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Choosing a Warehouse Order Picking Method

Originally published on June 13, 2023 by Erhan Musaoglu, Updated on June 13, 2023

No matter how big or small your B2B, DTC or hybrid warehouse is, one thing is true for all fulfillment operations: time is money. And the longer it takes to carry out a task, the more resources and money it inevitably costs your business.

Warehouse order picking is no exception. In fact, the process accounts for nearly 60% of all operational costs, making it one of the most crucial functions to evaluate when rooting out inefficiencies and optimizing fulfillment workflows.

That said, there are many picking strategies to choose from, and not all will be the right fit for your unique operation. Here are Logiwa’s key resources to help guide you through the various order picking methods, as well as identify the best approach for your business.

Overview of Warehouse Order Picking Methods

Warehouse order picking is the act of retrieving inventory within your distribution center. When done effectively, it increases throughput, profit margins, and the productivity of warehouse teams. It can even ensure you meet SLAs by streamlining the most critical process of your fulfillment operations.

For an overview on the impact picking efficiency has on warehouse profitability, common picking goals, and the pros and cons of each picking method, check out Logiwa’s comprehensive blog, “Warehouse Order Picking Methods: Everything You Need to Know.”

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Basic Order Picking Methods

If you’re just getting started implementing a picking strategy, it’s important to have a firm grasp of the various picking methods. Two of the simplest forms of warehouse order picking are order-based picking and cluster picking, both of which do not require specific warehouse planning in order to execute.

    • Order-Based Picking: This method has pickers go through each order and collect items on-by-one, whether it be for single-item order or multi-item orders. It takes the most time out of all the picking methods, but it often ensures less errors or product damage due to its simplicity.
    • Cluster Picking: This approach groups orders together based on specific criteria so that pickers can assemble items for multiple orders all at once. This requires workers to either immediately or eventually sort items into their respective orders, but it does result in more orders getting filled in fewer trips.

Learn more about these two methods in Logiwa’s blog, “U-Cell Approach to Put Wall Picking in High-Volume Warehouses“, or download, “A U-Cell Approach to Put-to-Wall Picking” to take cluster picking to the next level.

High-Efficiency Picking Methods

In order to meet the demands of modern ecommerce, many warehouses have turned to more strategic warehouse order picking methods. These high-efficiency approaches require up-front analyses and deliberate facility planning to yield competitive results and cost-savings.

    • Wave Picking: Wave picking (another form of cluster picking) creates intervals, or “waves,” that align with specific criteria like shipment departure times, transportation methods, end-locations, and clients. It creates a boost in efficiency by prioritizing timelines and responsibly allocating resources.
    • Zone Picking: This strategy divides warehouses into specific zones and has workers pick orders only within their designated areas like an assembly line. This allows the picking process to be more efficient because it limits the amount of walking being done to retrieve orders while maximizing the number of orders getting processed at a time.
    • Smart Picking: Considered the leading technique for competitive order picking, this AI-based method factors in multiple order attributes in order to group and segment picking tasks for warehousing teams. It builds out pick jobs in a way that is highly optimized using smart algorithms and configurable software rules. Using smart warehouse order picking methods can save 58% of time spent on picking and 69% of the time spent on packing.

Check out the “Outlook Series Podcast: Logiwa DTC Picking Strategies” for deeper insights into each of these warehouse order picking strategies, the types of operations they best serve, and the various warehousing tools that help enhance them.

How to Choose Your Optimal Warehouse Picking Strategy

Unfortunately, there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all picking strategy for operations. However, knowing the pros and cons of each picking method, along with your own operational goals, can help you determine which direction to go. Moreover, you aren’t limited to picking just one strategy.

Using multiple approaches or layering criteria can have many positive impacts if you have the understanding and technology to manage them. Read Logiwa’s “Picking Strategies: In-Depth Comparison” to see three specific simulations (order based picking, cluster picking, and batch picking) and the total time needed to complete each. If you’re looking for an in-depth comparison between the leading order picking methods for DTC operations, download Logiwa’s guide, “Selecting the Best DTC Picking Strategy: Cluster Picking vs. Smart Picking.”

Logiwa is a leading provider of cloud fulfillment technology. Our industry-leading WMS uses smart picking algorithms to reduce fulfillment time by nearly 70%. Check out our video on Logiwa’s Smart Picking Strategies to see how our approach to inventory management can help transform your operations.

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