When it comes to order picking, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for your eCommerce business.
Different businesses will have differing needs and requirements, which means that the order picking process will also vary from company to company or will change as a company grows.
However, there are some general best practices that can be followed in order to create an efficient and effective order picking system, no matter what stage your business is in or what products you sell.
In this guide, we will explore these best practices in detail, as well as provide some tips for optimizing your process even further.
What is order picking?
Order picking is the process of retrieving products from a warehouse for customer orders. This can be done manually or with the help of automated systems, such as conveyors, robotics, and software.
The goal of order picking is to fill customer orders quickly and accurately while minimizing errors and maximizing efficiency. More orders out the door, faster, leads to more profits and quicker scaling for your business.
It’s one of the essential aspects of inventory management, as it directly impacts customer satisfaction and thus your brand perception and the successful execution of critical business tasks.
Why is order picking important?
Order picking is important because it directly affects the customer experience. If orders are not picked correctly or are delayed, it can lead to unhappy customers and negative reviews. Negative reviews lead to a loss in repeat customers or the loss of future sales. Both of which are to be avoided if possible.
In addition, order picking is a major component of the warehouse operation and can have a large impact on an eCommerce or warehouse business’s bottom line.
Improper or inefficient picking leads to more returns and more wasted time, both of which are costly.
An efficient order picking system can save the company time and money, while an inefficient system can lead to higher costs and lost sales.
It’s important for eCommerce businesses to get this right.
Impact of order picking on warehouse profitability
An efficient order picking procedure has many benefits on a business’s profitability, sustainability, and overall health.
These benefits include:
- Minimizing injury: Order picking is a physically demanding job that can lead to repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). An automated order picking system can help reduce the risk of RSIs by reducing the need for manual labor.
- Reducing labor costs: Order picking is a labor-intensive process. By automating this process, businesses can reduce their labor costs and increase their profits. This is doubly important as skilled labor becomes harder and harder to attract and retain.
- Improving customer satisfaction: Order picking mistakes can lead to unhappy customers and negative reviews. An automated system can help improve customer satisfaction by ensuring that orders are picked correctly and delivered on time.
- Reduce travel distance: Order picking can be time-consuming if products are spread out across the warehouse. An automated system can help reduce travel distance by bringing products closer to the picker. For example, SkuVault generates intelligent pick lists that automatically show pickers the most efficient route to collect all necessary products with minimal backtracking.
- Minimize pick errors: Each order that is picked incorrectly costs the company time and money. In some cases, the customer may not even receive their order. To avoid this, businesses need to have a system in place that minimizes pick errors. One way to do this is to use an automated order picking system that uses barcodes or RFID tags to track products. This way, if an error is made, it can be quickly corrected. Another way to minimize pick errors is to have a digital quality control system in place. This system should include regular checks of the order picking process to catch costly mistakes before they move any further down the logistics pipeline.
- Maximize the use of space: An efficient order picking system can help maximize the use of space in the warehouse. This is because an automated system can bring products closer to the picker, which reduces travel time and allows for more efficient use of the warehouse space.
What are the different types of order picking?
There are several different types of order picking, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The most common types of order picking are:
Batch picking is the process of picking multiple orders at the same time. This method is often used when orders are similar or when products are picked from the same location.
The advantage of batch picking is that it is faster than other methods. The disadvantage is that it can lead to errors if pickers are not careful.
Batch picking works best for these kinds of businesses:
- eCommerce businesses that sell similar products
- Businesses with high order volumes
- Discrete manufacturers
Wave picking is the process of releasing orders in waves throughout the day. This method is often used when there are a large number of orders to be picked.
The advantage of wave picking is that it helps to keep the pickers from getting overloaded. The disadvantage is that it can lead to delays if an order is not picked in the correct wave.
Wave picking works best for these kinds of businesses:
- eCommerce businesses with a high volume of orders
- Businesses that sell products with different lead times
Zone picking is the process of assigning pickers to specific areas of the warehouse. This method is often used when products are spread out across the warehouse.
The advantage of zone picking is that it helps to keep pickers from getting lost in the warehouse. The disadvantage is that it can lead to delays if a product is not in the picker’s assigned zone.
Zone picking works best for these kinds of businesses:
- eCommerce businesses with a large warehouse
- Businesses that sell products with different lead times
Picking by case
Picking by case is the process of picking orders by selecting entire cases of products. This method is often used when products are delicate or when there is a high chance of products being damaged.
The advantage of picking by case is that it helps to protect products from damage. The disadvantage is that it can lead to delays if a picker cannot find an entire case of products.
Picking by case works best for these kinds of businesses:
- eCommerce businesses that sell delicate products
- Businesses that sell products with a high chance of damage
Which order picking method is best for me?
The best order-picking method for your business will depend on a number of factors, including the type of products you sell, the layout of your warehouse, and the volume of orders you receive.
For example, if you’re a boutique eCommerce business that sells a wide variety of consumables (like beauty products), then you’ll likely want to use a zone-picking method.
This is because each product will likely have a different lead time, and you don’t want your pickers to waste time walking around the warehouse looking for products.
