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Maximize Your Picking Productivity with
Batch Order Picking

There have been several commercial attempts at multiple order picking over the years. Most involve one of the following four strategies:

1. Batch pick several orders' products and then sort into individual shipping cartons.

2. Using a carousel, bring product to the picker and pick several different orders into shipping cartons in one pass.

3. Label pick the full cases for several orders onto a single pallet and have the carrier sort the "batch" for final delivery to the customer.

4. Bring the shipping cartons for many orders to the pick slots, then pick directly into the customer's carton.

Each of these strategies has advantages and disadvantages and each is only useful for a certain order/product mix. Let's examine each strategy in detail and find out when they may be used effectively.

1. BATCH PICK SEVERAL ORDERS' PRODUCTS AND THEN SORT INTO INDIVIDUAL SHIPPING CARTONS.

In this option, a master "batch pick" is generated along with individual order lists. One pick trip is made to pick the full cases or individual items from ALL the orders in one pass.

After picking, the items are sorted (manually or with a sortation system) into separate orders and packed for shipment. This is the method often used to pick large "waves" of product in giant warehouses with each wave then being automatically sorted, checked for completeness and packed for shipping.

Advantages:

  • Less pick walking
  • One trip for many orders
  • Ease of merging product from many areas into one pack area.

Disadvantages:

  • Tends to be very capital intensive (giant sortation systems) or labor intensive (extensive checking and repackaging).
  • Requires sophisticated computer capability to interface to sortation system.
  • Requires extra labor to count, check, and pack sorted product (may equal pick labor saved).
  • What do you do about product that does not arrive at station?
  • High cost and disfigurement from sortation labels on product.

Click here for more information on order picking!

2. USING A CAROUSEL, BRING PRODUCT TO THE PICKER AND THEN PICK SEVERAL DIFFERENT ORDERS DIRECTLY INTO SHIPPING CARTONS IN ONE PASS.

In this option the carousel brings product to the picker (eliminating walking) and multiple orders can be picked in one pass of the carousel. Master pick lists (or more likely, a computer display system) direct the picking of each item into each order's carton. The picking and carousel movement are coordinated and controlled by the computer to minimize errors. Product labels can be scanned to verify the correct item is picked, and the carton label can also be scanned to insure the pick goes into the correct carton.

Advantages:

  • Can be very accurate and fast. Best for smaller items and relatively few SKUs (that can fit into one or two reasonably sized carousels).

Disadvantages:

  • Expensive equipment.
  • Limited to physically smaller items and/or smaller product line.
  • Requires good computer support to cube cartons, batch orders, control the carousels, and manage replenishment (which probably cannot occur during the picking shift).

3. LABEL PICK THE FULL CASES FOR SEVERAL ORDERS ONTO A SINGLE PALLET AND HAVE THE CARRIER SORT THE "BATCH" FOR FINAL DELIVERY TO THE CUSTOMER.

Carton pick labels are generated for each item in the multi-order "batch". The labels are computer sorted into pick slot sequence before printing. One pass through the pick area (preferably with a powered pallet jack) completes several orders. They are then ready to load in a "block" of about 4' x 4' on the truck.

This is a good strategy for picking mostly full case product (although, small amounts of broken case product can be packed into cartons for inclusion into batches of cases). As long as batches have labels with large, human-readable sort codes it will be easy for product to be split by the carrier for final delivery. A corrected packing list is attached to the last carton picked for each order in the batch.

Advantages:

  • An excellent solution for full case orders of moderate or small size.
  • Low equipment and labor costs.
  • High accuracy due to label pick.
  • No order staging or packing cost.

Disadvantages:

  • No savings on large orders with only one order in "batch".
  • Works best with "full case only" orders to be sent by UPS or common carrier.
  • Requires some computer support for batching orders and producing labels and packing slips.
  • Order weight must be calculated since single orders are not easily removable from waves.

4. BRING THE SHIPPING CARTONS FOR MANY ORDERS TO THE PICK SLOTS AND PICK INTO THE CORRECT CUSTOMER'S CARTON.

In this option, the orders are cubed and up to 24 cartons worth of orders are "batched" to make one pick trip. Picking is paperless since a portable bar code terminal is used to display each pick and display the carton or tote it is to be placed into. Accuracy is assured by requiring scanning of a slot or UPC code for each item picked and the scanning of a carton location or cart slot where the product is placed. This is what I call "Batch picking".

Advantages:

  • Significant reduction in picker walking time and distance.
  • Since accuracy has already been assured by the scanning described above, there is no need for checkers.
  • Cartons do not require repacking since cube has been determined in advance, and the need for packers is almost 100% eliminated.
  • Equipment costs are minimal, in contrast to highly expensive automated systems. (Heavy-duty carts can be purchased for about $600, and scanning can be accomplished with the Symbol Palm Pilot for a cost of approximately $800 each). Certainly there is always the option for using more expensive, sophisticated scanning equipment.
  • This can be the ideal solution for picking small orders from a large number of SKUs in a large warehouse.
  • There can be very large savings in picking, checking and packing labor.

Disadvantages:

  • This works less well with large orders.
  • There needs to be an availability of multiple orders at one time.
  • Requires computer and specialized software support to utilize in-house data for cubing, carton size, labels, invoices and packing lists.

WHEN CART PICKING OF BATCHED ORDERS SHOULD BE GIVEN FIRST PRIORITY:

  • In large pick areas where conveyors are impractical and/or expensive.
  • When there are wide variations of pick slots among individual orders.
  • When supervisors want to hold pickers individually responsible for entire orders' accuracy.
  • To ensure that an order stays together with staging not needed.
  • Where there are wide variations in picker speed and skill levels.
  • When pickers have been given the incentive for achievement of high individual pick rates.
  • When large capital outlays for expensive equipment and systems are not possible or desirable

Click here for more information on order picking!

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