How to Improve Order Picking Efficiency

How to Improve Order Picking Efficiency
How to Improve Order Picking Efficiency teaser

22 May 2019

According to the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Material Management, over half of all operating costs in warehouses are spent on picking items from storage.  Inefficiencies and underperformance in picking procedures can weigh on the entire warehouse and supply chain. This may be due to time-consuming picking methods that could be improved with a few simple procedure changes or tool implementations. Here are some suggestions for your own warehouse that could drastically improve efficiency and costs when it comes to picking.

1. One-touch item method

Telling employees to “hurry up” is a poor motivational tool; it also leads to increased errors in picking. Picked inventory can be subject to a one-touch item rule; only pickers may select inventory and transport them with the appropriate manual handling equipment – such as a pallet jack. This reduces the number of hands it goes through – and chance of errors. This can drastically improve worker and customer satisfaction.



2. Automation

There is no substitute for automation in the workplace, especially in warehousing and storage. Standard operating procedures can be streamlined using automation; electronic tagging, visual verification, computerised inventory management, and conveyances (see next tip) – they can all be used in tandem to reduce errors, increase space, and most important, improve efficiency.



3. Conveyance System Implementation

Conveyance systems are a boon for warehouses and can form part of a comprehensive automation strategy. Setting up conveyor belt systems throughout a warehouse can speed up the picking to shipping process – instead of pickers manually handling products and dropping items off at despatch, pickers can pick items from shelves and have them roll towards despatch instead. These items can also be scanned at the point of picking and shipping for customer and inventory tracking. Conveyors and automation can save a business a lot of time and frustration. Reducing physical movement of goods can also reduce breakage and manual handling injuries.

4. Different order picking methods

Pickers zipping all over your warehouse floor is not only inefficient but may cause accidents. If you have no system for pickers at your warehouse, you should consider implementing order picking methods. The Zone Picking method assigns one picker per cluster of shelves who is responsible for that area only. Batch picking has pickers pick up many items at once using the most efficient routes. Wave picking is a variation on the two, all zones are picked simultaneously and sent elsewhere for sorting.

5. The Pareto Principle – 80/20 rule

If your warehouse has popular items, use the Pareto Principle – 80% of the work come from 20% of their causes. Grouping the top 20% of SKUs will likely result in 80% of the orders. Grouping them together near despatch or shipping can save time on picking. Some management consultants call this approach “lean” principles – cutting down on unnecessary SKUs can help streamline a warehouse while also cutting costs.


To find out more about improving order picking efficiency and the tools to make it happen, contact Backsafe on 1300 305 314 for a comprehensive demonstration or friendly chat.

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