On the other hand, if you’re a large eCommerce business that sells a limited number of products (like clothes), then you might want to use a wave-picking method. This is because you’ll likely have a large number of orders to pick, and you don’t want your pickers to get overwhelmed.
No matter what type of business you have, it’s important to experiment with different order-picking methods to see which one works best for you.
How to implement an effective order-picking process
If you’re looking to implement an effective order-picking process, there are a few things you’ll need to do:
1. Understand your product mix: The first step is to understand your product mix. This will help you determine which picking method is best for your business.
2. Train your pickers: Once you’ve decided on a picking method, you’ll need to train your pickers. This will ensure that they know how to pick orders correctly.
3. Implement an order-tracking system: An order-tracking system will help you keep track of your inventory and ensure that orders are picked correctly.
4. Test your process: Once you’ve implemented your process, it’s important to test it to ensure that it’s effective.
5. Make adjustments: If you find that your process is not effective, don’t be afraid to make adjustments. The goal is to find a process that works best for your business.
Order picking is an essential part of any warehouse operation. By understanding the different methods and implementing an effective process, you can ensure that your business runs smoothly and efficiently.
Warehouse order picking tips and best practices
Outsource fulfillment to a 3PL
If you don’t have the time or resources to invest in an effective order-picking process, you can always outsource fulfillment to a third-party logistics (3PL) provider.
A 3PL provider will pick, pack, and ship orders on your behalf, freeing up your time to focus on other aspects of your business.
Additionally, a 3PL provider will have the resources and expertise to pick orders quickly and efficiently. To get started, find out how much a 3PL costs to see if it makes sense for your business model.
Use the right warehouse equipment
Using the right warehouse equipment can help you pick orders more quickly and efficiently.
For example, using an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) can help to reduce picking times. Alternatively, using conveyor belts can help to move products around your warehouse more quickly.
Investing in the right warehouse equipment will help to improve your order-picking process and make your operation run more smoothly.
Use barcodes and scanning technologies
Barcodes and scanning technologies can help to improve accuracy and efficiency in your order-picking process.
For example, using barcodes can help your pickers to quickly and easily identify the products they need to pick. Additionally, using scanning technologies can help to track orders and inventory in real-time.
Investing in barcode inventory management and scanning technologies will help to improve the accuracy and efficiency of your order-picking process.
Track your warehouse productivity with KPIs
One way to ensure that your order-picking process is effective is to track your warehouse productivity with key performance indicators (KPIs).
Without measuring KPIs, you’re essentially flying blind; you won’t be able to intelligently identify and resolve bottlenecks in your inventory control system.
Some KPIs you may want to track include:
- Order picking accuracy
- Order picking time
- Number of orders picked per hour
- Productivity rate
By measuring KPIs, you can identify issues with your order-picking process and make necessary changes to improve productivity.
Implement a digital inventory management system
A digital inventory management system can help you keep track of your inventory in real time.
Additionally, a digital system can automate many of the tasks associated with inventory management, such as ordering and restocking.
Investing in a digital inventory management system like SkuVault will help to improve the accuracy and efficiency of your order-picking process (as well as just about everything else!).
Optimize your warehouse layout
An effective order-picking process starts with an optimized warehouse layout.
If your warehouse is not laid out efficiently, your pickers will waste time walking (or even running!) from one side of the warehouse to the other. This wasted time can add up quickly and ultimately impact your bottom line.
There are a few things you can do to optimize your warehouse layout, such as:
- Grouping like products together
- Organizing products by order frequency
- Creating dedicated pick paths
By optimizing your warehouse location system, you can help to improve the efficiency of your order-picking process.
Is order picking hard?
Order picking can be hard work, especially if your warehouse is not laid out efficiently.
However, there are a few things you can do to make the process easier, such as investing in the right equipment and using barcodes and scanning technologies.
How can I improve my order picking?
There are a few things you can do to improve your order picking, such as investing in the right equipment, using barcodes and scanning technologies, and tracking your warehouse productivity with KPIs.
What is the most important thing in order picking?
There is no one single “most important thing” in order picking. However, a few important things to keep in mind include accuracy, efficiency, and productivity.
What is an order picker job description?
An order picker is responsible for picking orders in a warehouse. This may involve using a forklift, pallet jack, or other equipment to move products from one location to another.
Order pickers may also be responsible for loading and unloading trucks, as well as keeping track of inventory levels.
An order picker job description may also include other duties, such as packing orders and conducting quality control checks.
What are common order-picking strategies?
As mentioned in this post, there are many common order-picking strategies. The most popular are batch picking, zone picking, and wave picking.
Which strategy you choose will depend on your specific needs and requirements.
You may also want to consider using a combination of strategies to optimize your order-picking process.
An effective order picking process is essential for any warehouse operation. By understanding the different methods and implementing an effective process, you can ensure that your business runs smoothly and efficiently.
Additionally, using the right warehouse equipment and tracking KPIs can help to improve your order picking process.
If you’re interested in learning more about SkuVault can not only help automate your order-picking process, but everything else in your inventory control system, check out our features page here.
Or, click the button on this page to see a demonstration of the software in action.
Do you have any tips for improving order picking? Let us know in the comments below!