Picking – How does the process work? 5 Procedure

Find out what order picking is and how this important step in the logistics process helps to fulfill orders efficiently.

What does order picking mean?

Definition: The assembly of goods for an order.
Picking refers to the process of assembling the same or different products from a warehouse to fulfill an order. This step is part of the overall logistics and shipping process in fulfillment companies, especially in their warehouses, retail stores and shipping centers.

How does the process work?

The customer places an order in the online store, for example. This order is transferred to the company’s warehouse. An employee collects the goods from the shelves or directly from the pallets and goes to the packing table. The goods are professionally packed at the packing table and dispatched. In the online store, the order status is set from “In process” to “Shipped”.

Picking can be carried out manually by employees or automatically using technologies such as conveyor belts, pick-by-light systems or robots.

Picking process
Picking process

Individual picking processes:

  1. Transmission of the order information
  2. Checking the information and inventory
  3. Order picker goes to the storage location
  4. Specification of the quantity to be removed
  5. Removal of the articles
  6. Reduction of stock levels by scanning the barcode
  7. Order picker goes to the packing table
  8. Proper packaging with enclosure of the delivery bill
  9. Create and attach shipping label
  10. Transportation of the parcel to the shipping point
  11. Collecting parcels at the dispatch point
  12. Collection of parcels from the shipping service provider

Picking by pick list

The picking method according to pick lists ➚ is a method in which the pickers receive a printed or electronic list (the so-called pick list) on which the products to be picked for an order or partial orders are listed. During this process, the pickers walk through the warehouse to collect the items on the list. Here are the basic steps and functions of picking according to pick lists:

  1. Order preparation:
    • The order information is generated by the warehouse management system and provided in the form of a pick list.
    • The pick list contains details such as product descriptions, article numbers, quantities and, if applicable, storage location information.
  2. Distribute the picking list to the pickers:
    • The picking list is distributed to the pickers either in printed form or electronically. Electronic versions can be displayed on handheld devices or tablets.
  3. Order picking:
    • The pickers use the pick list to search for and collect the required products in the warehouse.
    • You can use various methods, such as ticking off the items on the printed list or scanning barcodes on the products with mobile scanners.
  4. Shelf or storage bin navigation:
    • The pick list often contains information about the storage location where the products can be found.
    • The order pickers navigate through the warehouse to reach the relevant shelves or storage locations.
  5. Collect products:
    • The pickers collect the products according to the quantities and article numbers specified on the pick list.
  6. Confirmation and update:
    • Once the products have been collected, the pickers confirm this either manually on the pick list or by scanning the products.
    • The warehouse management system is updated in real time to track the progress of order picking.
  7. Forwarding for dispatch preparation:
    • The collected products are forwarded to the shipping preparation department, where they are prepared and packaged for shipping.

Advantages of picking according to pick lists:

  • Simple implementation: The method generally requires less technological infrastructure compared to automated systems.
  • Flexibility: It can be easily adapted to different warehouse layouts and product types.
  • Cost savings: Implementation costs are often lower compared to highly automated picking systems.

As a disadvantage, picking according to pick lists can be more time-consuming and error-prone, especially in larger warehouses. In many cases, the process is supplemented or replaced by more advanced technologies such as pick-by-light, pick-by-voice or automated warehouse robots in order to increase efficiency and reduce the error rate.

How does goods-to-man picking work?

Goods-to-person picking is a logistics and storage strategy in which the storage racks or bins remain stationary while the items are transported to the pickers (employees or machines). This approach aims to increase efficiency in the order picking process by minimizing employee travel and speeding up order processing. Here are the basic steps and functions of goods-to-man picking:

  1. Automated storage systems:
    • Storage racks or containers are often part of an automated storage system. These can be racks with shuttles, conveyor belts or other automated transport systems, for example.
  2. Order preparation:
    • The order information generated by the warehouse management system is analyzed to identify the positions of the required products in the warehouse.
  3. Transportation of the storage containers:
    • Automated systems move the storage containers or shelves to the picking stations instead of the pickers having to walk to the shelves.
    • This transport can be carried out by automated conveyor belts, shuttles or other automated transport systems.
  4. Arrival at the picking station:
    • The storage containers or shelves reach the picking station where the items are to be picked.
    • Humans or robot-controlled systems can work at this station to remove the products from the storage containers.
  5. Order picking:
    • The pickers (employees or robots) remove the required products from the incoming storage containers according to the order information.
    • If required, pick-by-light or pick-by-voice systems can be used to support the pickers.
  6. Confirmation and shipping preparation:
    • The products removed are scanned or otherwise recorded in order to document the changes in stock.
    • The products are then forwarded for shipping preparation or packaging.

Advantages of goods-to-man picking:

  • Increased efficiency: The overall efficiency of the picking process is increased by reducing the distances that the pickers have to cover.
  • Time saving: The direct transportation of products to the picking stations saves time and speeds up order processing.
  • Error reduction: The stationary storage shelves minimize the risk of mix-ups and errors that can occur during manual searches.

Goods-to-person picking is often used for goods in highly automated warehouses and logistics centers to ensure efficient and precise order processing.

Goods to man order picking
Goods to man order picking

Order picking with pick-by-light systems – what is it?

The pick-by-light system is a technology used in warehousing and picking processes to improve efficiency and accuracy when picking orders. The paperless picking process consists of a series of displays attached to the storage racks or storage locations, as well as a central control system and is used instead of pick lists.

