Good management of the picking system is essential to maintain high productivity levels in any supply chain, both nationally and internationally.
Learn how to optimise your logistics projects by understanding the different phases of warehouse picking. This article will guide you through all the necessary keys.
In addition, we’ll give you some suggestions to speed up the process—reducing the workload and minimising the number of errors.
What Is Warehouse Order Picking?
Picking (in logistics) refers to the process of preparing orders within a warehouse to meet a customer’s needs. It covers from the reception of the order to the scheduling of the shipment, including the selection of the relevant items and packaging tasks.
This process accounts for approximately 70% of the working time in warehouses. What’s even more concerning is that almost 75% of logistics errors happen during the picking process, highlighting the importance of optimising it.
Order Picking – Process Steps
Having a work protocol in place that outlines the different phases of the picking process, assigns personnel responsibilities, and provides guidelines for monitoring KPIs related to quality and performance is crucial.
The process starts with the receipt of the purchase or picking order in the warehouse. This internal document specifies the details necessary to start the preparation of one or more orders:
- Reference to the order or orders included within the document.
- All the identifying information for each item: name, reference, image, etc.
- Exact location of each item in the warehouse: aisle, shelf, level, doorway, etc.
- How many units of each item are to be included in the order. In addition, it is advisable to also include the stock on hand.
- Any instructions regarding preparation, packaging, shrink-wrapping, etc.
- Transportation or shipping-related data.
- Additional data such as the identification of the operator who has been in charge of picking, the quality or conformity verification section, etc.
- Date of receipt and delivery.
In this part of the process, ERP management software or WMS warehouse management systems play a key role in streamlining and facilitating these operations. These programmes automate part of the process by helping to locate the goods and giving the operator the exact instructions to complete the order.
Picking and Retrieval of Items
This is the most time-consuming phase of the entire picking process. It involves the operator picking the items included in the order. To do so, the picker must search for them throughout the entire warehouse. To optimise the process, a short and fast picking route needs to be defined. It should not pass through the same place twice, allowing access to all the ordered goods.
There are several challenges that can occur at this stage such as selecting the wrong item, goods being damaged, or incorrect locations given for the warehouse, etc.
By combining light-guided or pick-to-light systems with the aforementioned ERP and WMS, productivity at this stage can increase by 40% to 200%. LED lights assist the operator by intuitively indicating the pick location and number of units, confirming extraction, etc.
It is the final step in the picking process and includes:
- Verification of the work done in the previous phase—checking the goods, the quantities included, the condition of the items, etc.
- Shipping consolidation—protecting the goods both inside and outside the packaging, closing and labelling the boxes, weighing the goods, etc.
- Dispatch—placing the goods in the loading bay for the corresponding carrier to take them away. In this phase, the adoption of protocols with transport agencies is very useful.
To conclude, picking is a costly and time-consuming process. Therefore, its planning should be optimised and executed in a structured manner.