Picking methods

What are picking methods?

Picking methods: An overview of the most important methods

All processes that involve the correct combination of different individual parts are referred to as order picking. Ultimately, the aim here is to compile the delivery according to internal and external orders - this not only requires a certain system (keyword: warehouse management software), but also has a significant influence on the economic efficiency of distribution.

Pick-by-paper picking: the classic method in the absence of a warehouse management system

Picking using pick-by-paper is particularly common in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that do not have an appropriate warehouse management system. It is the simplest picking method imaginable and is based on paper picking slips containing information such as article number, quantity and storage location.

  • Order pickers operate industrial trucks, travel on foot or manually search for the relevant items in the warehouse.
  • A comparison with the system only takes place at a later date, which means that database entries are not always up to date.
  • The costs for implementing pick-by-paper are extremely low, and this method can also be flexibly adapted to higher order volumes.
  • Pick-by-paper is very labor-intensive and requires specific training.

Important: The order picker must have very precise knowledge of the warehouse. The larger the warehouse, the lower the picking performance. This leads to a loss of efficiency with this picking method, visible in longer processes and therefore higher costs per process. In addition, the susceptibility to errors is correspondingly high.

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Pick-by-scan picking: maximum transparency through continuous digitalization

Pick-by-scan is a frequently chosen picking method that is linked to a mobile handheld computer. Depending on the product type and warehouse layout, a 1D or 2D barcode scanner is integrated. The order picker has access to all order-specific information, which is always shown on the display with the latest information status. A warehouse management system is often already integrated here, which transfers the orders to the respective mobile data capture device.

  • Pick-by-Scan provides all order data, such as article number, quantity and storage location, on a digital handheld computer.
  • A scan of the load carrier or container is used to create a link to the order.
  • The handheld then gives instructions to the order picker, who can process the order systematically and according to priority.
  • The error rate is practically non-existent due to systematic comparison, and the display of target/actual differences prevents premature stops.

In short: Pick-by-Scan is the gold standard in the field of picking methods. This is due to the continuous data exchange with the WMS system, automated creation of shipping documents and simplified use by the pickers themselves. Pick-by-scan can be linked to a forklift guidance system, for example, but is associated with high implementation costs.

Pick-by-voice: control via headset and both hands free for order picking

With the pick-by-voice picking method, data is fed back into the system by voice. The order picker continuously wears a headset equipped with a microphone and headphones. Thanks to the voice client, the order picker is constantly networked with the relevant systems via a wireless connection, which enables smooth communication that can be adapted at short notice.

  • Shortages and the like can be taken into account individually and without manual input.
  • Both hands are available for order picking.
  • A computer voice passes on the corresponding orders, and the order picker in turn controls the system using voice commands.
  • Real-time data exchange, including wireless synchronization with the WMS system, significantly increases the efficiency of pick-by-scan.

Frequently used: Picking methods such as pick-by-voice are ideal, especially where just-in-time structures the daily routine. Typical sectors that rely on it are therefore areas such as the automotive industry, retail or beverage logistics. Pick-by-voice is considered the optimal method in the man-to-goods picking segment and for small-scale picking.

Pick-by-Light: removal compartment displays the number of items to be picked

As a classic process in the context of paperless picking methods, pick-by-light is one of those systems that are used in parallel picking, especially for small parts. Each shelf has special displays or so-called light signals that help with intuitive picking. The relevant storage compartments are visually displayed to the picker, ensuring a high throughput during picking.

  • Pick-by-Light is suitable for small-scale shipping tasks or in combination with goods-to-man.
  • Data exchange in real time can be used from two perspectives: Removal of the respective article from the displayed storage compartment or distribution of the articles to the respective locations by means of light guidance.
  • Confirmation by the picker using the integrated acknowledgement button
  • Both hands are available to the operator with this picking method
  • Reduced error rate thanks to visual display of open positions

Essentially: Pick-by-Light is highly efficient, especially with short routes (small parts warehouses, etc.). This picking method can be easily integrated and adapted to increased order volumes. The advantage of this picking method is that several orders can be processed at the same time (also known as parallel picking or multi-order picking).

Pick-by-Vision: A combination of Pick-by-Voice and Pick-by-Light

Pick-by-vision is particularly suitable for classic man-to-goods picking, where the aim is to minimize the error rate. The system can be controlled using voice commands, so the order picker has both hands available. Special glasses that visually display key data guide the employee through the warehouse. With the help of augmented reality (AR), this picking method gives the operator a much more extensive visual representation of the warehouse.

  • Each picker receives individual information so that Pick-by-Vision can be used in warehouses of any size.
  • A combination with other functions, including camera or navigation systems, increases the efficiency of barcode reading and the like.
  • Pick-by-Vision can be implemented in many warehouse structures.

However, the planning and integration effort is correspondingly high, so that the practical application possibilities are only given in certain areas. In addition, the system is still quite new and not yet in widespread use. However, pick-by-vision is an interesting combination of older picking methods that really comes into its own with high pick rates.

Which picking method is the best?

There is no general answer to this question, as it depends on the type of warehouse management, the central processes and many other factors. As part of a logistics consultation, such aspects are also discussed in relation to picking methods.



Image: wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

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