Here is how the pick-by-light system normally works:

  1. Order information:
    • A central warehouse management system receives the orders and forwards the necessary information to the pick-by-light system.
  2. Displays at the storage bin:
    • Each storage location or directly at the article in the warehouse is equipped with a display device (pick-by-light display).
    • The displays show information such as product code, quantity and/or other relevant details.
  3. Picker guide:
    • When an order needs to be processed, the pick-by-light system guides the employee through the warehouse by illuminating the relevant displays with the number of products to be picked.
    • The employee follows the instructions, takes the required products from the illuminated storage locations and confirms the removal.
  4. Confirmation and update:
    • After the employee has removed the products, he confirms this in the system and the display goes out.
    • The system automatically updates the stock level and provides information on the progress of the order if necessary.

Advantages of the pick-by-light system:

The advantage of pick-by-light systems lies in their ability to speed up the picking process and reduce the error rate, as the visual guidance minimizes the likelihood of mix-ups. This technology is often used in combination with other automated storage and logistics systems to ensure smooth operations in warehouses.

Picking Pick by Light System
Picking Pick by Light System

How does the pick-by-voice system work during order picking?

The pick-by-voice system is a technology that uses voice instructions to guide employees through the picking process. It enables efficient and error-free order processing, as employees receive instructions without having to look at papers, lists or screens. Here is how the pick-by-voice system usually works:

  1. Order preparation:
    • The order information is generated by the warehouse management system and transmitted to the pick-by-voice system. This includes details such as article number (SKU, GTIN, ASIN, ISBN etc.), quantity and storage location.
  2. Headset provision:
    • Employees in the warehouse are provided with special headsets or mobile devices with a built-in microphone. These headsets are designed to be worn comfortably and securely on the head.
  3. Voice instructions:
    • The pick-by-voice system gives employees precise picking instructions via the headset. This can include, for example, the article number and the quantity to be removed.
  4. Confirmation by the employee:
    • After the employee has heard the instructions and removed the products, he confirms this by voice input. This confirmation is recorded by the system and used to update the order status.
  5. Navigation support:
    • The system can also provide navigation instructions to guide the employee to the correct storage locations. This is particularly useful in large storage areas.

Advantages of the Pick-by-Voice system:

  • Hands-free: Employees have both hands free to remove products and place them in containers, which increases efficiency.
  • Error reduction: As employees can minimize visual distractions, the error rate in order picking is reduced.
  • Easy training: New employees can be trained quickly as the system gives them clear instructions.

The pick-by-voice system is often used in combination with other technologies such as pick-by-light or automated storage and transport systems to optimize the entire picking process.

Picking Pick by Voice System
Picking Pick by Voice System

Order picking with the help of robots?

The picking process using robots, also known as robot-assisted picking or robot-assisted order fulfillment, is an advanced technology that is becoming increasingly important in the warehousing and logistics industry. Here are some types of picking with robots:

  1. Autonomous mobile robots (AMR):
    • These robots are mobile and can navigate autonomously through the warehouse. They are equipped with sensors and cameras to detect obstacles and move safely through the storage area.
    • AMRs can approach shelves with products, pick them up and transport them to a central picking area or a packaging area.
  2. Robot arms for gripping and picking tasks:
    • Robotic arms can be programmed to pick products from shelves and place them in the appropriate bins or storage baskets.
    • Vision systems help the robots to identify and precisely grip products.
  3. Shuttle robot:
    • Shuttle robots move on special rails or conveyor belts and can travel directly to storage locations.
    • You can bring shelves or containers to a picking station where employees remove the required products.
  4. Collaborative robots (cobots):
    • Cobots work in collaboration with human employees. In order picking, for example, they can lift heavy loads or take on repetitive tasks to reduce the workload.
    • They can also be integrated into pick-by-light or pick-by-voice systems to optimize the picking process.
  5. Automated storage and shelving systems:
    • In highly automated warehouses, robots and automated systems can work together to transport products to the picking stations.
    • This can be done, for example, by using automated shelving systems in which robots move the shelves to facilitate access to the products.

Advantages with the help of robots:

The integration of robots into order picking enables orders to be processed faster, more precisely and more efficiently. The selection of the most suitable robot solution depends on the specific requirements and conditions of the warehouse or logistics operation.

Picking by robot
Picking by robot

Special features of order picking?

When picking, it is not only the correct articles and the respective quantity that are important, sometimes further information also needs to be recorded.

Including the recording of:

  • Serial numbers: Serial numbers can be used to precisely assign items to an order. This is relevant, for example, if a customer is to receive their own SIM card. However, it is also important to be able to track the logistics chain (chain management) for medical products.
  • Batch numbers: Recording the items that belong to a batch is important, for example, if there are problems with the product and they need to be recalled.
  • Best before date: It is important to observe the best before date for perishable products. Here, the FiFo principle (first in first out) must be applied in the warehouse so that the products that were stored first are also removed first.
  • Hazard numbers: These numbers are assigned to a dangerous good and the entire supply chain of the product can be tracked. Also very important if there are problems with the hazardous goods.

Conclusion:

Efficient picking processes are crucial to enable and guarantee accurate and fast order processing. Picking errors can lead to incorrectly shipped products or delivery delays, which in turn can affect customer satisfaction. For this reason, many companies place great importance on optimizing and automating this process.

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