Explore the 8 vital warehouse picking systems, their benefits and factors to consider for optimal operational efficiency. Find the right fit for your warehouse.
Warehouse picking systems are integral to modern logistics, streamlining operations and enhancing efficiency. These systems vary in complexity and are tailored to specific operational needs, including order volume, product types, and required accuracy levels. This article explores the various types of warehouse picking systems, what defines picking systems, their benefits, technological integrations, and factors influencing their selection.
A warehouse picking system is a set of methods and processes used to select and retrieve items from storage in a warehouse for the purpose of fulfilling customer orders. It includes strategies for how items are selected, the use of technology and equipment to facilitate picking, and the layout and organization of the warehouse to optimize the efficiency and accuracy of the picking process.
Put differently: A warehouse picking system is basically the way workers in a warehouse find and collect the items that need to be sent out to fulfill customer orders.
The various types of warehouse picking systems vary in complexity and functionality, each tailored to different operational needs, order volumes, sizes, product types, accuracy requirements, and responsiveness. Here's an overview of the main types:
This is the most basic form, where orders are picked one at a time, often by a single picker. Ideal for small operations, this system can be enhanced with technologies like goods-to-person systems for example AutoStore, RFID, forklift guidance systems, or barcode reading.
In this variant of single picking, called batch picking, a picker groups several orders together. This approach increases efficiency by reducing the need to walk back and forth and picking the same stock keeping unit (SKU) for multiple orders.
In larger distribution centers, the space is divided into different zones. Each picker is assigned a specific zone and range of SKUs. Multiple pickers can work either simultaneously or sequentially in the same order, which minimizes walking time and reduces congestion. This is referred to as zone picking.
Wave picking combines elements of batch and zone picking. Orders are grouped into 'waves' and picked at specific times, allowing for coordinated picking and shipping activities. It's efficient for managing a large number of orders with varying priorities.
Put-to-light and pick-to-light systems use lights and alphanumeric displays to guide pickers. 'Put to light' is primarily used for sorting and packaging, while 'pick-to-light' is for the picking process itself.
This method involves combining multiple orders into a single tote or cart, commonly used in e-commerce. It can be integrated with technologies like 'put to light', where items are sorted according to specific orders.
Utilizing a Goods-to-Person (G2P) system, instead of pickers moving to items, the items are brought to the pickers. Technologies like the AutoStore system, where Robots move items to stationary operators, fall under this category.
Pick-and-place robots are an example of piece-picking robots and are used for picking, often combined with G2P technologies for enhanced efficiency.
Each of these systems offers unique advantages and can be selected based on the specific requirements of a warehouse operation. And speaking of advantages; let’s have a closer look at the main benefits of warehouse picking systems.
Warehouse picking systems are essential in streamlining operations and enhancing efficiency in various ways. Here are some key benefits and how they impact warehouse operations:
In summary, warehouse picking systems not only enhance the speed and accuracy of operations but also contribute to labor efficiency, workflow optimization, scalability, and ultimately, customer satisfaction. They represent a significant advancement in the way warehouses manage and fulfill orders.
Choosing the right picking system for your operations depends on a variety of factors, each playing a critical role in determining the most efficient and cost-effective solution. Understanding these elements is key to selecting a system that aligns with your operational needs and goals.
What is the order volume and product type?
High-volume operations may benefit from batch picking or automation to handle the large number of orders efficiently. In contrast, operations with lower volumes might find single order picking more suitable, especially when augmented with technologies like voice picking or pick to light. The number of different products (SKUs) you handle also influences this decision. For example, operations with a high volume but a limited range of products might still effectively use manual picking methods.
What is the nature of the products?
The nature of the products being picked is crucial. Systems like AutoStore are excellent for piece picking (individual items), but may besuitable for products which are larger in size. For systems like pick-and-place robots the size, weight, and fragility of products should be considered to ensure the picking system can handle them without damage or inefficiency.
Which warehouse layout and design?
The size and configuration of your warehouse are pivotal in choosing the right technology. Some systems, such as AutoStore, are highly adaptable and can be configured to fit various layouts, making them a versatile choice for different warehouse designs.
What service level agreements?
Different clients may have varying expectations regarding order fulfillment times. Your picking system should align with these expectations to maintain customer satisfaction and meet contractual obligations.
Which accuracy requirements?
This is particularly important for high-value or sensitive products where errors can be costly. The right picking system should offer a high degree of accuracy to minimize mistakes.
Potential growth and scalability?
Consider your business’s potential for growth. Systems like AutoStore stand out for their scalability, allowing for expansion in both storage capacity and flow rate while the system is operational. This adaptability is crucial for businesses expecting to grow or fluctuate in order volume.
Do a cost-benefit analysis
Finally, a cost-benefit analysis is essential. This should include not just the initial investment but also medium and long-term operational costs. The goal is to find a system that offers the best balance of performance and cost over time.
Picking systems have become a cornerstone in modern warehousing, streamlining operations and optimizing efficiency. As businesses seek to adapt to the fast-paced market, understanding the nuances of implementing these systems is crucial.
