Order picking is a necessary part of any warehouse, fulfillment center, or distribution center and can be far more complicated than most people expect.

While it sounds simple in premise—find the items, get them in the order, out it goes—there’s a lot that can go into it in order to ensure the picks are as accurate as possible. Chief among these developments is the usage of technology.

From advancements in how inventory levels are tracked to changes in how items are located and handled, order picking technologies have come a long way in helping warehouses get orders out the door correctly and accurately. If you’re considering implementing some new order picking methods, here’s a few of the most popular technological advancements in picking and what they can do for you:

 

Light-Directed Picking

How it Works: While the name might make it sound like some kind of sci-fi laser setup, light-directed picking is a method in which lights are placed throughout the warehouse to act as a ‘guide’ of sorts to help workers locate the items they need. As an order enters the picking zone, a barcode is scanned and a light mounted near the shelf tag of each needed item lights up to indicate where your item is located.

When to Use It: This solution is perfect for warehouses that have a wide range of shelving with a variety of items on them; if your shelves are spread out or if you stock a large number of products this can be a fast way to reduce time spent trying to find items. The initial setup cost can be a little high but it will pay off productivity-wise down the road.

 

Pick-to-Label

How it Works: Designed to help with full-case picking, pick-to-label methods print custom labels for each order in a sequential fashion to help determine the best route for picking (and travelling through the warehouse). Each label is peeled and attached to the appropriate items, which are then placed on a gravity conveyor or pallet rack en route to its destination.

When to Use It: Pick-to-label methods are great for warehouses with a consistently high order volume and/or warehouses that deal frequently in full-case picking, as the large number of items can be picked most efficiently in regards to time taken. These labels can also help ensure better order accuracy, as the label can be double-checked before the order is shipped.

 

RF Device Picking

How it Works: RF picking has its roots in traditional barcode-scanning methods but with a few tweaks to make it more functional. Each operator is equipped with an RF scanning device powered by software that can be uniquely configured to your unique warehousing needs, and can capture barcodes, scan labels, or even be setup to be triggered when the device comes within a specified distance from an RF marker placed at each item’s location. To reduce costs, this technology can also be used with certain smartphones or tablets that your warehouse may already be using.

When to Use It: RF picking works very well in both helping to identify item locations as well as tracking picking accuracy and productivity; as it works based on location, you can identify potential bottlenecks in locating items and help your workers get more done in the long term. It can also help reduce mis-picks or missing items by providing an easier method of tracking locations and inventory levels.

 

As each picking method offers different advantages and benefits to your warehouse—and new ones seem to develop daily—taking the time to find the right picking method for your warehouse can make a world of difference.

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