Improve Your Warehouse Profitability With Picking Automation: Part 3 – Increase Part Picking Speed

Mar 12, 2020
vertical buffer module

This five part series looks at each of the ways that automating your picking processes can improve your productivity and reduce costs.

Manual order pickers are seldom equipped to fill more than one order at a time. Without picking optimization software, or worse yet, using a paper pick list, a worker may return to the same pick face many times per day for popular SKUs.  Statistically, a manual operation like this would achieve a pick rate of about 50 lines per hour with static pallet rack or shelving. 

In contrast, facilities with automated storage and picking software can chalk up much higher pick rates by using a batch picking process. Batch picking groups orders with a common item, or multiple common items, together in one batch. Several of the same items are picked at the same time, and subsequently added to their respective orders for shipping at a workstation. This approach dramatically increases output, as shown in Table 2 below:

Because VLMs, vertical carousels and horizontal carousels rely on tightly integrated inventory management software, batch picking can usually be accomplished in a single rotation, or cycle, of the automation unit. Automated batch picking systems eliminate the need to hold up order fulfillment or finish a manufacturing process while waiting for a required item. In the event that a non-batched order needs to be fulfilled, the automated system can easily pause the batch sequence to accommodate one-off requests. 

Orders can also be prioritized by importance or inventory availability.  This can extend customer order cut-off times, increasing customer satisfaction and making you more competitive.

Next Up: Improve Your Warehouse Profitability With Picking Automation: Part 4 – Ergonomics

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