Outbound order processing is one of the most labor intensive aspects of any warehouse operation. However, with warehouse management systems now available as web-based solutions, even small and medium-sized companies can use WMS to improve warehouse picking, along with the other tasks involved in outbound logistics
WMS can improve warehouse picking by making it faster, less labor intensive and more accurate. All of these factors can in their turn, increase overall warehouse productivity and improve customer service.
Let’s get a bit more specific though, and explore a few of the ways logistics companies use WMS to improve warehouse picking performance.
Create Efficient Picking Paths
With a WMS in place, your warehouse operatives can be guided through the warehouse in a way that minimizes the distance traveled, making each operative more productive (less walking time = more picking time). A WMS also makes it much easier to plan for multiple orders to be picked on one pass through the pick faces or aisles.
Batch picking is a commonly used method to improve warehouse picking with WMS. Instead of a warehouse operative picking one order at a time, each operative picks a single SKU, in a quantity matching the total units required for a batch of orders. The SKU, once picked, is then taken to a staging area, where the individual orders are made up from all staged SKUs.
Other Ways to Pick with WMS
Advanced WMS platforms can improve warehouse picking by integrating automated order assembly with manual picking in zones. In zone picking, warehouse operatives remain in their assigned areas (zones), picking only the SKUs stored in those areas. As they pick the items, they place them onto a conveyor system, which then transports the items to another area for packing into orders.
Another WMS-aided picking method is to pick by shipment. This method is ideal for multi-drop shipments using pallets. Warehouse operatives can make their way along a picking route in the warehouse, picking items onto the pallets. A warehouse management system can guide the picking in such a way that heavier, more robust packages are placed lower on a pallet, with lighter, more fragile items on the top layers.
Enhanced Picking Systems
Many of the more advanced Warehouse management systems can support secondary technology which transforms picking into a highly efficient activity.
These solutions, such as pick-to-light and voice guided picking, eliminate the need for pickers to use their hands for anything other than picking.
Pick-to-light for example, uses flashing lights along pick faces to guide warehouse operatives, while voice guided picking provides instructions which operatives listen to on a headset. Both of these systems offer more efficiency even than RF-based picking, because a picker never needs to holster, un-holster, or look down at the screen of an RF gun.
WMS Improves Warehouse Picking—and a Whole Lot More
Of course a WMS platform can improve efficiency in other areas besides picking. You can learn a lot more about why supply chain companies use WMS in eClass numbers 10; 11, 59, and 84, if you are a member of The Supply Chain School.
If you’re not yet a Supply Chain School member, you can find out how to access these valuable eClasses and all the other school features, by paying a visit to our FAQ page. If you’d like to ask a question which isn’t covered there, just make contact with us and we’ll be happy to provide the info you need.