Guest Column: 7 Critical Factors When Choosing an Order Picking System

It's a fair question. And since the order picking process is typically the most labor-intensive and costly activity for distribution centers, the follow-up question could easily be: "And how will that solution help me cut costs and stay competitive?"

Controlling costs, maximizing productivity, increasing throughput and improving accuracy are always critical factors for companies operating a warehouse or distribution center.

Fortunately, selecting the proper order picking technologies can move a company forward faster in reaching those objectives. To arrive at the correct order picking solution, here are guidelines that will help companies make the appropriate determination:

1. Minimize picker travel time and distances. Perhaps the most significant obstacle that undermines efficiency is the time order pickers spend in non-picking travel.

There are four concepts or methodologies and technologies that can be employed within the design of the order picking system to help minimize the impact of travel time and distance on productivity.

A. Implement an order picking methodology that makes sense for your business and your customers:

  • Batch picking, where an order picker is assigned and picks multiple orders simultaneously. This will minimize the number of "trips" to each location.
  • Zone picking, where the picking area is divided into zones and order-pickers are assigned to specific zones along with the responsibility of picking all products within their zones.
  • Wave picking, where an order-picker picks one product at a time for a group of orders.

2. Minimize product touches

3. Use of "golden zoning" principles

4. Incorporate dynamic work zones or flexible picking zones

5. Utilize slotting principles and techniques

6. Use of task interleaving

7. Use of picking technology aids

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