The picking process in the warehouse is decisive for achieving supply chain efficiency

Picking process in the warehouse: maximum throughput with a WMS

01 Jul 2022

The picking process in a warehouse includes operations whose purpose is to retrieve and prepare products requested by customers through purchase orders. 

In essence, order picking consists of collecting and combining the individual products that make up a customer’s order. To optimise this operation and achieve maximum throughput, companies can leverage the technology and digitization offered by a warehouse management system (WMS)

Picking process in a warehouse with a WMS: how’s it done?

When performing the picking process with warehouse management software, operators use picking assistance devices, e.g., wireless RF scanners, to receive instructions from the WMS. This software shows them, for example, the items they need to locate, their exact location, and the quantity to pick. After completing a task, the operators merely have to confirm the action to receive new instructions.

The picking process in the warehouse with a WMS is the evolution of paper-based picking, a working method whereby operators use printed lists that specify the items required to put together each order. Technology facilitates picking in businesses with a large number of orders, as manual management entails a high risk of errors in inventory control.

The picking process can be optimised through the use of RF scanners connected to the WMS
The picking process can be optimised through the use of RF scanners connected to the WMS

Picking process phases

The picking process comprises a number of operations or stages aimed at collecting goods from their locations and moving them to the dispatch area as quickly and efficiently as possible.

  • Advance planning. Before beginning to prepare orders, it’s essential to plan the appropriate resources to optimise the picking process. This includes assigning the right material handling equipment to each order and standardizing unit loads to make picking more agile.
  • Routes and travel. This is the phase that takes up the most time and thus resources when performing picking according to the person-to-goods method, in which operators walk around the facility looking for the products they need. To speed up this stage, an optimal warehouse layout design that facilitates pick paths and eliminates obstacles is key.
  • Product picking or retrieval. Most errors occur at this stage of picking, so it’s crucial to remove goods accurately and safely. To avoid mistakes, inventory management must be efficient, and with the stock quantities recorded matching what’s actually on the racks.
  • Order consolidation and verification. In these operations, operators verify that the quantities and SKUs of the units collected are correct, and the goods are then packed and labeled.
  • Dispatch and transportation. The last phase of the picking process consists of moving orders to the dispatch area and printing the packing slip for the carriers.

Proper organization of the picking process reduces costs in addition to dispatching orders efficiently and without errors. 

Advantages of implementing a WMS in the order picking process

Incorporating warehouse management software in the picking process not only helps operators to be more agile and productive, but also makes it possible to closely monitor orders in process. These are the benefits of using a WMS in the picking process:

  • Cost savings. Managing picking correctly and minimizing the time dedicated to preparing and dispatching orders helps to cut logistics costs.
  • Up-to-date and digital stock information. The permanent communication with the warehouse management software allows managers to track the products available in the facility in real time and to monitor the progress of the various operations.
  • Error elimination. By following the detailed instructions of the WMS, operators complete orders more rapidly and without making mistakes.
  • Increased productivity. With the warehouse management software connected to the picking assistance devices, operators are more efficient. Preparing more orders in less time enables businesses to raise their warehouse productivity and to be more flexible and responsive in the face of unforeseen events.

With the deployment of a WMS, all information is generated, transferred, and managed digitally, improving the work of the operators and, as a result, ensuring better logistics service. The incorporation of a warehouse management software program such as Easy WMS eliminates up to 99% of order processing errors.

The pick-to-light system slashes errors and streamlines the picking process
The pick-to-light system slashes errors and streamlines the picking process

How to automate picking with a WMS

Management of the picking process can be automated with a warehouse management system, e.g., Easy WMS from Mecalux. The software organizes and orchestrates the picking process, taking into account factors such as the warehouse layout, shipping priority, picking method employed, and the number of operators, among others.

First, upon receiving a customer order request, the WMS creates the picking list automatically. The pick list is an internal document containing all the instructions a warehouse operator needs to follow to prepare an order. The use of RF scanners and picking assistance devices (e.g., pick-to-light and voice picking systems) boosts operator productivity and limits the margin of error when collecting goods. 

The WMS controls each product’s location, telling operators the number of the aisle and shelf, the storage level, and the quantity of items to remove, among other instructions. The picking list appears directly on the screen of the operator’s RF scanner, showing them where to pick each product and in what quantity. Additional barcode scans are carried out ensure that all actions are executed correctly.

Subsequently, the WMS assigns a number to the container in which the items should be placed until their dispatch. To facilitate order verification and dispatch, the Multi Carrier Shipping Software module from Mecalux lets companies label orders and prepare packing lists in line with the standards of the transportation agencies.

Picking process: key for an efficient supply chain 

The picking process is decisive when it comes to maximizing supply chain efficiency. And this is particularly the case with the rise of ecommerce, which has forced businesses to adapt their logistics operations to new consumer trends and to the characteristics and standards of online shopping. 

The solution for a competitive picking process is to equip your facility with the latest technology and with digital management software that enhances efficiency in order picking and, most importantly, limits the number of mistakes in this operation. 

Still managing your picking process manually? Ready to get the most out of your warehouse? Contact Mecalux. We’ll show you how a WMS can help boost order picking effectiveness.

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