Picking: every warehouse has to do it, not every warehouse really looks forward to it, and yet without it not a lot is going to get done.

If you’ve managed a warehouse for any length of time, you’ve surely had the importance of picking strategies pressed upon you. But how do you know what strategies to go for, or which ones will work best in your warehouse?

The thing about picking strategies is that there’s no “one size fits all” solution, and different warehouses, inventories, customer bases, and so on will require different methods of adapting to their needs. There are, however, several things that can be focused on in any warehouse to take some of the headache out of making a picking strategy and help your warehouse get more done, no matter what sort of products you need to be picking, and by keeping each of them in mind you can begin to devise an ideal picking strategy for your specific needs:

 

Optimizing Location and Storage

In regards to picking, one of the biggest issues warehouses face is item location—or, to put it more bluntly, remembering where everything is. You probably already have a solution in place for tracking inventory like barcode/RFID scanners, computerized inventory counts, and the like, but in larger warehouses that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Even if you know where all your items are located, actually getting to them can be another matter entirely. One quick solution to this problem is to do some mild rearranging to focus on your more popular items/SKUs; by reviewing your sales data and noting what sells the most/fastest, you can reorganize your warehouse storage to focus on the items you need to reach more often and cut down on a lot of headaches elsewhere in the warehouse. The benefits will be both long-term and short-term and will have a big impact on how you lay out your inventory going forward.

 

Revise Your Picking Methods

When and where you pick your items is crucial for getting work done, but in a lot of cases how you pick them can be just as critical. In modern warehouse management, there’s three common types of picking, each of them with their own advantages:

  • Zone picking: In zone picking, each worker is assigned a specific zone/area of the warehouse and focuses on only picking orders within that zone. This can help everyone identify their areas of focus and make sure nothing gets overlooked due to a confusion in responsibility.
  • Batch picking: With batch picking, a designated order picker is assigned multiple orders at once and goes to pick them simultaneously. This can help reduce traffic (which is good in areas of high foot traffic like around your pallet racks) and minimize repeat trips, which can improve productivity in bigger warehouses, even if the order handling time is increased slightly.
  • Wave picking: Kind of a combination of the previous two, wave picking moves from zone to zone, picking every needed item in that zone at once and sorting them into their individual orders later.

It might sound like a lot to think about, but once you figure out the picking method that works best for your warehouse and inventory you’ll be in a much better place when it comes to getting orders handled.

 

Reduce The Amount Of Steps In Your Item Handling

Overall, whatever method you choose to go with for item handling, reducing the amount of times an item is ‘touched’ will go a long way towards improving productivity. In too many warehouses, a lot of redundancies in handling are introduced—someone else checking the orders after the items are picked, someone else taking them to the outbound shipping area, etc. By training more of your workers to multitask, you can reduce the chances of error and avoid the “too many cooks” mentality. Make sure a worker that picks an item stays with that item until it ships out, and can track it along the way in order to make sure it gets where it’s going without getting lost in the shuffle.

With these tips in mind, you should be able to find your ideal picking strategies for the entire warehouse and get more done with less errors overall.

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