Managing a warehouse involves a lot of inter-related tasks. Among them, the tracking of the inventory and picking of warehouse items for order fulfillment are some of the most critical ones. These are also the tasks where delays can turn out to be quite expensive for the business. Warehouse picking is the process of identifying and accurately picking items from the stored inventory in the warehouse.
This picking depends on the order request received. The warehouse management system is used to identify the current stock and location of the requested item. And then the item is picked and moved to the dispatch area. Warehouse picking optimization involves fine-tuning of the warehouse processes so that the business can maintain customer satisfaction.
Strategies to Optimize Warehouse Picking
1. Wave picking method
Just like a wave travels from one side to another in one stretch, this method of warehouse picking involves movement of the processes in one direction. For this the items are picked based on allotted batches. Sometimes it is also zone based picking. Another option will be picking based on the delivery date for different orders. As a bulk of orders are picked for a batch in one wave, the effort required comes down. It is a strategy that works well even in large sized warehouses.
2. Cluster picking process
In this process the first step will be drafting an optimal route. And then the orders are picked in clusters. As a result, multiple items are picked and sorted real-time by segregation into individual boxes. The time spent in sorting items at the packing stage will be eliminated in this method. And if you have an efficient warehouse management system this process becomes even easier to manage.
3. Discrete picking
This method of warehouse picking optimization is a straightforward process where for each order, the item to be picked and its location are provided to the worker. And then the individual order item is picked and moved to the shipment area. Unlike other methods, this one does not combine orders. As a result there is no time spent in segregation, labeling and sorting. But there is effort involved in moving through the warehouse and transporting the item for each order. This can increase the workload for the workers in the warehouse.
When there are several orders to be fulfilled in a short duration it can get tedious to use discrete picking method. This one works only for a small warehouse setup. But then since there is limited data to be processed there is less room for error. Also, this can be executed without the use of sophisticated system to track data and automate the picking process in the inventory.
Pain points in the warehouse management systems show particularly in the picking process for businesses. Utilizing the above strategies help in warehouse picking optimization in the long run. This ensures elimination of bottlenecks in order fulfillment and thus helps the business maintain good customer relationships. With the advanced warehouse management software options available today, it is possible to incorporate optimization of warehouse picking processes while also achieving the intended level of automation.