Wave Order Picking

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Improve Your Efficiency and Accuracy With Wave Picking

In addition to single order picking and the pick and pack method, Finale Inventory provides support for wave picking. When implemented correctly in your facility, wave picking can improve productivity while keeping operating costs low — effectively helping you get more out of your team without compromising accuracy. To help you learn more, we'll provide an overview of wave picking, its main benefits and some of the ways Finale Inventory can help you implement it in your warehouse packing procedures.

What Is Wave Picking?

The definition of wave picking is combining similar orders into a batch and pulling the inventory for all orders simultaneously. The idea is to reduce the number of picking trips required. These batches can be defined according to several factors — priority, shipping carrier, location and more, according to the needs of your operation.

As an example of wave picking leveraging a mobile barcode scanner, you could plan to pick all orders due to be shipped at a particular time using the same carrier all at once. Or, you could pull all the pending shipments that contain an SKU in a particular zone of the warehouse. Both of these strategies can improve operational efficiency for a warehouse, depending on your business needs. Some warehouses enhance wave picking by scheduling them precisely to ensure on-time fulfillment.

When you have a high volume of orders coming in, wave picking is an excellent way to increase productivity. However, to ensure accuracy and that no products are forgotten, sophisticated software is needed, which is where Finale Inventory comes in.

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How Does Wave Picking Work?

Finale Inventory's mobile barcode scanner makes it easy to pick and pack multiple orders in a single trip to the warehouse. With our Android barcode app, you can create consolidated lists for order pickers that identify how many of a given SKU are required. Then, using the directed picking capability on the scanner, your team can pick individual items and pack them in sequence, rather than proceeding one order at a time.

The scanner helps ensure order accuracy by providing an audio and visual confirmation when the correct product is scanned or a warning buzz and accompanying message when the wrong product is scanned. It then prompts the next item required until the completed order is ready to go.

Once you batch the orders, you'll then need to enter the wave picking process. Here, you typically assign each order to a corresponding tote or bin, as shown below. The scanner app keeps track of specifically which tote or bin the order belongs to, and as you're pulling inventory, the scanner will prompt you to place the items into the corresponding slots for the orders that require them.

Wave picking bin tote cart

Once you've assigned all of your orders to totes or bins, you can begin pulling the inventory. Here is where Finale Inventory's mobile barcode scanner will direct the picker through the warehouse. Usually, the software will go in alphanumerical order of sublocation — see the example below.

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As you go through the warehouse, you'll fulfill each order, so by the time you reach the end of the warehouse, all of the orders in the batch will be fully picked and packed. The only step left would be to physically package the orders with shipping labels.

Check out the video below to learn more about Finale wave picking and batch order picking solution.

Benefits of Wave Picking Order Fulfillment

Wave Picking - Finale Inventory Barcode Scanner

The main advantage of wave packing is its ability to reduce the travel time through the warehouse. Consolidating picks according to specific qualitative and quantitative criteria lets your team process them in the manner that makes the most sense rather than as they come in.

Wave inventory tracking and order picking aren't right for every business. Typically it yields the most benefits for medium-to-high-volume operations with a low number of SKUs — or operations where orders with the same SKUs are common.

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The top advantages of the wave picking method include:

Reducing Areas of Waste

During the order picking process, warehouses can lose money through either motion waste or waiting waste. Curbing motion waste is particularly important because 60%-70% of a warehouse worker's time is spent walking from one location to the next. Wave picking can reduce motion waste significantly because workers can pick several orders in one trip through the warehouse. Instead of taking a different route for each order, the worker takes one path through every product location relevant to the current wave of orders.

Wave picking can also reduce waiting waste because each wave is precisely scheduled. You can schedule pickers for each wave based on other operations, such as when the delivery truck will arrive for pickup. Wave picking provides a tight schedule for which orders need to be picked and when reducing time spent waiting.

Identifying the Most Productive Warehouse Functions

When orders are grouped and picked by a particular organization method, it's easier to identify which waves are most productive. If one wave of orders contains similar items stored right next to each other in a warehouse, workers can be much faster when picking the order. However, if another wave often has products housed on opposite ends of the warehouse, those waves will consistently take more time.

Since waves are so tightly scheduled, it becomes much easier for warehouse managers to identify which waves are most productive and why. You'll be able to notice patterns more quickly using wave picking, meaning you'll have more data at your disposal. Then you can take advantage of this information to improve efficiency. For example, a warehouse could move items that are frequently purchased together physically closer in the warehouse.

Tracking Fluctuations in Demand

Another benefit of wave picking is that you can uncover changes based on the orders assigned to particular waves. When order picking is structured and interval-based, it's easy to see when more of a particular type of order shows up. Inventory managers can identify when certain products or types of orders see a boost in demand and schedule waves accordingly.

