Guide to the Different Order Picking Systems & Methods in a Warehouse

Published : August 27, 2020

Your warehouse management system is an integral component of your business, especially if you run an eCommerce business. Customer satisfaction depends on how efficienlayoitly you can process orders. If your warehouse picker takes too much time walking from one place to another, chances are you won't deliver your customers' orders on time. When you work with Aero, you will get guaranteed quality service within your warehouse. 

It's important to invest in an efficient warehouse picking management system. The order-picking system you choose for your warehouse can make a huge difference in the efficiency with which your supply chain and overall business operate.

Side view of manager holding clipboard in the warehouse

What is Order Picking?

Order picking involves locating and pulling a product from your warehouse inventory to fulfill a customer's order. You then pack the product and ship it to the customer. While the process sounds simple, it's often quite complicated. 

It's usually the most labor-intensive task in the warehouse and accounts for up to 55% of warehouse operational costs. To ensure you're picking products in the most efficient and productive manner, you need to understand your options and choose the right warehouse picking method.

When you develop efficient order picking strategies and implement order picking methods that are ideal for your business, it'll enhance your customers' experiences and overall satisfaction - which is essential for cultivating customer loyalty. 

Understanding Order Picking Systems

Order picking systems allow you to assemble goods for all orders quickly, flexibly, and without errors. They also ensure your customers receive their orders on time. 

A good picking system should be robust, efficient, and intuitively operable and ergonomic. Warehouse picking systems work based on three key elements:

  • Picking Technology - Pick-by-Voice, Radio Frequency (RF), Pick-by-Light, or fully automated using advanced robotics and end-effectors. 
  • The Process - This may include discrete picking, part picking, bulk picking, or wave picking. In every process, you must also make process decisions on how to integrate order consolidation and packing. 
  • Order selection and delivery strategy - You can transport goods to the individual order picking associate or the associate can travel to where the goods are. 

That said, there are three types of order picking systems to choose from:

Pick to Carton

Pick to carton utilizes dimensions and weights of items to choose the shipping carton before the order picking process. When done correctly, this process will ultimately help you save costs on materials, picking and packing labor, while reducing additional handling and improving the buyer's experience. 

Pick to Tote

Pick to tote gives you the capability to directly order containers and cartons you choose. This solution brings the goods directly to the operator so they can eliminate the time it takes to get the product. Goods-to-person picking becomes highly efficient when utilizing pick to tote services. The feature of a dedicated packing function works to your advantage by saving you time and money. This fully automated process is perfect for high volume split-case order picking.

Pick to Cart

This warehouse system allows workers to walk through the warehouse and pick items off the shelves and place them on a rolling cart and prepare them for packing and delivery. This process works best for slow and medium moving items as well as low to medium volume orders. Pick to cart gets rid of time-consuming fulfillment steps by letting the creation of batches be built on customized criteria. Priority, order size, or order cut-off time are all ways that this process optimizes productivity and saves time by reducing walking distance.

Major Types of Order Picking Methods

There are several different types of warehouse picking methods, and not every method is suitable for your business. The method you choose for picking orders will depend on the size of your warehouse and inventory, your workforce, and the number of customer orders you receive each day. 

Explore the following types of warehouse order picking methods and choose one that can promote the efficient management of your supply chain and the overall growth of your business. 

Discrete Picking 

Most businesses use discrete picking because it's the most straightforward. This method involves picking one order at a time. It is simple and allows for easy tracking of picker accuracy. However, it requires more movement compared to methods that involve picking multiple orders at a time. 

Batch Picking 

As the name suggests, this method involves picking a batch of orders at a go, one SKU at a time. This strategy is especially beneficial where more than one order has the same SKU. In that case, the warehouse order picker travels just once to the order pick area for that specific SKU to fulfill several customer orders. 

Batch picking is best for reducing travel time, which improves productivity. It's ideal for situations where the typical order profile contains not more than four SKUs and the physical dimensions of the SKUs are quite small. 

Cluster Picking

Cluster picking involves picking multiple orders into containers at a time. Two major piece picking systems could benefit from using cluster picking method:

  • Pick-to-cart operations - This process involves loading a cart with a number of shippers or totes, and the picking staff makes one pass through the picking area and sort to the pick containers. Consequently, they avoid unnecessary movements. 
  • Vertical Lift Modules (VLM) that utilize the independent zone picking method - This involves the picker setting up the batch of pick containers, which activates the mechanized picking modules. The items are then sorted to the appropriate pick container. 

Wave Picking 

If you're struggling with high order fulfillment demand along with a lot of diverse inventory, you should consider wave picking. This picking strategy involves one picker preparing each order, line-by-line. However, rather than simply compiling the order in the number in which it was placed, they first evaluate all orders to optimize picking and shipping operations. 

With this strategy, you can ship and compile "waves" of orders throughout the day, prioritizing them by time and importance. 

Combination of Methods

This method involves combining a number of order picking strategies to optimize efficiency and meet your specific warehouse needs. 

Contact Aero Fulfillment for Warehouse Fulfillment Services

Your warehouse order picking process is an integral component of your supply chain. It plays an integral role in customer experience and overall customer satisfaction. Hence, it's important to make sure you're managing it as best as possible. 

If you're a small- to mid-sized business, you may not have the resources to handle the order picking process efficiently. Without an efficient picking process in warehouse operations, you may not meet your goals and satisfy your customers. 

Working with a third-party logistics partner (3PL) is the best solution for you. That's where Aero comes in. With cutting-edge IT solutions, best in class quality, flexible and innovative order fulfillment processes, and exceptional system integration capabilities, we deliver value to our clients by providing the most reliable, efficient warehouse solutions possible. Check out our related posts to find out more about the ways we can help you improve your fulfillment process.

Topics: Warehouse Management, Packaging, ecommerce fulfillment

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