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What is Automated Warehouse Picking?

Order picking is basically the act of picking inventory for an order either manually or fully automated. There are various types of picking that can happen within a distribution center and vary based on inventory, industry, and scale of operations within the fulfillment center. Once an order is picked, it is packed and shipped to either the end-user customer or the retailer.  

Which Picking Solution is Right for my Application?

There are several different types of picking for warehouse and fulfillment applications. While some may be perfectly suited for an application, others may not. It’s best to know the details of each type and speak to an expert. Depending on your storage process and workflows, an application can also include more than one type of order-picking solution. However, most fulfillment centers have several factors they want to accomplish when it comes to picking.

How to Improve Order Picking Accuracy?

Order accuracy rates are a must with today’s technology. With today’s e-commerce systems, order picking accuracy must be right. Returns can be costly to handle and every time a missed picked order goes out the door, it’s a risk of product damage and a lost customer.

Thankfully, there are ways to increase order picking accuracy. Regardless, if an application calls for a manual or automated picking, accuracy rates can improve with technology and workflow processes.

Depending on the warehouse or distribution center, there are varied picking methodologies like single order, zone picking, batch picking, or wave picking that may be used within the process. Furthermore, a complete automated solution may be coupled with a manual solution to increase order picking throughputs and accuracy rates. Since order picking affects the profitability of a distribution center, it’s important that the right picking methodology is used to get the most benefit. Typically, most processes aim for the following:

How to Minimize Travel Distance for Employees?

Logging steps for order picking isn’t the best way to stay in shape. In fact, it cost money for employees to travel further distances inside a distribution center. Today’s warehouse management software technology streamlines order picking paths and optimizes both inventory layout and manual picking based on order histories.

Is Error Free Picking a Reality?  

Yes, and it should be a top strategy of any warehouse solution. According to Retail TouchPoints, return rates for retail have now hit an all time high of 20%. With the pandemic, an onslaught of e-commerce orders gave way to a larger problem for retail—returns. Return rates typically range from 8 to 10 percent within a physical store. However, e-commerce rates are higher, and the holiday peak season can push upwards to 30%. Therefore, accuracy rates are extremely important when it comes to picking orders. An error-free picking solution is always best and will help maximize profits.

Can Optimizing Space Increase Pick Rates?

Trying to get more real estate warehouse space can be tough right now. Even with rents moving upwards of 10%, warehouse space just isn’t always available. This scenario has distribution and fulfillment centers looking to maximize space. When it comes to picking, understanding placement of inventory is key. Optimization for both manual or automated picking enables a better workflow and saves money. If you haven’t done so already, talk with an expert about getting a data study completed. Sometimes it’s even small changes in workflow processes that can yield better returns and higher pick rates—even in a manual application.

What Options are there for Manual and Fully Automated Picking?

While there are several different picking methodologies, actual picking comes in two categories—manual and automated. With SSI SCHAEFER, there are several options for each category:

Manual Picking Solutions

Maximizing ergonomics is key when it comes to picking and SSI SCHAEFER has an array of solutions for manual picking. Whether it's voice picking, pick by light, pick to tote, or radiofrequency picking, SSI SCHAEFER picking solutions have ergonomics at the heart of every solution.

Automated Picking Solutions

Automated picking also has an array of solutions from SSI SCHAEFER. An array of robotic solutions are available for piece, case, and layer picking. Also, the SSI SCHAEFER has an array of A-frame picking solutions that coordinate perfectly with pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

What are the Different Order Picking Methods?

While each methodology has its pros and cons, it’s best to understand the basic differences. While one method may seem best for a particular application, it’s always best to consult a fulfillment expert to get more clarity and understanding of the advantages and disadvantages to each.

Batch Picking

Batch picking is when multiple items are picked across multiple orders at the same time. Think about two to three orders coming in with one or two of the same items. Those SKUs are batched, and the items are all picked at once to save time. These items are brought to the order packing and assembled with the right quantities per order for pack out. Batch picking reduces travel time and reduces the stress of picking by a single order.

Cluster Picking

Cluster picking works similar to batch picking but with one caveat. Cluster picking is when an order is picked with multiple SKUs within an area. So, the SKUs that are being picked are targeted within one area. This also minimizes travel time, but it includes multiple SKU picks.

Discrete Order Pick

Order picking is probably one of the most common ways to pick an order. Although it may not be the most efficient depending upon the application. Also, it’s known as single order pick or just plain order picking or piece picking. It’s simply picking an order by line item until the order is complete. This type of picking is mostly done in fulfillment centers that have low SKU volume or bulk products. 

Wave Picking

Wave picking works similarly to batch picking. However, the difference is that the order is picked over multiple shifts and employees. Software enables wave picking and it takes into consideration the shifts and peak order times. This type of picking gets extremely optimized and is used with high-volume SKUs and orders.

Zone Picking

Zone picking divides the fulfillment center into separate areas or zones. Employees are assigned to work a zone and picks within that area throughout his or her shift. If an order requires SKUs from multiple zones, the SKUs are picked from one zone and passed to another zone to fulfill the order—this is called sequential zone picking or pick and pass picking.

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