Which pick and pack process is right for your business

May 14, 2021

Common order picking methods in Australia

The term “pick and pack” refers to a phase of the supply chain management process in which goods purchased by customers are removed from warehouse or storage shelves and placed into a package for shipment, along with a packing slip, invoice, flyer, advertising, and any other packing materials needed by the merchant. Though the principle itself seems simple (and it is), the actions that follow it can easily become quite complicated.

Common types of picking methods include:

  • Discrete order picking
  • Batch picking
  • Wave picking
  • Zone picking

Discrete order picking

This is the most basic and widely used method of order picking.

Single order, individual, or piece picking are all terms used to describe discrete picking. A picker uses this method to go through each order one at a time, grabbing an object line by line before moving on to the next.

The majority of companies that use discrete picking have low order volumes or large/heavy products.

Picker walking time is the most common bottleneck in order throughput when order volume is high.

According to a now-famous report, a Dutch distribution centre was able to cut walking time by 17 to 34 percent by simply rerouting pickers more effectively. Clustering orders and optimising warehouse configurations will help reduce costs even further.

Batch Packing

If you have enough orders to sort into batches, batch picking works well. Each order batch is for goods that are located in the same warehouse area. Batch picking aims to provide pickers with the most effective route through the warehouse. When a single item is needed for multiple orders, it makes sense to select those orders all at once. This would save time by eliminating the need to walk back and forth. Your orders will be processed more quickly.

Even if your company is tiny, batch picking can be used. Consider picking up all of your orders in one day. This is more effective than picking and packing orders when they come in. You will batch your orders if you choose them all at once. Picking software can assist you in batching orders for more effective picking.

Wave Picking

Wave picking is often thought to be difficult or frightening, but it’s actually very easy, and even if you don’t have a warehouse management system, you’re probably already wave-picking and aren’t even aware of it!

Wave picking is the process of picking several orders at the same time. It’s a fancy word for taking two invoices from the printer at once and grabbing the supplies for each at the same time to avoid having to go back and forth across the warehouse twice in a paper-based warehouse.

The same basic principle exists in a warehouse management system, where several orders are picked at once to save time.

Orders are first grouped together in a “wave” by warehouse staff. This may be small, with only 2-5 orders being picked at a time, or large, with 100+ orders being picked at the same time.

Although there are many different ways to run a wave, the most common is “Picking Per-Product,” which separates the picking and packing processes.

Zone Picking

In warehouse management and supply chain logistics, zone picking is a form of order picking. It is one of many picking methods that entails the division of stock-keeping units (SKUs) into a number of different zones, with warehouse employee teams assigned to pick and sort from within each zone.

A zone is allocated to each picker party. For each order, they’re in charge of selecting all SKUs within that zone. This procedure often entails shifting different SKUs from one zone to another, a process known as “pick and pass.” There is only one scheduling cycle per shift for this approach.

In certain warehouse settings, zones would be divided into human and robot-assisted picking zones. In an electrical product retail warehouse, for example, a powered pallet truck (PPT) may be required for large and bulky goods, whereas an unassisted human picker may be used to pick lighter items in another region. These two item picks may need to be combined, but they will ultimately come together by moving to the same zone or the sorting and packaging area.

When to change your Picking Method

You may need to reevaluate your picking method from time to time as your business expands and changes. If you only have a few items and a low sales volume, discrete picking can be sufficient in the early stages. However, as your company expands, you may need to improve your pace and productivity to keep up with increased customer demand.

Suitable picking method for demand

The system you select is determined by the size of your warehouse, the amount of inventory you have, the number of order pickers you have, the number of orders you receive each day, and the number of items in each order (picks per order).

However, you should be able to choose the form that is most appropriate for your organisation from the above list in order to achieve optimum productivity and performance.

To increase order picking accuracy and performance, many picking methods can be combined with automation technologies.

It is important to consider the above list of picking methods to find the right method for your demand.

It’s also worth noting that if you are looking to invest in automation, you will need to understand the cost and benefit of those investments.

Your picking method should also, wherever possible, be scalable upwards or downwards depending on demand.

This is particularly true if your business or products experience seasonal demands that fluctuate.

Technology based picking method

We’d be remiss if we didn’t include a segment on some of the most recent inventions that can help your order pickers do their jobs more efficiently. Voice technology and mobile picking are two of the most significant technological advancements for order pickers.

Voice-Assisted Picking

The microphone headset worn by your pickers is the most important piece of equipment. They will listen to directions about where to go and what to choose. This frees up their hands by eliminating the need to deal with paper slips.

Mobile Order Picking

A mobile scanning technology may be a good match for your warehouse if all of your products have a unique barcode. A WMS can send picking details, as well as the best picking path, to your pickers’ mobile devices. Since their information is fed directly from the customer’s order to their mobile devices, your pickers can achieve near-perfect picking accuracy with this method.

Make sure you have the right amount of space and resources to change your picking method

If you have an existing pick and pack method in place for your ecommerce store or business, it might be tempting to think you should just uproot the process for something that you have read in this article.

But it’s important you consider the requirements of any such change.

This includes primarily ensuring that you have the right amount of space in your warehouse and the right financial resources to implement the changes.

This is particularly true if you are looking to add further automation and implement new technology in your pick and packing process.

Whilst these technologies can bring a lot of efficiencies, they often require a considerable up front investment.

It might be the case that the investment saves you money long-term, so you should consider conducting a cost/benefits analysis.

If you need any assistance with your pick and pack process, be sure to contact the team at eStore Logistics today!

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