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How to improve order picking efficiency

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In any warehouse, order picking – the function of retrieving goods/SKUs from their location(s) – is one of the most labour-intensive and costly activities, with about 55% of the operations costs going towards this single activity. Currently, with low growth rates, manufacturing companies are under pressure to reduce operating costs and preserve profit margins. In this scenario, making order picking a cost-effective activity assumes a large role in the economical growth of a company.

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How to improve order picking efficiency

  1. 1. Introduction  In any warehouse, order picking – the function of retrieving goods/SKUs from their location(s) – is one of the most labour- intensive and costly activities, with about 55% of the operations costs going towards this single activity.  Currently, with most challenging market conditions and increased competition, manufacturing companies are under pressure to reduce operating costs and preserve profit margins. In this scenario, making order picking a cost-effective activity assumes a large role in the economical growth of a company. Let us look at the various types of order picking to understand which one better suits to your requirement.
  2. 2. Types of Order Picking Piece Picking In this method, one order is picked one line at a time. In this style of picking there are no scheduled orders and they may be picked at any time during the day. Pros: It is simple and is useful for fast order fulfillment. It can be used for tracking the picker’s accuracy. Cons: However, this method is not efficient as it involves high travel time for picking.
  3. 3. In this method, pickers are assigned specific zones in the warehouse and they are responsible for picking all SKU’s from that zone only. Zone picking is ideal for situations wherein numerous orders come in at a time. Pros: As pickers are assigned discrete zones, there is less interference with other pickers blocking aisles. Cons: The method is not as efficient for warehouses where customer orders are infrequent or few in numbers. Zone Picking
  4. 4. This is a combination of zone as well as batch picking. When several pickers move through the zones picking up orders only from those zones, they create a “wave” of simultaneous picking throughout the warehouse. This type of picking is more appropriate for warehouses with a great number of SKUs. Pros: The individual sorting and consolidation is done later down the line, more items of similar size and shape can be picked up in one ‘wave’, enabling a faster process. Cons: For all the downstream sorting into individual orders, equipment this might be expensive, depending on the size and type of operations. Wave Picking
  5. 5. In this system, multiple orders from the same product location are picked at the same time, minimizing repeat trips to each location. It is best used in situations where there is a dense concentration of SKUs over a large area. Pros: It is time-saving. Also, as most batch-picked items are usually transported via carts, it is economical. Cons: For large warehouses, it may result in overcrowding of carts with multiple pickers getting in each others’ zones. Batch Picking
  6. 6.  Warehouse Storage Layout  Existing picking arrangements (pallet racking, shelving, Case flow systems)  Available order picking machinery (pick carts, trucks, pallet jacks) The critical factors in order picking
  7. 7. > Devise efficient processes: The first step toward a productive order picking process is making sure that the picking-and-packing process is well documented by way of clear SOPs. Review and fine-tune the documentation periodically to eliminate inconsistencies. SOPs should ensure sufficient verification for each step in the process. Tips for manual order picking
  8. 8. > Reduce travel time: The time taken by a picker to walk to different storage shelves in the warehouse (the pick line) can greatly influence the order picking efficiency. Reducing the walking distance not only makes the process faster, but also cuts down on errors caused due to fatigue in order pickers. Some of the main things to do to reduce the distance for order picking are:  Picking from both sides of the aisle  Picking multiple orders in a single trip (batch or cluster picking)  Stocking slow-moving items on inside aisles  Introducing conveyance systems
  9. 9. > Use appropriate storage systems: Using the right or most suitable racking for storage of the items in a warehouse affects the efficiency of the picking operations. > Implement slotting: The system of grouping similar kinds of inventory in a given storage space is called slotting. Items can be slotted together on the basis of size, frequency of picking, seasonality, etc. Surprisingly, studies show incorrect slotting of about half of the SKUs in a typical warehouse, resulting in up to 20% reduction in efficiency of picking. > Maximize floor level storage: It is a known fact that order picking at ground level is more productive than that at higher levels. Unfortunately, many warehouses lack the space to store everything at ground level. One way around this problem is to stock fast-moving SKUs at floor level, keeping slow-moving ones at higher levels.
  10. 10. > Create Hot Zones: Picking from more pick locations at a time, i.e. a higher pick (or hit) density results in higher pick productivity. Therefore, it is a good idea to set up ‘Hot Zones’ consisting of fast-moving items that generate most of the picking activity in the warehouse. > Reduce changeover time: Operational studies have demonstrated that almost 20% of an order picker’s time is possibly spent changing from one assignment to another during his shift. This unproductive time should be eliminated as much as possible.
  11. 11. > Design ergonomic pick areas: Every pick location that is just a bit out of reach adds a little extra time to the order line. In the long run, this adds up and can lead to up to 5% reduction in order picking productivity and also higher error rates. Having ergonomically well-designed pick areas will thus add to the speed of the picking process. > Invest in manpower training: Experts agree that efficient warehouse operations – including order picking – are a function of great team effort. To this end, regular training and quality checks for warehouse operators is a critical activity. Training pickers in using the most suitable and energy- efficient methods of order picking and packing will save crucial time and money. The monetary savings can be routed back to the pickers in the form of incentives for efficiency and speed. In the long run, these initiatives can reap rich dividends
  12. 12. Conclusion Efficiency in order picking is critical to the operations as it determines delivery time as well as order fulfilment accuracy. It also plays a fundamental role in ensuring customer satisfaction and in the smooth running of the supply chain. Efficient and streamlined order picking is one of the most important functions in a warehouse. SILVER LINING is a leading intelligent storage solutions provider. If you would like to create an agile, reliable and efficient warehouse or reengineer your existing warehouse storage, please drop us an email at sales@silverliningstorage.in, and we will get in touch with you.
  13. 13. Thank you for reading For regular updates, follow us on

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