Warehouse efficiency is a key factor in a high-performing business. Today, it isn’t enough to just have the order right and to ensure that whatever the customer ordered they get. No, consumers these days are much, much pickier and expect that not only is their order delivered correctly, but that it is delivered on time.
And “on time” has changed over the years — especially with the likes of companies like Amazon offering same-day shipping.
Sure, even Amazon makes mistakes on some of their orders. That’s the nature of the business. But, if you can limit your mistakes and have your orders delivered on time, you’re more likely to hang on to those customers.
In addition to creating repeat customers, an efficient warehouse that limits wrong orders or other shipping issues can save money. Depending on your return policies, when mistakes are made, people may be so fed up they return the item, ask for a refund, and then take their business elsewhere.
So, if there is one thing you should remember, it’s that a non-efficient warehouse is a warehouse that loses money.
Because of this fact, people have been working on figuring out ways to optimize their warehouse’s productivity while minimizing mistakes — particularly when it comes to warehouse employees who are tasked with retrieving items in the warehouse for delivery — or “picking.
Two of the main ways to do this are wave picking and batch picking. Today, we’re going to break down wave versus batch picking to help you find out which is the right option for your business.
But first, let’s define both of these terms and then get into when it’s appropriate to use each one.
Wave Picking Defined
Imagine that you have to cook the ultimate dinner for your entire family tonight. You realize you forgot to go get any of the ingredients you need, and so you call three of your friends to meet you at the grocery store to help you out.
You have four main dishes you need to create, each with their own set of ingredients. You don’t have much time, so you and your friends try and work out what is the most efficient way to get the ingredients you need.
After much debating, you offer that the best way to do it would be to combine each ingredient list into one giant list. Then, you create four separate lists from that one based on where the ingredients are located in the store (i.e dairy, meat, produce, seasoning).
That, in a nutshell, is how wave picking works.
In a warehouse setting, it may look something like this. You receive a list of orders — let’s say 20 of them. Instead of giving each order to 20 different workers, you can combine the list of orders and divide them by category or which area of the warehouse they are located.
Then, your warehouse crew will spend less time walking all over the warehouse and can just focus on their designated area.
Pretty smart, right?
Now, let’s talk about batch picking
Batch Picking Defined
Similar to our previous example, let’s say that you’re at the grocery store and need to pick up two separate groceries — one for you and one for a friend who asked you to pick up a few things. With batch picking, you could do one of the following:
First, you can do all the shopping for your list and then once that is completed, you can do your friend’s list.
Or, you could combine the lists into one and then pick up every item you need — regardless of whether it is your friend’s item or your own.
In a warehouse, this would mean that your warehouse workers would be sticking to every item on the order they are given — which can result in them traveling far and wide around the warehouse to gather each item.
Why Wave Picking May Be Right For You
Wave picking is an ideal picking strategy for large warehouses or warehouses that contain a large number of SKUs.
However, one of the main drawbacks of wave picking is that you’ll eventually have to sort all the items into the correct order. However, because wave picking is more efficient for larger companies, it’s smart to simply work in a system that can speed up the process of sorting the items into each individual order.
In this blog from Multichannel Merchant, a spokesperson for L.L. Bean talks about how they used to go with the batch picking method but needed to shift to wave picking as they grew. As a result, they needed to figure out a way too quickly organize the items into their orders as the warehouse pickers brought them in.
To do this, they took all the picked items and placed them on a conveyor system. Each items’ barcode is then scanned. The scan is used to send the SKU to the appropriate packing station where an employee will verify each item to ensure it is in the right spot with the rest of the items on that order.
Reason Why Batch Picking Should Be Considered
Batch picking, as you may have guessed by now, is much more appropriate for smaller companies or companies who don’t have as many SKUs.
This is because you won’t actually save much time by aggregating orders and then separating them by a category because your warehouse is small enough where walking around it doesn’t take much time.
If you went with wave picking as a small warehouse, you may end up becoming less efficient because you’ll have to spend time organizing each item into the correct order.
Have a Lot of SKUs Or Are Rapidly Growing Your Business? Turn to Scout Software
If you’re looking to integrate wave picking into your operations, then it’s time to give us a call.
Here at Scout Software, our topShelf solution offers wave picking and wave automation that you can use on a mobile device. To put it simply, topShelf will make you and your warehouse employees’ jobs much easier.
With topShelf, you’ll get the following features:
- Receive, Pick, Pack and Ship using any smartphone or mobile device
- Updates product quantities in real-time
- Validates and Verifies receiving, picking, packing, and shipping transactions
- Manage Multiple warehouse locations, bins, SKU numbers, and assets
- Print detailed product and bin barcodes
- Manage any volume of orders efficiently using workflows and triggers
- Detailed reporting functions including lot recall, asset summaries, and cycle counts