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4 Common Types of Warehouse Order Picking Systems

Product identification and picking are an integral part of warehousing and supply chain processes. Order picking accounts for over 50% of warehouse and fulfillment center costs, making it the most important - and costly - activity you can't afford to overlook. 

Depending on your operations, you’ll need to use one or more of the following strategies to reduce picking errors, improve picking accuracy, save a lot of manpower, and increase picking volume:

Batch Picking 

Works great for fulfilling multiple orders involving the same product or SKUs. For example, if there are 50 orders from different customers for one item, the picker can just do the trip at once or stay in the picking area. This minimizes travel time, steps, and trips.

Wave Picking 

Similar to batch picking, but different in the sense that it is timed. In batch picking, pickers can be in an area all day. But in wave picking, pickers can be deployed to that area during certain times of the day. These orders may also be grouped based on importance.

For example, all orders for similar SKUs with same-day delivery or pickup options will be prioritized above those with regular shipping schedules. Distribution centers handling a large number of SKUs often find this method effective and efficient. 

Zone Picking

This involves pickers being assigned to just one area of the warehouse where they’ll pick only one or more SKUs in the area. So if an order involves a product that’s in another part of the warehouse, other pickers will get the remaining part of the order. 

Discrete Picking 

This is a linear process where a picker fills an order on a chronological basis. So if an order includes several items in different parts of the warehouse, that picker who is assigned the task, will have to travel to all locations and pick the SKUs until the order is complete. 

How to Pick the Right Method

Each picking strategy has its unique advantages. You will have to figure the best strategy for your warehouse though, as your situation is likely to be different from other retailers’ operations. 

Some factors to consider include the size of your space, how many SKUS you have in your facility, the number of orders you process, how many items are in those orders, human and financial resources, and your technology.