The Best Order Picking Methods for Your Warehouse

Order picking has a critical role to play in your warehouse operations. It impacts your efficiency, accuracy and customer satisfaction, and you can accelerate your business by finding the right method. With order picking being so crucial to your success, you may wonder which approach will work best for your warehouse. Let’s talk more about some popular warehouse order picking methods and how they can benefit your business.

What Is Warehouse Order Picking?

Order picking in a warehouse is when a staff member gets a customer’s order ready by pulling items from the inventory. This step in operations involves organizing an order to ship to its destination. Successful order picking requires:

  • Accuracy: The level of accuracy in order picking has the most significant effect on your customers’ satisfaction. Accurate order fulfillment helps you prevent profit loss and build a good reputation.
  • Quick turnaround: In today’s era of fast shipping, shortening the time between order entry and shipping becomes more critical than ever. A quick order picking process improves the rate at which you can accept orders.
  • Efficiency: Most businesses measure the effectiveness of order picking by pick rate. Pick rate refers to the number of items, cases or pallets picked per hour, and an efficient process increases these numbers.

Order picking can account for 55% of warehouse operating costs. It’s also a critical component of customer satisfaction since orders must ship quickly with all the requested items. Therefore, finding the method that makes your picking workflows most effective is critical.

Types of Warehouse Picking Methods

Your warehouse may benefit from certain picking approaches over others. Some of the most popular and effective warehouse order picking methods include:

Discrete Order Picking

In discrete order picking, the warehouse worker picks one order at a time. This method has a high level of accuracy and is one of the simplest approaches. However, it sacrifices efficiency. If your warehouse picks 100 orders a day, it’ll require your team to make 100 trips through the warehouse — which is a lot of walking and will generally require more staff.

Barcode Wave Picking

Wave picking involves combining multiple orders into a “wave” or group. As a batch picking method, it allows you to process multiple orders at once and improve your travel time. Typically, warehouse order pickers move through the warehouse with a cart containing bins to organize picks into individual orders. A barcode reader guides the process, telling the worker which sections to walk through, which items to pull and which bins to put them into. Wave picking is also scheduled, usually to accommodate shipping timelines.

Warehouses can group waves in many ways. For example, it might make sense to use a single wave to pick all orders shipping out via a particular carrier. Alternatively, you might create a wave of priority orders for all orders containing products from the same location. Most warehouses prefer to use this method for orders containing a small number of SKUs — usually four or fewer.

Barcode Pick and Pack

The “pick and pack” process is a type of batch picking where workers pack orders separately from when they pick them. Warehouse staff uses a consolidated pick list containing the products from several orders. Then, the picks move to the packing stage, where different workers separate the items into boxes based on their packing slips. Picked orders may be packed immediately to speed up fulfillment times or wait in a packing sublocation until your workers are ready to pack and ship the order.

Pick and pack can speed up order picking time because workers don’t have to separate the products they’re picking into individual bins. When packers prepare orders for shipments, a distinct packing setting in the barcode reader app tells them which items to place into each shipping box, saving them time.

Choosing an Order Picking Method

When choosing an order picking method, you want to keep these factors in mind:

  • Weighing accuracy against efficiency: The right order picking method for your warehouse depends on the nature of your business. When you choose a strategy, you want to balance accuracy and efficiency. Discrete order picking and other kinds of basic methods have high accuracy with a long turnaround time. Wave picking and pick and pack methods introduce more opportunities for mistakes since workers must manage multiple orders at once.
  • Minimizing walking time: The time it takes to walk around the warehouse introduces two types of waste. First, it takes time, and second, it requires human energy. When workers spend more time walking through the warehouse, they’re more likely to become injured or exhausted. Wave picking and pick and pack methods typically create fewer trips through the warehouse. However, if items frequently batched together are on opposite ends of the warehouse, these methods could increase travel time over discrete picking.
  • Optimizing warehouse layouts: When you use a barcode reader to direct picking operations, whether using discrete or batch picking, the screen directs users through the warehouse in alphabetical and numeric order. In a well-designed warehouse setup, the design ensures pickers move in the most space- and time-efficient way. They won’t have to backtrack to grab an item they already walked past. Aim to organize your warehouse so your most valuable and requested items are closest to the packing area. Also, keep items customers like to purchase together — such as those in your product bundles — in the same sections.
  • Optimizing batches: If you go with a batch method, it’s helpful to organize waves logically. You might group all orders that contain the same product, or all orders that feature an item stored in the very back of the warehouse, so workers only have to travel that far on occasion when making their rounds.

In many cases, it can take a trial-and-error process to figure out which method works best for your warehouse. A versatile order picking solution like Finale Inventory lets you try different picking methods in your warehouse before deciding.

Find Your Preferred Method With Finale Inventory

Finale Inventory works with barcode scanner hardware to make your order picking faster and more accurate. Our turnkey barcode scanner solution supports discrete picking, wave picking and pick and pack fulfillment.

No matter the method that works best for you, our software makes your warehouse more productive. The barcode scanner app directs workers in the most efficient route and ensures the picked orders are accurate and complete with helpful notifications. Combined with our other warehouse management features, such as receiving shipments, conducting stock takes and tracking multiple locations, Finale Inventory boosts your efficiency all-around.

With our personalized customer support to fit your needs, you’ll discover the order picking process that works best for your business. Try our free 14-day trial to see for yourself how Finale Inventory can transform your business. You can also sign up for a free demo of our barcode solution and other inventory management features today.