What is a Picking Trip?
A picking trip is the process of visiting the warehouse in order to execute a picking list. A picking list may include one order or multiple orders. If a trip includes one order, the process is called order based picking. If the picking list includes more than one order than this is called batch picking. Batch picking may have different types based on the processes in your warehouse. In this article, I will explain 2 types of batch picking: Custer Picking and Batch Picking.
What is Cluster Picking?
Cluster picking is the process of picking multiple orders in the same picking trip into distinct totes or bins. Generally, multi-tote or multi-bin car/carts are used to execute a cluster pick batch. In a cluster picking batch, each order is assigned to a distinct tote or bin.
What is Batch Picking?
Batch picking is the process of picking multiple orders in the same picking trip into same car/cart. Generally, a batch picking trip is followed by a sorting or consolidation process which you sort or consolidate batch picked products into distinct totes. The only exception to this process is single item orders. Single items orders directly transferred to packing stations to be packed.
What is Wave Picking?
Wave picking is used to organize the daily flow in a warehouse or distribution center. Generally, waves are created based on the arrival time of the shipment carriers or availability of the warehouse clerk. A warehouse manager can create a wave for a certain time interval to balance the daily fulfillment operations. Wave picking is not a replacement of batch picking or cluster picking but an organizer for picking lists.
How To Create Picking Waves
It is better to keep it simple when starting for the first time. I usually suggest warehouse managers create just 2 waves at the beginning. This will help your warehouse workers to get used to wave picking. When designing your waves in your warehouse, you should consider below parameters:
Cutoff Times: You should start with writing down the arrival of your shipment carriers. For instance, UPS arrives your warehouse at 2 pm where as FedEx arrives at 4 pm.
Inventory Replenishment: Inventory replenishment is the process of feeding products from buffer locations to the closer picking locations. Your picking waves should be designed by considering the replenishment intervals. In some cases, the replenishment process may stop picking process.
Labor Availability: Availability of your labor is crucial when designing the picking waves. You should consider inbound processes and shift hours. You can check out warehouse labor planning article to learn more.
How To Start Cluster Picking
In order to start cluster picking in your warehouse, there are certain steps to be defined and organized. Cluster picking can be organized in different ways. If you have a warehouse management system, it will be easier to start and configure cluster picking. If you do not have a warehouse management system, you can still start using cluster picking by implementing steps that explained below:
- Check Your Process: Your products should be suitable for cluster picking. In some of the industries implementing cluster picking is very difficult such as food(if you track expiration date), electronics(if your track serial number). You can not implement cluster picking in a pallet in-out warehouse. The main idea behind the cluster picking is batch picking. It is not possible to pick 3 pallets on a trip unless you use special equipment. We usually implement cluster picking in B2C warehouses. In a B2B warehouse, the orders are either pallet orders or large orders which include many products.
- Define Cluster Batch Size: The number of orders that are picked in a trip is known as the cluster batch size. Batch size is determined by the size of your picking cart and products. If you have small items it is possible to pick more orders in a trip. If you have large items, you need larger totes which cause fewer orders in a trip.
- Prepare your picking car/cart: Once you determine the batch size, you can now locate your totes into your picking car/cart. The number of totes or bins should be equal to the size of your batch.
- Print Consolidated Pick List: You should print a consolidated pick list for each trip. The idea of cluster picking is to combine similar products in an order batch. When a location visited, all the required quantity is picked and put into a different tote which is assigned to an order.
- Print Packing Slip: A separate packing slip should be printed for each order. You should put the packing slips into the totes.
- Print Shipping Labels: Shipping labels can be printed with the packing slips. However, the better time to print the shipping labels is during the packing.
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