3 week ago, one of my clients requested a meeting to discuss their physical picking process in his warehouse. Together, we have analyzed their warehouse operations and created a detailed report including all the KPIs in the warehouse. After the analysis, he decided to change his order picking methods in his retail warehouse. I realized, most of the warehouse managers don’t know their options when it comes to picking technologies and how to use them. In this article, I will try to explain different types of order picking methods and technologies which can be used in an e-commerce fulfillment warehouse.
E-commerce Fulfillment Warehouse
The warehouse is an e-commerce warehouse and they ship 300 order/day in average. An average order includes 4-5 products and the products have similar sizes. The products are located on the shelves.They have been using paper based order picking. I grabbed a pick list from warehouse manager’s desk and started picking orders with the pickers. I saw the unproductivity and errors during the picking process. And prepared below table by analyzing their current operations.
After measuring all the metrics, here are the subjective results:
Paper Based Order Picking
Paper based order picking is the worst picking method. There is no traceability in fulfillment operations. Because of the human errors, the operation is inaccurate.
Barcode Scanning with RF Scanners
RF scanners are effective in small and medium warehouses because they are flexible, traceable and reasonably accurate.
Voice picking is faster, traceable and has a low rate of errors. However, voice picking can not be used in noisy environments, setup time per user is higher, you can use it only for standard operations.
Pick By Light
Pick by light is the fastest one, lowest error rate and it looks cool. However, the initial investment and maintenance cost is higher.
For small e-commerce fulfillment warehouses, RF scanners are still the most productive technology. A combination of cloud warehouse management system and barcode scanning technology can change the fulfillment efficiency dramatically. If the number of daily orders is less than 2000 and products are small(fits in a plastic tote), barcode scanning technology is one of the best options.
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