What is pick-by-paper?

Pick-by-paper: the basis for picking goods and merchandise

The work steps that take place from the customer's order through to delivery are sometimes very comprehensive and detailed. Many companies only have 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: paper-based picking in small warehouses

Not every company needs the full range of modern technology to optimize the flow of goods in its operations. Particularly in small, easily manageable warehouses, the effort required for planning and integration would be disproportionate to the resulting effect. Pick-by-paper is the basic variant for order picking, which is document-based and based on the handling of packing slips, labels, grab or packing lists.

Important: As a classic, tried-and-tested method, pick-by-paper offers the advantage that warehouses can be managed entirely without technical aids. There is no need for complex process planning or investment in mobile data capture (MDC) devices. Pick-by-paper is simple and cost-effective to control, as the classic process illustrates - see next paragraph.

A typical process outlined

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 leads to the creation of a picking list. This results in the items to be put together, the warehouse location and the quantity. They are made available to the order picker as warehouse employees.
  • Once the goods have been put together, they are digitally recorded in the company's systems. The operator takes 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 a precise approach on the part of the order picker and also creates an information deficit. Last but not least, the cost per pick is very high, which has an impact on the cost-effectiveness of the method.

Advantages and disadvantages at a glance

Picking using picking slips, also known as 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 the 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 susceptibility to errors due to multiple data entry ("ticking off" on picking list, "transfer" to EDP system)
  • Restricted freedom of movement for the user
  • High level of operator expertise and specialist knowledge 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, storage capacities have grown organically and can be easily controlled by the knowledge of one individual. On the other hand, companies shy away from the planning and costs involved in establishing an intelligent and modern warehouse management system.

However, pick-by-paper is only the absolute basis; the method is not suitable for small parts or order quantities above a certain level. As a paper-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 the proLogistik 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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