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Warehouse Picking Methods

Since picking labor typically accounts for on the order of half of all labor in the distribution center, it makes sense to consider better warehouse picking methods to optimize picking and speed up these processes.  Even more so when you combine the other costs of picking, such as errors, stock-outs, damage, etc.  StreamTech provides numerous ways to help you speed picking, improve accuracy, while reducing direct labor content.

Paper Picking

Paper Based PickingPaper Picking is an easy warehouse picking method using printed sheets from your WMS or ERP.  The pickers’ route may be fixed or it may be optimized.  In many operations a supervisor will batch orders together manually by zones.  Of course althought it has a low entry cost point, paper based picking has a number of shortcomings compared to directed picking and mobile computing.  There are a few seasonal companies whose volumes’ vary by a factor of 20 or more where it could make sense not to invest in technology, however as the cost of labor rises and availability shrinks they run the risk of not being able to get out orders.  Another definciency which is not always obvious until after it is gone is the possible lack of accountability and metrics.  A system-driven environment allows a company to recognize its stars and also manage to minimim production levels.

RF Picking

RF PickingPicking using mobile computers is a very easy step up from paper. All warehouse movements are logged and tracked, resulting in better inventory accuracy and providing total accountability to your labor budget as well as what individual are doing all day long. These warehouse picking methods enable you to get good statistical information on your employee’s productivity and accuracy and then good metrics for your overall operation. Information transfer can be real-time via RF or a lower cost at lower volume or spread-out operations sometimes batch transfer with cradle synch. supports mobile handheld picking. Accuracy is guaranteed by requiring scanning at each movement if desired. These systems have a more affordable entry point then they did in the past and can be implemented quickly; often with 1-2 days’ training or less.  Web-based systems allow implementation without the need for local database management and maintenance and allow users to expense and spread the cost over time.

Voice Directed Picking

Voice Directed PIckingAlthough voice recognition technology has been available for a long time, in the past decade these warehouse picking methods have grown tremendously in order picking. The hardware cost is higher than for a mobile handheld device. However unlike pick-to-light, the cost scales with the number of users, not the number of SKUs making it overall very cost effective in certain situations. A query-response system of check digits is used to ensure accuracy. Voice picking supports multiple languages (and, since the operator trains the system, supports an infinite number of operator responses). Benefits of voice picking systems is that the operator’s hands are completely free and require little fixed infrastructure, making them the system of choice for full case applications such as grocery distribution, refrigerated spaces, et.  Overall, voice provides a lot of the benefits of higher-level systems at a reasonable cost point.

Zone Pick to Light

Zone Pick to LightThe acknowledged speed and accuracy leader in the warehouse, pick to light warehouse picking methods can typically allow operators to reach 300-400 lines picked per person-hour in concentrated zones, when combined with routing systems and/or cluster or batch picking techniques. Pick-to-Light is very intuitive, does not depend on language and allows operators to anticipate the next pick via peripheral vision. Like voice picking, Pick to Light can incorporate various error proofing, or poka yoke techniques such as additional scanning to prevent mistakes provide great accuracy.

Pick to Put

Pack to LightPick to Put, also known as Pack to Light, is a special adaptation of Pick to Light or hybrid Pick to Voice system that leverages the ability to batch pick lines and distribute them among orders placed in a cart, or a sled on a conveyor.  Pick to Put systems can allow operators to reach 600 to 800 lines per person-hour, and for cart based systems minimize the need for conveyor systems.  These system share many common characteristics with the popular but expensive robot-based picking systems at a far lower cost.  Like those systems they can be easily moved to another facility as the company grows. “Put” techniques are especially useful when a small number of SKUs has to be distributed among a large number of orders, for example in retail distribution to a large number of small stores.