Picking Systems: item separation strategies
To choose one of these strategies, the entrepreneur must pay attention to the characteristics of his business and his storage unit.
Picking (or Order Picking ) is an intralogistics operation in which customer orders are separated and prepared so that they reach the consumer correctly. By the way, the word picking in Portuguese means “choice”, which makes perfect sense, considering the objective of such work. In this process, essential tasks are involved in the logistics of a storage unit, such as finding the product in stock, separating the desired quantity, placing it in the order box until the invoice is issued and the stock is written off. Around 30 to 40% of the labor cost of a warehouse is directly linked to this activity, demonstrating the importance of this sector.
According to the Portal MVI website, it indicates some very interesting suggestions in terms of technology when it comes to modernizing Picking Systems, through the use of equipment:
- “Picking-by-Light — In this method, operators receive orders using light signals generated in the areas where the products are stored. Confirmation is carried out directly on the shelf itself by means of a confirmation button. As with voice sorting, the operator is hands-free, but has an additional advantage: the speed of identifying what needs to be sorted. After understanding all these strategies, we can observe that the picking technique is very important for logistics, facilitating the order preparation processes for customers. When well applied, order picking makes your employees save time, reduce the traffic of workers, equipment and cars. All this brings customer satisfaction and profit to the company.
- Picking-by-Scan — In this method, the operator uses a collector, connected to an ERP system. When starting the process, the item that must be separated, its address (position) and quantity are indicated. The picker then clicks on the item’s barcode and confirms the quantity. Then the new item is shown and so on until the order is completed. Picking-by-scan is more effective than the manual process, especially in terms of safety, since it is necessary to confirm the product being picked, reducing errors.
- Picking-by-Voice — Its process is similar to that of Radio Frequency (RF), but instead of using a collector, the operator receives instructions through a headset and responds using his voice, through a microphone ( for this reason Voice Picking). The big advantage is that this option allows hands to be completely free, increasing productivity.”
- Discrete picking — In discreet picking, only one employee begins and completes order picking. This model reduces the chance of errors, as only one person is responsible for a single order at a time. However, the process becomes slower. Ideal for companies with low load movement.
- Wave picking — Here the process is similar to discrete picking . The difference is that, in wave picking , collection is carried out at certain periods of the shift, ensuring greater operational efficiency, reducing the number of shifts in the warehouse. Depending on the size of the operation, Águia Sistemas indicates that the shelves used to allocate items can be moved to be closer to the separators. Plus, it’s a great strategy for companies dealing with:
- high number of SKUs;
- medium or high quantity of items per order.
- Picking by lot — In this model, the operator waits for the accumulation of several orders so that only after the items have been separated, the collection begins. When picking up each product, he removes the amount needed to supply all orders, then distributing them. Ideal for cases where companies make sales with few items per sales order, as it helps to reduce the employee’s movement time, as it allows the collection of additional products while in a certain area. However, due to the fact that the separation is done in multiple orders, it is necessary to pay extra attention to the conference to prevent errors.
- Picking by zone — The picking system by zone is carried out when the warehouse space is divided into categories and types of products, making each operator responsible for a certain area. Thus, when an order arrives in stock, the employee separates the necessary items from each zone, until the order is complete. This technique can reduce the travel time of employees in the distribution center, but it requires good internal organization so as not to overload some areas. In these cases, Águia Sistemas generally chooses to design conveyor belts and shelves close to the employees, in order to avoid wasting time moving around the warehouse. It is well suited for companies that work with:
- high number of SKUs (Stock Keeping Unit);
- high sales volume;
- quantity of items per order from low to moderate.
The VMI Portal also highlights another Picking technique , called Bucket Brigades: “is a new picking strategy that was developed with the intention of self-balancing the company’s production lines. Self-balancing is performed based on increasing or decreasing order rates, which will be lower as operators finish orders. Operators are responsible for each order. When the operator finishes his order, he moves on to the next one that was previously started by another employee, intercepting his colleague in the storage unit. In turn, this employee will move on to the next order. The advantage of this technique is not to overload the operators, as well as the equipment. However, there needs to be great coordination between employees. ” These are the main advantages of this model:
- reducing the need for planning and managing processes;
- better performance in agility and flexibility;
- greater number of units processed (by splitting orders);
- and quality gain in the operation as a whole.
To choose one of these strategies, the entrepreneur must pay attention to the characteristics of his business and his storage unit. Águia Sistemas recommends analyzing the order profile, sales volume, number of employees and available resources (such as forklifts, pallet trucks and conveyor belts, for example). In addition, it is necessary to understand that there are many challenges that must be overcome when implementing the Picking system:
- Balancing operating costs with the binomial efficiency and quality;
- Take extra care not to make mistakes when selecting the products ordered, as shipping errors are expensive for the company;
- Keep enough items to meet demand;
- Make the separator travel the shortest possible distance to collect all the items;
- Provide the organization of the warehouse to facilitate the location of goods with agility;
- And ensure high accuracy in inventory (avoiding “holes” in stock, which can impair the separation of orders).
Keeping these elements in mind, it remains to know how to implement the Picking system in your warehouse, especially in times of virtual business growth. Here are some tips from the School of E-commerce:
- “Organize stock routines — First of all, stock must be organized, clean, have few distractions, and be well signposted. Operations need synchronization to occur with a satisfactory pattern. Therefore, the ideal is that the layout is designed for this, objectively for all involved, with documents and reports that are simple to monitor. Classify each picking area by product type, brand, model or color. Always give preference to separate shelves in well-established categories, as this reduces operating time and costs in the long run.
- Standardize the receiving process — It is extremely important that employees pay extra attention to the receiving process, product verification and registration to reduce the margin of error. When entering barcodes and quantities, professionals need to place items in the correct place and have a document so they can be easily mapped and found. This procedure speeds up the encounter and separation of these materials. In addition, to avoid generating an excess of stock with empty packaging, it is worth analyzing and uniting the references according to the size and characteristics of the products.
- Prioritize items with higher turnover — Another important tip is to prioritize items according to some differentials, such as a higher number of sales, so that operators are more agile. The idea is quite simple: higher output products need to be in closer, more visible and easily accessible places. On the other hand, the items with less turnover can be on the shelves at the end of the warehouse, in the upper part.
- Monitor the operation — In order for everything to happen as smoothly as possible, monitor how Picking works. Remember that monitoring the operation allows you to identify whether activities are being carried out and possible failures in the process, in addition to increasing the company’s confidence in the market. In general, this tip is essential to boost the productive capacity of the chain.
- Invest in technology — Whoever has a distribution center full of products from different segments needs to develop even more efficient picking methodologies. One way to facilitate this work is to invest in technology to maintain inventory organization and confidence in the process. With management systems focused on logistics, for example, the entrepreneur automates order picking strategies and obtains metrics to assess team performance. In addition to integrating the sector’s operations, allowing the visualization of data automatically, facilitating the control of goods. It is worth highlighting the Warehouse Management System (WMS), which organizes the place each product occupies according to the logistical standards determined by the company.”
But is so much work worth it? Well, the advantages of a dynamic and efficient Picking System are many:
- rationalization of time spent on intralogistics;
- increased productivity at the Distribution Center;
- faster order processing;
- reducing errors during shipping and packaging;
- greater agility in the delivery process;
- higher quality in the service provided to customers, which, deep down, is what keeps companies in the market.