Currently there are different methods to optimise and expedite the picking process, with the preparation of packages and orders being considered the most complicated processes in the supply chain. Considering variables such as the industrial sector, the size of the warehouse and type of product, different strategies can be opted for to achieve a more agile and efficient picking process.
What is picking in logistics?
Picking consists of the process of preparing and shipping orders that are going to be sent to the end customer, which means picking optimisation is key to ensuring their satisfaction and minimising supply chain costs.
Warehouse operators or employees use order lists or automated systems to identify and remove the correct products from their storage locations.
Differences between picking and packing in a warehouse
The picking and packing concepts are two crucial but different processes in the supply chain.
On the one hand, as indicated, picking is the stage in which the individual items that make up a specific order are selected and collected.
On the other, packing is the phase in which the products collected during picking are packaged for their safe shipment. In this stage, the appropriate packaging is selected. The products are then arranged inside the package and protection materials added to avoid damage during transport.
The key differences between both lie in their objectives and activities. Picking focuses on the accuracy and efficiency of product selection, while packing seeks to ensure that the items are protected and that the package meets shipping requirements. Both processes are essential for smooth logistics and satisfactory delivery to the customer, as incorrect picking can generate order errors, while inappropriate packing can cause damage to products during transport. Therefore, efficient coordination between both stages is vital for the success of the logistics operation.
How can picking be made more efficient and quicker?
Different tips are provided below that can help to improve, expedite and economise the picking process to increase warehouse productivity.
The warehouse design must be correct and appropriate according to logistics planning and needs. For this, the first step is to have a layout that improves operations and facilitates robot and worker movement. The layout must consider the different order preparation areas, and define the goods reception, storage and product shipment areas.
Install optimum storage systems
There are multiple storage systems according to criteria such as the unit load to be located, the design of the warehouse, maintenance equipment involved in the installation or the product characteristics. Therefore, the choice of the storage system must be adapted to the product characteristics and the needs of the logistics sector and the warehouse itself.
Apply correct picking strategies
One or more order planning strategies must be incorporated to ensure order and control in order preparation and strengthen process performance. In a manual warehouse although it is common to use methods such as batch picking, or zone picking, the truth is that there is no ideal and standardised picking strategy that can be applied equally to all warehouses. Each installation contains specific characteristics, which requires strategies that adapt to the different factors considered by the warehouse.
Automate process operations
An automated warehouse is an optimal system for picking since it facilitates order preparation, bearing in mind that it is one of the processes that requires the most costs within the supply chain and warehouse. Including new technological advances in order preparation has economic benefits, which is why companies should opt for a hybrid picking system. In other words, a method where the technological facilities help warehouse workers in their daily tasks to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
Automated picking warehouses speed up the control and distribution of goods with a single objective: expedite deliveries of orders to customers. Faced with an increasingly demanding market and sector, process automation in a warehouse can help to meet new consumer demands since it increases productivity and eliminates possible failures and inefficiencies. To achieve this, companies resort to automated picking solutions in order to reduce costs, achieve greater precision, expedite order deliveries and meet customer expectations by guaranteeing on-time deliveries.
Design optimal picking routes
The various features and advantages of installing warehouse management software includes in particular the design of more efficient and optimal picking routes. Taking into account that worker routes represent a high part of the order preparation cost, the installation of software helps improve operator routes in the warehouse.
Determine the appropriate picking KPIs
The logistics manager must select and define the most appropriate KPIs for the organisation and processing of orders that best suit the company’s objectives, its type of business, the product characteristics or the different picking strategies implemented in the warehouse to achieve full order preparation efficiency.
Monitor picking in real time
Perpetual inventory provides us with an immediate, automated and accurate report on the current inventory status at all times, to guarantee correct control over existing products in the warehouse and to optimise picking.
Plan optimum stock distribution
The goods distribution strategy must be continuously reviewed to adapt to changes in product demand.
Digitising and automating warehouse processes with software makes it possible to determine the perfect location for each product. Software installation analyses the current demand and history of each reference and periodically advises a redistribution of locations for a more productive, efficient and error-free picking.
Automate goods transport
Replace manual order preparation strategies with automated methods, such as the “goods to person” system, which consists of the goods arriving directly at the operator's workplace without having to pass through the warehouse, shortening times, expediting picking and increasing the efficiency of the process.
Likewise, warehouses can also be equipped with automated transport systems that make use of the latest technologies to perform tasks and move goods around the warehouse without anyone directing them, in order to save costs, reduce time and optimise order preparation.
In AR Racking, we have a long history of designing storage solutions to optimise picking and order preparation. If you are considering maximising the productivity of your warehouse, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will inform you of the different options to expedite picking in the warehouse.