Of all warehouse processes, order picking tends to get the most attention. It’s just the nature of distribution that you generally have more outbound transactions than inbound transactions and the labor associated with the outbound transactions is likely a big piece of the total warehouse labor budget. Another reason for the high level of importance placed on order picking operations is it’s direct connection to customer satisfaction. The ability to quickly and accurately process customer orders has become an essential part of doing business.
The methods for order picking vary greatly and the level of difficulty in choosing the best method for your operation will depend on the type of operation you have. The characteristics of the product being handled, total number of transactions, total number of orders, picks per order, quantity per pick, picks per sku, total number of skus, value added processing such as private labeling, and whether you are handling piece pick, case pick, or full pallet loads are all factors that will affect your decision on a method for order picking. Many times a combination of picking methods is needed to handle diverse product and order characteristics.
Key objectives in designing an order picking operation include increases in productivity, reduction of cycle time, and increases in accuracy. Often times these objectives may conflict with one another in that a method that focuses on productivity may not provide a short enough cycle time, or a method that focuses on accuracy may sacrifice productivity.
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