What to Avoid With Wave Picking

How Finale Inventory Can Help You Increase Efficiency

While wave picking can be the right choice for many businesses, it's not ideal for every company. Finale Inventory works closely with each client to find solutions that work best for their business. We can help you determine whether or not wave picking is the right choice for your warehouse and configure a management system that does it effectively. We support wave picking, the pick-and-pack method and discrete picking to help all businesses pick their orders most efficiently. Our platform is scalable, fast and flexible enough to accommodate multiple management methods.

Wave picking requires a barcode inventory management solution to keep track of the many orders being fulfilled at once. Finale Inventory's barcode scanning application tells pickers which items to grab and which order each item belongs to. When you arrive at the location for a product in multiple orders, the barcode scanner will tell you how many to grab and which slot in the cart to deposit them into.

When you use Finale Inventory's barcode solution for wave picking in your warehouse, you benefit from:

  • Efficient routes through the warehouse: If you organize your warehouse sublocations in alphabetical and numerical order, Finale Inventory will automatically direct workers in the fastest path through the warehouse. Workers won't waste time traveling back and forth through the warehouse while picking for the same wave.
  • Faster, more accurate picks: The barcode scanner also tells workers exactly what items to pull and which slot to put them into. When a worker makes the wrong selection, an instant notification alerts them to the error. This reduces picking errors and allows workers to fill orders quickly without taking frequent breaks to read over the picklist.

Potential drawbacks to wave inventory picking include the possibility of fulfillment delays when working with a high number of SKUs. In some cases, it may also lead to unacceptable levels of idle time for order pickers. Wave picking can also be a problem when you're dealing with heavy or bulky items that are difficult to transport together in a single trip.

Get Started Today

However you organize your warehouse, Finale Inventory is an essential tool. To learn more about wave picking with our product, contact us or sign up for a free trial today!

Video Transcription

Hello, Mike from Finale Inventory. In this short video, we're going to discuss wave picking. It's an advanced method of picking orders using the Finale Data Collector and the Mobile Barcode Scanner, so you can actually make one trip to the warehouse and pick and pack multiple orders all at the same time. So to give you a little bit more insight, we'll define wave picking. You know, where do we come up with that term? Well, it's using one trip or a wave through the warehouse to achieve complete order fulfillment of multiple orders all at the same time. So you'll see this is, kind of, an example of the new wave pick screen, we'll go into that a little bit more detail too.

So to kind of give you a better visual, imagine you make a...Or utilizing a mobile cart, so you see two pictures here of two different carts maybe that you're going to use to possibly go through your warehouse to pick multiple orders at the same time. So we're going to introduce a concept in wave picking called a Slot. Now, we define a slot as a box, a bin, or a container on a mobile cart that you will use to sort and organize separate orders for picking and packing multiple orders at the same time on the same mobile cart. So as you see there on the right picture that's going to be, kind of, our example where we've got some plastic bins and we're going to be placing the pick tickets inside of those bins and you see that each bin has a slot number, so I have a slot 1 and a slot 2, I even have two more slots on this cart so that's the way we're going to look at it.

But, you know, the picture on the left here is, kind of, maybe more of a real-world example where you might have a bigger cart with more bins on it that you can actually pick even more orders. So an example we're going to go over, we're going to do four orders, but as you see that cart in the background can handle a lot more than four orders, and so can our wave picking software. So let's jump on over to Finale and let's take a closer look. So we're going to set this story up here, we're in Finale here, and we've got four example orders that we've entered into the system. So if I go to my sales I've got these exp 1, 2, 3, and 4 and these came over to us from ship station. So if I was to go look at the inventory that we're going to be working with, I'll jump over to my stock screen. You'll see that we've got some blank PVC cards, so I'm going to, kind of, maybe give you an example. When I say "PVC card," it's just blank credit card stock that we're going to be using.

So this is what we're going after on the orders, we're going to be picking these from the bends you see there in the background. So let's take a look at the orders over in Ship Station. So if I bring up ship station we'll see that these orders actually originated here so here they are exp 1, 2, 3, and 4. And your normal procedure, if you wanted to pick an order, is you, you know, you select multiple orders so I may select all these orders here and Ship Station, now you can imagine you could have 30, 50, 100, it doesn't matter. But if I select multiple orders, I can then utilize the print and I could say, "Print packing slips," and I can also print a consolidated pick list, and that's going to be really the example, so our bar code scanners are really going to achieve this consolidated pick list.

