1. Introduction to Order Picking in eCommerce
Warehouses are a crucial part of the e-commerce ecosystem. With delivery speed becoming an important factor for customer satisfaction in the sector, the order picking methods adopted by these warehouses play an important role in the growth of the company.
Order Picking methods involves the use of different operational strategies to complete the first step of the order fulfilment process. With the use of these strategies, warehouses aim to achieve faster and more accurate delivery of the orders.
2. What is Order Picking?
Order picking is the process of retrieving inventory or a specific number of products from the warehouse to fulfil individual customer orders. The order picking process is the first step in the order fulfilment process, and therefore, can affect the order delivery time and accuracy.
Order picking is a labour-intensive process. The individuals who retrieve the items from the shelves are generally known as pickers. The speed and accuracy of these pickers can make or break the supply chain of an e-commerce business.
Earlier, the warehouses had to rely on the skill sets of these pickers to improvise and accelerate their order fulfilment process. But, with the advancements in technology, e-commerce businesses have managed to make significant improvements in accelerating the order picking process.
Let’s take a look at the ten best order picking methods in e-commerce that have managed to optimize the order fulfilment process.
3. Top 10 Best Order Picking Methods for eCommerce
Delivery speed is a major contributor to customer satisfaction in the online business. Therefore, e-commerce companies constantly come up with new order picking strategies to optimize their order fulfilment process.
Order picking methods can be classified into two broader categories, based on the techniques adopted to optimize the warehouse operations.
3.1) Traditional Methods
Traditional Methods usually focus on optimizing the warehouse operations through different operational strategies. The main focus of these methods is to ensure the resources are being utilized efficiently. Some of these methods are:
3.2) Single Order Picking
Single Order Picking Methods is one of the most popular methods. In this method, a picker retrieves SKUs from the warehouse shelves to fulfil a single order at a time. This is one of the simplest methods which suits warehouses that handle low volumes of order with a few items on the shelves.
3.3) Batch Picking
Batch Picking involves retrieving SKUs in bulk to fulfil multiple orders at one time. Typically used in warehouses with the same SKUs, the method is designed to reduce travel time and speed up the fulfilment process.
3.4) Multi-Batch Order Picking
Multi-batch Order picking method is used in large warehouses where the pickers retrieve multiple SKUs for multiple orders simultaneously. The system is designed to reduce the overall travel time as multiple orders are fulfilled in one trip. The workers use multi-tier picking carts to retrieve multiple SKUs for different orders at the same time.
3.5) Zone Picking
In this method, the warehouse is divided into zones with dedicated workers in each zone. Each picker gets a consolidated pickup list for items within the zone. Once all the SKUs are retrieved from the particular zone for the order, the order container is passed to the following zone.
The process is repeated until all the items in the order are retrieved. Once the order picking process is complete. This method is very useful in warehouses that handle high volumes of inventory and have to tackle the problem of picker congestion in certain areas.
3.6) Wave Picking
The wave picking method is a blend of the zone and batch picking methods. The method is especially useful for warehouses that handle multiple high volume orders. In this method, the orders are grouped into waves according to various factors. The pickers retrieve multiple SKUs from multiple zones and are then sorted into individual shipments.
3.7) Cluster Picking
The Cluster Picking method used sophisticated Warehouse Management Systems to optimize and assign multiple orders to a picker. The picker goes around the warehouse to retrieve the SKUs and places them in separate bins and bags according to the order, eliminating the need for sorting.
3.8) Advanced Methods
Although these traditional methods optimize the order picking process to a much greater extent, there are certain limitations to these methods as they are heavily dependent on the pickers or the workers to find and retrieve SKUs from the warehouse shelves. To tackle these limitations and optimize the process even further, e-commerce businesses have managed to use technology to optimize the order picking process even further.
3.9) Pick To Light
The Pick To Light system uses the barcode scanners and the information stored in them to light up the relevant LEDs on the warehouse shelves. The pickers then follow these LEDs to retrieve the SKUs for the individual order. The method allows pickers to find the items quicker and avoid manual errors while identifying the correct SKUs.
The Pick-to-light systems are easy to integrate and the workers can learn to use the systems in about 30-45 minutes. Along with optimizing the warehouse operations, these systems can also help reduce the operational cost of the warehouse to a great extent.
3.10) Voice Picking
The Voice Picking method uses an order management system to dictate the picklist to the pickers using wireless headphones. The picker issues a verbal confirmation once the order pickup process has been completed. The audio communication allows the pickers to receive clearer instructions and speed up the picking process without compromising on accuracy.
These systems particularly come in handy when the workers have to operate heavy machinery or carry larger items. With the hands-free approach of the system, the workers get to use their hands creating a safer work environment while improving operational efficiency.
3.11) Mobile Scanner Based Picking
The Mobile Scanner-Based Picking method is designed to avoid manual errors in the order picking process. For this method to be implemented, each item in the warehouse must have a unique barcode attached to it. The pickers use mobile scanners that display the pickup list as well as the location of SKU. Once the item is retrieved from the shelves, the workers are required to scan the barcode to check if the product is on the list.
The error-detection feature of the system allows improving the accuracy of the order picking process. The method can be further optimized by using a Warehouse Management System to optimize pick up routes to reduce travel time.
3.12) Collaborative Mobile Robots
The use of Robots in the warehouse has significantly increased the efficiency of the order fulfilment systems. The robots in the warehouse are generally used to automate the movement around the warehouse and assist in order picking activities. The robots receive a pick-up location from the order management system.
The worker then places the SKU retrieved from the shelves into the bin or container of the robot. Therefore, the robot eliminates the need to walk around the warehouse manually. With the help of artificial intelligence, these robots can also optimize pick up routes and tasks in real-time. They can also be programmed to work with the existing order pick up methods in the warehouse.
Choosing the best order picking process that suits your operational needs is very important. Order Management and Fulfillment are the backbones of every e-commerce business. With the integration of advanced technologies in the Order Picking process, these businesses can optimize their entire supply chain operations to enhance their customer experience. The use of suitable order picking methods will also allow for faster deliveries and fewer wrong orders.
The method that is chosen should be compatible with the future goals of the companies as well as the automation technologies. These technologies will reduce the cost of manual labour and increase the accuracy and efficiency of your warehouse. Automation technologies also allow you to scale your operations at an accelerated rate without having to worry about the increased pressure on the supply chain operations.