Picking: the Foundation of E-Commerce Order Fulfillment
Picking is a specific, repetitive task that takes place in every fulfillment warehouse. It’s also one of the biggest expenses, often making up more than half of operational costs. In addition, pickers typically spend more than half of their time walking the warehouse aisles in search of items to fill customers’ orders, and accuracy is key. That’s why it’s critical to understand the different picking methods and assess which one is optimal for your business.
Discrete picking is when a worker walks the warehouse aisles and picks all the items for an individual order one at a time. It’s the most straightforward picking method, but it’s also the least efficient as it requires pickers to zig-zag throughout the warehouse in search of each item (or SKU).
In batch picking, groups of orders are picked at the same time to minimize repeat visits to the same bin location. If 30 separate orders each contain one beach ball, 30 beach balls are picked at once, and then sorted and packed in the individual orders.
In wave picking, pickers prepare each order line-by-line, but instead of compiling orders as they come in, all orders are evaluated by the order management system (OMS) to maximize picking and shipping operations. This allows for “waves” of orders to be compiled and shipped throughout the day, prioritized by time and importance.
Zone picking means that SKUs are divided up into specific areas—or zones—in a warehouse, and a picker is assigned to each zone. When an order comes in, the picker fills the part of the order residing in that zone. Other pickers in other zones fill their parts, and everything goes to the sorting area to be pieced together.
What’s the Best Picking Method?
Selecting a picking strategy depends on the scale of your operations and the configuration of your warehouse. And remember that no matter how well-trained your people are, mistakes will inevitably be made—creating a ripple effect of lost time when an order is missing an item or the wrong product needs to be returned to the shelves.
If you’re serious about increasing both throughput and accuracy, you need to consider investing in robotics and automation.
When you deploy an automated picking system, such as our next-generation Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) system, you get a fleet of autonomous warehouse robots that work for hours on end, traversing the floor via continually optimized routes and picking with 99.9% accuracy. Highly-accurate picking means far fewer orders need to be fixed, and you spend less time and resources on quality control.
When you partner with inVia, we do an assessment of your current environment, workflows, and data, and input that information into our system to develop a customized design for your business—including the most effective picking method.
Our robots map your warehouse and select the most efficient routes, using machine learning to continually optimize the fulfillment process. We also direct the consolidation of items after picking to ensure that orders are accurate.
Why Does It Matter?
Selecting the right picking method and automated picking system can significantly increase throughput while minimizing errors and eliminating wasted time. It can also directly increase the satisfaction of your customers, and happy customers are loyal customers.
To learn more about how inVia Robotics’ can help your business run faster and smarter, give us a call—we’d love to hear from you.