Picking systems are designed to minimize labor needs and simplify training. Automation supports these systems by enhancing efficiency and reducing the physical and repetitive nature of the tasks. While training is still necessary, modern systems with user-friendly interfaces facilitate quicker and more straightforward learning. Workers may need to grasp control interfaces and specialized troubleshooting, enhancing their skills and potentially opening pathways for internal career advancement. More complex systems, involving robotics and maintenance, offer opportunities for workers to acquire valuable technical skills.
Transitioning to a new picking system requires careful planning to ensure continuous operation during implementation. A detailed plan with clear milestones is essential. Employee training and education are critical, especially when shifting from manual to automated systems. It's important to view automation as a tool for growth and specialization, rather than as a replacement for human labor. Integration with existing systems is also crucial, as the new system may not replace all manual tasks immediately. For example, handling oversized items may still require manual intervention before full integration into the automated system.
The ability of picking systems to adapt to fluctuating inventory levels and variety depends on the chosen technology. For instance, manual picking can be challenging during seasonal changes due to the need to rearrange items. In contrast, systems like AutoStore can effortlessly adjust due to their inherent slotting capabilities, making them more adaptable to such variations.
Investing in a picking system involves two primary cost categories. Capital expenditures (CapEx) encompass equipment and installation costs, software expenses including Warehouse Management System (WMS) integration, and training related to the new system. Operational expenses (OpEx) cover ongoing costs like labor, maintenance, energy, and licensing fees. Additional considerations include space utilization, financing and interest, transition downtime, and insurance costs.
By carefully considering these elements, businesses can effectively integrate picking systems to enhance operational efficiency, reduce costs, and prepare for future technological advancements in the field of warehousing.
As warehouse picking systems continue to evolve, several groundbreaking innovations are on the horizon, each poised to significantly enhance efficiency, throughput, accuracy, and training processes:
These upcoming innovations promise not only to refine current practices but also to open new possibilities in warehouse logistics, setting the stage for a more agile, responsive, and technologically advanced future in warehousing.
The AutoStore picking system significantly streamlines warehouse operations through various innovative features:
Our Robots are precision-engineered to select the correct product every time, presenting the requested Bin efficiently. For Bins containing multiple SKUs, we employ supplementary technologies like RFID, barcode scanners, weight checks, and laser pointers to eliminate any possibility of confusion.
Our tireless Robots ensure a consistent flow of Bins to the pickers, eliminating waiting times and maximizing efficiency. Using AutoStore's sophisticated software, the Controller directs Robots in real-time to swiftly locate and transport inventory Bins. The Router software, a critical component of this ecosystem, is designed to continuously map the most efficient paths for the Robots across the Grid, adapting instantly to changes.
With its capability to analyze and adjust to operational dynamics every second, the system ensures a consistently optimized order flow. This includes adapting to new orders, cancellations, or shifts in personnel movement. As a result, the AutoStore system not only accelerates the fulfillment process but also eliminates delays and maximizes efficiency, keeping productivity at its peak 24/7.
AutoStore's advanced 'goods-to-person' technology brings Bins directly to the operators, allowing the Robots to do the legwork. This approach significantly reduces physical strain on workers and increases overall operational efficiency.
Our system offers real-time inventory updates, enabling clients to monitor the contents of all Bins at any time. This feature is crucial for preventing stockouts and optimizing replenishment activities, especially when SKUs reach their safety stock levels. Additionally, AutoStore's natural slotting system ensures optimal placement of products: high-demand items are kept on top for easy access, while less frequently used items are stored below, adapting seamlessly to seasonal changes without manual reorganization.
With our expanded product portfolio, including the FusionPort, AutoStore facilitates efficient sorting and consolidation of different orders, streamlining the order fulfillment process.
AutoStore's design is uniquely adaptable to any warehouse layout, whether it's irregularly shaped, built around pillars, or spread over multiple levels. Its scalability allows the system to grow with your business. Adding new robots is a swift process, taking only a few minutes. Picking Ports can be partially installed, ready for quick expansion when needed. Even when increasing storage capacity, the system remains operational, ensuring no disruption to your operations.
AutoStore features user-friendly interfaces, making it easy for new workers to learn and operate the picking ports. This user-centric design ensures a quick and effective training process, allowing for faster integration of new staff into the workflow.
In summary, the AutoStore picking system offers a comprehensive solution to modern warehousing challenges, combining accuracy, efficiency, and scalability to enhance overall operational effectiveness.
Choosing the right warehouse picking system is a critical decision that significantly impacts operational efficiency, accuracy, and customer satisfaction. The appropriate system varies based on factors like order volume, product characteristics, warehouse layout, and service level requirements. Advanced systems like AutoStore offer unparalleled accuracy and scalability, while manual methods can be effective for smaller operations. Implementing these systems requires careful consideration of labor requirements, cost, and integration with existing processes. As warehouse logistics evolve, innovations in robotics, AI, and micro-fulfillment centers are set to further enhance efficiency and adaptability. Ultimately, the choice of a picking system should align with the specific needs and goals of your operations, balancing performance and cost for long-term success.
The three most commonly used picking systems in warehousing are:
A warehouse picking system is a method or process used in warehousing for selecting and retrieving items from storage to fulfill customer orders.
A picking system refers to the assortment of strategies and technologies employed in logistics and warehouse management for gathering products based on customer orders.
One method of picking goods in a warehouse is Batch Picking, which involves collecting items for multiple orders simultaneously to increase the efficiency of the picking process.