For the typical warehouse operation picking processes account for nearly 40-50% of total warehousing and distribution costs. Due to the significant financial impact picking is a critical area of focus for many supply chain operators. The supply chain industry is large and complex, as is each individual 3PL, warehouse, distribution center, manufacturer or retail that operates within it. For this reason there is no single picking method that will fit each individual supply chain. Any picking strategy or combination of picking strategies may be used. Some of the most commonly utilized picking strategies include batch, wave, cluster, piece, zone and sortation picking. The most basic picking strategy, piece picking, is the process of pulling inventory for a single order. The ratio for this method is one picker to one order. Batch picking is more complex. Using this method a picker will pull inventory from multiple orders into one large container or tote. Once all orders have been picked the inventory will be taken to a staging area where orders will be separated into their corresponding containers. Cluster picking is similar to batch picking in that multiple orders are picked simultaneously, but are picked directly into their corresponding containers rather than a group tote. This eliminates the added labor required to separate orders in the staging area. Wave picking is a method facilitated by warehouse management technology. Groups of orders are released in “waves” on a schedule to ensure labor is evenly distributed throughout the work day. Both wave length and frequency is determined by staff availability and daily workload. Zone picking is an inventory picking method where staff are designated to zones in the warehouse and only pick from those areas. Zones can be designated by groupings of SKUs or by aisle. Using this method multiple orders will be picked from each zone simultaneously. This method allows for inventory handling specialization by employee where necessary. Sortation picking is reserved for supply chain operations with the existing automated storage and retrieval system architecture. In this method inventory is brought to pickers via a conveyor system where they put items into their corresponding containers. This significantly reduces the labor hours required to complete order fulfillment activities. The final picking strategy is picking to box. In this method pickers remain at their designated station and place items into boxes as they move past on a conveyor system. Each box may visit multiple picking stations before order fulfillment is complete. To learn more about which picking strategy may be best for your business contact Datex for a no obligation operational assessment.

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