So let's look at maybe the packing slips, so if you printed your packing slips in Shipstation, you'd see, "Hey I got a packing slip for this Exp order number 1 and another one for 2, and another one for 3 and so on. Then you can see there are some common items on each of these orders, so we got like red stock there and black and yellow and gold and then we have...oh, we have black again on this one, and we also have red on this one and a yellow. So you can, kind of, see, "Man, if we were to make an efficient trip to that warehouse we could use Wave. And if that bar code scanner could guide us in the most efficient fashion to go through that warehouse, and I could pick everything for all these orders and pack it all at one time, that's the goal of way picking." So and, of course, here's an example. So if we consolidated the actual pick part of this, then it would say, "Hey, you need to get three of these, two of these, two of these and one of these." But you'd also need to distribute those correctly across the individual orders, that's what our wave picking bar code scanner is going to do for you. So let's go take a look at this in even more detail. So let's bring this back into reality, I'm going to try and set my screen up here for you. Okay, pulling up my barcode scanner here, now it'll give you a look at the scanner and we'll go through this procedure. So first thing we're going to do is take our packing slips and get them ready, so it doesn't matter what order they're in, but on the scanner we would select Pick, then we're going to choose Wave and the first thing this scanner is going to do is scan us to...ask us to scan an order ID and a slot name. So you would take a packing slip like this and you would take the scanner and scan the order ID and then it'll ask you to scan a slot name, so I wanna put it in this slot right here which is slot number one and I'm going to scan that slot and then we just go to the next one. Now we can continue to just do it that way, now some other ways that some people like to do it is just to put the order in the bin itself.

So I'm going to go ahead and put the orders in the bin like that and if I put them all in the bins then all I gotta do is go back and scan an order ID. So if I grab an order ID and then I scan a slot. And then I scan another order ID and then another slot, another order ID and another slot. So now I've got four orders loaded up and so if you look on the screen there, we can see that we've got four orders scanned right here, so the next thing you do if that's all you're going to do, is you're ready to start that wave. You choose the menu button and then start picking. So the first thing it's going to do is tell us to go in the warehouse and we're going to be following there. As you see, we're going to be looking at finding A04. So it's telling us to go to A04 in the warehouse, which is where we're going to find the yellow blank PVC card. So this is my warehouse in the back here so imagine these are different locations in the warehouse. So A04 is this one right here, so all I need to do is scan the location and now it tells us to get one of the yellow card, so I'm going to reach in here, grab a yellow card.

So we'll put this and now notice the screen says slot 3, so it's telling us where to put it too. So I'm going to scan the yellow item and then it tells us, "Hey, confirm that you're going to put that into slot 3," which is the order that we're actually ending up picking this item for. So, if I do that, I put it in that bin and I also scan the slot. So I'm going to scan that slot to confirm it. So then it tells us, "Hey, yellow again, we need one of them," but this time, look at the top of the screen, it's actually showing us slot 4. So we're going to pick another one from the same location so if I grab that one out of the bin, we're going to scan it and it tells us, "Hey, put it in slot 4.

So I'm going to confirm that I put it in slot 4, now it tells us, "Go to A7," so I would go to A7 in the warehouse and it tells us, "You need to get one of the red." So I'll reach in here and get one from the red and as I scan that, I know it's going in slot 1 because it tells me at the top the screen, I'm going toput it in slot 1. Now, also notice, that the screen is telling us a lot of information at the same time, so it tells us to confirm that it's slot 1. It also tells us, "Hey, that there should only be one left in that location and that the next pick is for the same item. So the user will get used to these prompts and you know it's telling me exactly what needs to be done. So I'm going to scan slot 1 to confirm that I put it in there but what if I accidentally scan the wrong one? What does it do?

Gives you a warning sound and it tells you, "Hey, you didn't do what you're supposed to do." I say, "Oh, yeah, I scanned the wrong slot, so let me make sure. So I need to get another one, so I'm going to reach into A07 and get another red one. And scan it and it's going in slot number three. So I put it in slot three and confirm that. Now it tells us to go to A08 the next location. And then it tells us we need one of the golds, so I'm going to grab a gold out of here and that's going to slot number 4, I need to go to A09. And then I need to get a black one, so I'll reach in here and grab a black and put it in slot 1 and confirm slot 1. This next we need to get two of them and it's going in slot 2, so I'm going to reach in here and get two more blacks and notice that it says, "Keep going," because they're supposed to be two.

So telling us we need to get one more, so I can scan it again, put it in slot 2, confirm that and it says, "All orders are done." So we just completed one trip through the warehouse, and remember, it started with like location number four, and then it went to seven, then eight, then nine. So when in order...and we picked all the items on all four orders and it guided us through the whole thing and it also gave us confirmations of stock levels left, and it confirmed and we had to confirm which bin we actually put it in to make sure it was packed correctly. And that's it, that's all you do. So if I say Complete here we just completed that whole wave. Of course, the next thing you would do would be to connect this back to your PC and your workstation. So I'm going to go back to Home and then we're going to hit Barcode Scanning, connect, connect to the scanner.

There are all our orders. We have the four orders being picked. We're going to upload that to the cloud. And we just now completed picking those orders, so if I go back you'll see they've all been packed and that's an example on how to use wave picking with Finale Data Collector and our Mobile Scanner.