Picking and Packing methods

Warehouses are the most rapidly evolving part of any modern business, especially with the growing eCommerce market. As technology is rapidly advancing, warehouses are changing, compared to the old, traditional warehouses that we’ve known before. Larger companies that want to be on the edge of warehouse development are adopting drones and robotics to help or replace human workers. Over the years, special software has been developed to keep track of inventory as it comes and goes in the warehouse, helping to optimize the workflow and making it easier for business managers to keep an eye on the stock.

Changes are also happening in how people move and work within these warehouses, especially when it comes to the picking and packing methods – as businesses grow, they end up finding bottlenecks in the processes they use and they have to find alternative solutions – that’s why there are several picking and packing methods available.

Let’s have a look at a couple of picking methods that warehouses use to fulfill orders:

Piece Picking

Piece picking – this is one of the most commonly used picking and packing method, form where each worker is getting items for a single order. The workers move around your entire warehouse, picking all of the required items off your shelves. Once they have everything together, they take the order to their packing station to be packed.

Every picker has one order, no matter how long or short that order is. Usually, they also have one designated packing station they bring a complete order to, which can cause backups if your order sizes vary significantly or if some orders have hard-to-find or hard-to-carry items.

This method is also called discrete picking by some.

What warehouses can use this method?

We see this method being used by new businesses, with warehouses that are just getting started. These warehouses tend to be small and only have a few orders each day so that pickers can move quickly. In some cases, the picker and packer are the same. As your orders scale up, this can become very burdensome and lead to bottlenecks in both the pick and the pack areas.

Picking batches

Batch picking is when employees pick and pack batches of orders at the same time. They get pick lists that cover multiple orders and are organized by-products. Each batch includes items located in the same area of the warehouse. Ultimately, the batch picking and packing method will give your pickers the most efficient path through the warehouse for completing all of their orders promptly.

If multiple orders need a single item, the batch picker will get enough of it to fill every order when they are there.

For this method to be successful, it requires a warehouse management system (WMS) that can ensure your team is picking related orders without a lot of variety of products. Labor management systems also help manage your team here.

Your team can save time and physical stress with this style if you have enough orders that they aren’t waiting for long periods between picking.

What warehouses can use this method?

Batch picking is the first step up from piece picking, but it doesn’t require a significantly large warehouse to be useful. Small businesses and warehouses will often use batch picking over other pick and pack methods so that they can focus on filling orders at a specific time of the day or during a  particular shift.

If you don’t have a constant stream of orders coming in, then batch picking can be more efficient for your team compared to picking as you receive an order.

Picking in waves

Pick waves are becoming the most common method of the pick and pack methods for large warehouses and third-party order fulfillment services. It combines batch and zone picking features by having workers pick items within a zone for a batch of orders, instead of the single-order focus of zone picking.

Wave picking helps your team fill orders faster and significantly reduces their travel time, but keeps workflows running smoothly. When used in combination with carts and other equipment, it can be one of the quickest pick and pack methods when your warehouse scales up high.

What warehouses can use this method?

Warehouses with significant order volume and warehouse space can benefit from wave picking. You’ll need to be moving a lot of product to make the layout and infrastructure worthwhile and to invest in the technology needed to move goods most efficiently to picking stations.

This is your Amazon distribution center level stuff. Thankfully, these warehouses are big tech investors, and leading WMS providers want their business. So, they build and create new tools or modules that ultimately trickle down into systems for smaller companies.

The success of your picking strategies depends a lot on your inventory storage. If you store goods in a uniform manner – where it is easy for anyone to find a product – is going to save you a lot of time and money in the long run.