What is Pick-by-Paper?

Pick-by-Paper: The basis in the picking of goods and merchandise

The work steps that take place from the customer's order to delivery are sometimes very comprehensive and small-scale. Many companies have only rudimentary or simple storage systems, for example due to a manageable work intensity or a special type of goods. The absolute basis and "basic version" in order picking is pick-by-paper.

Pick-by-Paper explained: Document-based picking in small warehouses

Not every company needs the full range of modern technology to optimize the flow of goods in its operations. Especially in rather small, easily manageable warehouses, the effort for planning and integration would be out of proportion to the effect it would have. Pick-by-Paper represents the basic variant for picking that is document-based and based on the handling of packing slips, labels, gripping or packing lists.

Important: As a classic, tried-and-tested process, pick-by-paper offers the advantage that warehouses can be managed completely without technical aids. There is no need for complex planning of processes or investment in mobile data entry (MDE) work equipment. Pick-by-paper can be controlled easily and cost-effectively, as the classic process illustrates - see next paragraph.

A typical process outlines

To give you a better picture of the structure of Pick-by-Paper, we would like to present and explain the central elements in a compact way:

  • Shipping and transportation planning lead to the creation of a pick list. This results in the items to be assembled, the warehouse location, and the quantity. You will be made available to the picker as a warehouse employee.
  • After the shipment has been assembled, a digital follow-up entry is made in the company's systems. The operator takes over the information from the picking list.

The problem with this is that the susceptibility to errors with pick-by-paper is correspondingly high, as application errors are regularly passed on. It requires precise action on the part of the picker, and it also creates an information deficit. Last but not least, the effort per pick is very high, which influences the economic efficiency of the method.

Advantages and disadvantages at a glance

Picking by means of pick slips, also known as pick lists or picking lists, can be integrated easily, quickly and cost-effectively. However, it quickly reaches its limits, and there are also aspects that call its usefulness into question. We would like to present the most important facts about pick-by-paper by comparing its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Pick-by-Paper

  • Low to no investment costs
  • Flexible expansion with adjustment of storage capacity
  • Lack of effort for employee training

Disadvantages of Pick-by-Paper

  • High error rate due to multiple data entry ("check off" on pick list, "carry over" into EDP system)
  • Restricted freedom of movement of the user
  • High level of expertise and technical knowledge of the operator required
  • High time expenditure due to manual "processing
  • Not suitable for larger warehouses or just-in-time production
  • Low, cost-intensive picking performance

Alternatives to Pick-by-Paper

One reason why pick-by-paper is still used in many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) today is obvious. On the one hand, the turnover of goods is manageable, warehouse capacities have grown organically and are easily controllable through the knowledge of one individual. On the other hand, companies shy away from the planning and cost effort required to establish an intelligent and up-to-date warehouse management system.

However, pick-by-paper is only the absolute basis, the method is not suitable for small parts or above certain order quantities. As a document-based form of picking, pick-by-paper offers advantages to a limited extent, but it is not a long-term solution due to a lack of transparency and high susceptibility to errors. Paperless picking methods that can be controlled in real time, such as pick-by-scan or pick-by-light, are more suitable here.

Tip: In proLogistik's logistics lexicon you will find comprehensive articles and explanations on these and other picking methods. Take a look inside!


Logistik Lexikon Pick by Paper

Image: Siwakorn1933 / Shutterstock

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