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
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
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.
Less pick walking
One trip for many orders
Ease of merging product from many
areas into one pack area.
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.
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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.
Can be very accurate and fast. Best
for smaller items and relatively few SKUs (that can fit into one or two reasonably sized
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).
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.
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.
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.
THE SHIPPING CARTONS FOR MANY ORDERS TO THE PICK SLOTS AND PICK INTO THE CORRECT
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
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%
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.
This works less well with large
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
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
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