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.
order picking methods
Currently, about 50 percent of all Amazon distribution centers use a picking method referred to as the random strategy where products are placed haphazardly across the distribution center.
When Amazon began operations, all orders were filled using paper-based picking methods. Order pickers were simply handed a list of items to pick, and off they went. Of course, it was easier because Amazon’s only SKUs were books.
Voice picking, also known as voice-directed picking and Pick-by-Voice (PbV), is a super-efficient hands-free order picking method where the picking associate wears a microphone-equipped headset, used to verify items and their quantities. The multi-modal functions mean that 2-way communication is often enabled, so pickers can respond to operator queries when necessary. This high-demand picking method is being adopted by retail distribution centers.
Pick-to-light, also known as Pick-by-Light (PbL), is a light-directed system that shows a warehouse picker the exact location of the item and the number of items they need to pick. Pick-to-light systems can help operators accurately pick over 450 items per hour.
Pick-by-Paper is the oldest and most common method of item picking and works just as it sounds: associates fulfill orders by picking items from a paper list.
Shoppers are no longer frequenting the grocery store for their weekly stock-up like they did pre-COVID. Instead, they’re using grocery delivery or curbside pickup, causing retailers to rethink their space, customer experience, and last-mile delivery.
With more retailers embracing eCommerce and the omnichannel experience, warehouse sizes are becoming more dynamic. There are massive warehouses like Walmart’s latest 630,000 square foot distribution center, and smaller modular warehouses called micro-fulfillment centers, built for the sole purpose of fulfilling in-store deliveries and curbside pickups.
The rise of buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), microfulfillment centers, and eCommerce has many companies rethinking their fulfillment strategies to ensure they remain competitive. Speed, accuracy, and efficiency issues compound as order increase, making it more essential than ever for companies wanting to increase business to adapt.
Order picking accounts for 55% of the annual $60 billion spent on warehouse operations in the United States. Reducing human-induced errors in the order fulfillment process can save warehouses and distributors significant costs. We investigate a radio-frequency identification (RFID)-based verification method wherein wearable RFID scanners, worn on the wrists, scan passive RFID tags mounted on an item’s bin as the item is picked.
This method is used in conjunction with a heads-up display (HUD) smart glasses to guide the user to the correct item. We compare this RFID verification method to pick-to-light with button verification, pick-to-paper with barcode verification, and pick-to-paper with no verification. We find that pick-to-HUD with RFID verification enables significantly faster picking, provides the lowest error rate, and provides the lowest task workload.