What is pick-by-scan?

Picking with a barcode scanner!

In order to ensure a regulated exchange of goods and merchandise, companies need well thought-out intralogistics. The more efficiently this is designed, the lower the relevant costs and the fewer possible sources of error. The basis for this is order picking, which can be carried out using various methods. Pick-by-scan is a proven standard and is the most frequently used picking method.

Order picking using pick-by-scan: definition and explanation

Not every company, regardless of size, needs a highly complex warehouse and merchandise management system. It is often enough to design processes intelligently and integrate warehouse employees (especially order pickers) into them. Pick-by-scan stands for paperless picking based on aids such as barcode scanners or other methods of mobile data capture (MDC).

One advantage: unlike traditional picking tasks, which involve paperwork, barcode scanners, for example, allow individual pick items to be processed step by step. All the information the user needs on site is shown on a digital display.

is popular as a simple but proven picking method precisely because it eliminates many time-consuming, small-scale tasks. As MDEs such as barcode scanners or handhelds (so-called mobile computers) are continuously connected to the warehouse management system (WMS) via WLAN, time-critical tasks can also be transferred directly to the operator.

Overview: Advantages of the pick-by-scan picking method

It is not just the turnover rate or the number of picks per unit that are relevant parameters, but above all the error rate, which reduces the need for intensive research to a minimum. Compared to pick-by-paper, pick-by-scan offers many advantages, which we describe in more detail below:

  • Real-time synchronization of databases via WLAN network connection
  • Display of relevant information for the order picker in compact form (display)
  • Immediate feedback from the system significantly reduced the error rate
  • Elimination of time-consuming work steps, such as administration, search or stock reconciliation of pick lists
  • Greater transparency thanks to integration into the warehouse management system (WMS)
  • Paperless picking possible in various warehouse segments

In short: Pick-by-Scan is particularly efficient because this method is extremely easy to use. A barcode scanner helps to clearly assign handling goods and document their progress in the warehouse. They are designed as special MDEs for various areas of application, including for use in particularly hygienic work areas, in industry or in retail.

Disadvantages of pick-by-scan: high investment costs and other factors

Appropriate planning and lead times are required before an efficient storage system can be established and picking steps can be carried out intelligently. Depending on the area of application, higher requirements may need to be implemented, for example in dust-intensive or temperature-sensitive areas. The most important aspects are presented below:

  • Pick-by-scan reduces the order picker's freedom of movement; individual "hands-free" working is not possible.
  • Higher investment costs compared to paper-based picking methods, which may be more expensive. This is accompanied by additional expenses for employee training and system integration.
  • Depending on the storage system: increased time expenditure due to small parts scanning.
  • Potential sources of error due to damaged or illegible barcodes and labels, incompletely decoded labels, etc.

However, pick-by-scan exists in a variety of forms, from simple text displays to convenient MDEs with keyboards, touchscreens, etc. As user-related sources of error are reduced as much as possible, investments in this area pay for themselves in a shorter time.

Examples of applications for pick-by-scan

Every company that operates several IT systems and exchanges data, for example, is dependent on reliable input. Pick-by-Scan enables paperless picking, which provides the user with all the important details (order data, packaging instructions, storage location, quantity, etc.) that are required.

After all, error-free picking is the only way to ensure success-critical aspects such as short dispatch times. Improper, careless use would otherwise be directly reflected in high cancellation figures. In addition, the manual effort involved in errors is immensely high, tying up time and resources at the expense of margins.

In the following list, we show you examples of areas of application in which pick-by-scan is the absolute basis for order picking:

  • Warehouse logistics in general
  • Handling of shipping goods in the outdoor area
  • Retail trade
  • Mail order
  • Food industry
  • Trade and industry

Good to know: Pick-by-Scan or Pick-by-Barcode can be adapted as required to new or changing warehouse structures. It is designed as an open system, effectively reduces returns and can be used wherever barcodes or labels are used.


Logistik Lexikon Pick by Scan

Picture: Marcin Balcerzak / Shutterstock

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