What are picking methods?
Picking methods: The most important methods at a glance
All processes that involve the correct assembly of various individual parts are referred to as picking. Ultimately, it is a matter of assembling 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 the distribution.
Picking according to Pick-by-Paper: The classic method in the absence of a warehouse management system
Particularly in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that do not have a corresponding warehouse management system, picking by means of pick-by-paper is frequently encountered. It represents the simplest picking method imaginable and is based on pick slips consisting of paper containing information such as item number, quantity and storage location.
- Pickers operate forklift trucks, travel on foot, or manually search for the appropriate items in the warehouse.
- A synchronization with the system takes place only at a later point in time, which means that database entries are generally not 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 personnel-intensive and requires specific training.
Important: The picker must have a very accurate knowledge of the warehouse. The larger a warehouse, the lower the respective picking performance. This leads to efficiency losses with this picking method, visible in longer processes and thus higher costs per operation. In addition, the susceptibility to errors is correspondingly high.
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Picking according to pick-by-scan: maximum transparency through continuous digitization
Pick-by-scan is a commonly chosen picking method that links to a handheld mobile computer. Depending on the product type and warehouse layout, a 1D or 2D barcode scanner is integrated in it. The picker has all order-specific information, it is always shown on the display with the latest information status. Often, a warehouse management system is already integrated here, which plays the orders to the respective mobile data capture device.
- Pick-by-Scan provides all order data, such as part number, quantity and bin location, on a digital handheld computer.
- By means of a scan of the load carrier or container, a link is established with the order.
- The handheld subsequently gives instructions to the picker, who can process the order systematically and according to priority.
- The error rate is practically non-existent due to a systematic adjustment. In addition, the display of target/actual differences avoids premature stops.
In short, pick-by-scan represents the gold standard in picking methods. This is due to the continuous data exchange with the WMS system, an automated creation of shipping documents as well as a simplified application by the picker himself. 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 picking
With the pick-by-voice picking method, data is fed back to the system by voice. The picker continuously wears a headset equipped with microphone and headphones. Via a wireless connection, the picker is constantly networked with the relevant systems thanks to the voice client, 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 picking.
- A computer voice passes on corresponding orders, and the picker in turn controls by means of voice commands.
- Real-time data exchange, including radio synchronization with the WMS system, significantly increases pick-by-scan efficiency.
Frequently used: Especially where just-in-time structures the daily routine, picking methods such as pick-by-voice are ideal for use. Typical industries that make use of it are therefore sectors such as the automotive industry, retail or beverage logistics. Pick-by-voice is considered the optimal process in the man-to-goods picking segment and for small-scale picking.
Pick-by-Light: Pick tray displays the number of items to be picked
As a classic procedure within the framework of paperless picking methods, pick-by-light is one of those systems that are used in parallel picking, especially for small parts. Each shelf is equipped with special displays or so-called light signals that help to pick intuitively. 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.
- Real-time data exchange can be used in two perspectives: Removal of the respective item from the displayed storage compartment or distribution of the items to the respective locations by means of light guidance.
- Confirmation by the picker by means of an integrated acknowledgement button
- Both hands are available to the operator with this picking method
- Reduced error rate due to visual display of open positions
Essentially: Pick-by-Light goes hand in hand with high efficiency, especially for short walking distances (small parts warehouse, 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 called 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 keep the error rate as low as possible. The system can be controlled by voice commands, giving the picker both hands. Special glasses that visually display essential data guide the employee through the warehouse. With the help of augmented reality (AR), this picking method gives the operator a much more expansive visual representation of the warehouse.
- Each picker receives individual information, so 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 shows its advantages especially at high pick rates.
Which picking method is best?
This question cannot be answered in a generalized way, because this 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.