - Adapted labeling solution:

 

A Warehouse Management House (WMS) solution for inventory and flow management.

- Save time: a solution that automates the logistics of your warehouses from end to end,

- Print labels and delivery and transport notes,

- Connect to carriers for tracking using integrations,

- Automatically generate the transport label,

- Close the order quickly and immediately,

- Report the status of the order in real time to the different e-commerce applications, Marketplace, etc.

 - Automate the management of unexpected stock-outs:

- Out-of-stock situations that generate processing costs and customer dissatisfaction,

- Automate: Trigger a series of processes to limit the negative effects by requesting inventory control after picking,

- Send a real time notification as soon as a negative stock appears for control,

 

Benefits:

- Time saving on order/package preparation: reduce the time spent on logistics order preparation processes by optimizing picking according to business needs,

- Efficiency gain: minimize employee movements: strategy by zone and adequate storage,

- Reduce Skeletal Muscle Disorders (SMD),

- Speed up shipping for better customer satisfaction by automating actions,

- Manage different picking methods according to the type of site,

- Know how to recognize the location of each product in the company,

- Reduce errors in logistics order preparation,

- Reduce order preparation errors in the logistics industry, and report preparation risks and controls in real time,

- Use Business Intelligence to understand the operational activity and optimize it.

Picking method - Picking : the division of the warehouse ?

In view of the challenges of warehouse management, it is now essential for companies to have a digital, automated, innovative and real-time solution. The picking process seems to be an important step in the warehouse that's why order management, location management and movement management allow an optimized picking solution.

Monstock, offers you a digitalized inventory management is therefore a more efficient inventory management, which allows you to save time but also money, to always better satisfy your customers and employees.

You want to know more: Contact the Monstock team

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