Effectively managing warehouse operations is integral to satisfying customers and, in the final analysis, optimizing the entire supply chain. To timely fulfill customer order, order picking is the first and essential stage to operating a productive fulfillment processes such as picking, packing, shipping and post sales.
In e-commerce businesses, warehouses store finished items in stock to ensure short customer delivery times can be achieved. Consequently, in manufacturing businesses, warehouses stock materials, components and finished products as a buffer between production and sales. Hence, whatever the nature of the business; a service or manufacturing industry, the same general pattern of material flow is adopted in the warehouses:
Receive the material,
Pick the required items when orders are received and make those items ready for dispatch.
Warehousing, along with emerging technologies such as barcode scanners, a warehouse management system (WMS), radiofrequency identification tools (RFID) and mobile robots control warehouse functions and provide a high level of automation. This eventually leads to coping with the ever-growing world of digital and demanding customers, such as the Covid-19 pandemic situation, which are compelling manufacturer and an online buying and selling businesses to have a strategic picking process technique with an up to date warehouse technology to maintain their business momentum.
There is no denying the fact that order picking plays a significant role in both warehouse operations and satisfying customer requirements. Unfortunately, it’s a process that has been overlooked by warehouse management. Whereas order fulfillment depends on efficient order picking, a Georgia tech industry report estimates that poor order picking accounts roughly for 63% of the cost of warehouse operating expenses.
Order picking is the process of finding and extracting the right items from a warehouse to fulfill customer orders. In the warehouse, to pick an order for an outbound process the warehouse team need to pull SKUs from warehouse shelves, move them to a packing table and place them in envelopes or boxes ready for delivery a customer – internal or external. Picking requires a great deal of coordination, association, and attention to detail to move the pickers through the warehouses efficiently so they can fill the greatest number of orders in the shortest amount of time. There are several picking strategies, and the four most common include piece picking, batch picking, zone picking, and wave picking.
1. Piece Picking
Piece picking is the process of taking one order at a time from a warehouse.
2. Batch Picking
Batch picking is the process of compiling a batch of orders by SKU, one SKU at a time. That means pickers group multiple customer orders with the same SKU, which leads to eliminating multiple trips throughout the warehouse.
3. Zone Picking
Zone picking is the process of taking all SKUs located in a specified Zone. Organizing similar SKUs into specific Zones pickers are assigned to a particular area or Zone for picking only those SKUs in their designated zone.
4. Wave Picking
Wave picking is the process of taking items from one order, one SKU at a time. That means pickers walk less in a warehouse by fulfilling an order in one trip through the warehouse, minimizing the chances of duplicate steps.
Warehouse picking can be costly and time consuming if not done efficiently. Efficient picking can improve warehouse productivity significantly. Therefore, warehouse managers frequently use a combination of picking methods simultaneously or at different times to streamline the picking process. Selecting the right picking method is pivotal as warehouse operators feel pressured to optimize picking practices to meet and exceed customer expectations. Picking speed and accuracy affect both customer satisfaction and reduce labor cost.
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The importance of warehouse, inventory and transport management is continuously growing month after month, both due to the current conditions of the pandemic and the growth of e-commerce. It is important to train yourself with a very practical, effective program, which immediately gives the expected results.
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