Any busy warehouse will need to put in place a system for order picking to improve efficiency. All of the main systems are designed to reduce the amount of time that pickers have to spend finding inventory and transporting it to the packing areas.
Two of the most commonly used ones are batch picking and wave picking – but which of them is the best?
What is wave picking?
Wave picking is a system where pending orders are divided based on their time schedules and shipping. Then they are picked in waves at set times during the course of the day; but there are two different versions – dynamic and fixed wave picking. Dynamic wave picking sees individual orders moved on to the packing areas once they have been picked, while with fixed wave picking, they are not sent to the packing areas until all orders in the wave have been completed.
Fixed wave picking is more effective during peak order periods, as it means additional workers are not required to watch for orders to be completed. This means they can be deployed more productively elsewhere.
Wave picking benefits
One advantage of wave picking is that managers can set clear windows for picking that will minimise disruption and interference with other operations. This also ensures that picking, packing and shipping can be aligned efficiently. Finally, the dividing of orders into waves makes it easier for the optimal number of pickers to be assigned, reducing wasted time. A downside is that picked items will have to be sorted out into the correct orders before packing and dispatch.
What is batch picking?
Under a batch picking system, items that are due to go out for orders are analysed to establish the quickest route to them. Then, each picker is assigned multiple orders to pick that are closest together based on that analysis. The idea is to cut down the amount of repeat trips each picker makes to a storage area when picking items.
Batch picking benefits
The best thing about batch picking is that picking staff can collect everything that is needed for several orders at one time using a trolley. This greatly reduces the time that is wasted on walking to and from a storage area. Another plus point is that, by analysing the most efficient routes when first implementing the system, you will further cut travel times and increase productivity.
Batch picking can be completed within a single window for each shift too, which makes managing it easier.
Which is best?
Ultimately, the system that is best will depend on your individual setup. Batch picking can be very effective for warehouses that mostly hold smaller stock, as pickers will be able to collect more of it on a single trip. Wave picking requires larger numbers of picking staff to work well and is better suited to warehouses that store items of many different sizes.
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