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Making sense of picking strategies and technologies

28 June 2024

Distribution centres of all sizes have been impacted by the rapid growth of eCommerce and shift to smaller order sizes. 

COMPANIES ACROSS industries face distinctive challenges in adapting, as outdated picking strategies and technologies struggle to keep pace with increasing throughput requirements.

Swisslog head of UK sales Shane Faulkner, says: “Single-order picking, even in a well-designed warehouse, can seriously limit the productivity of pickers and bottleneck the fulfilment process.”

As companies evaluate new picking methodologies, it's important to consider factors like SKU count, order characteristics, picking type, shipment channels, existing software capabilities, current technologies, DC size/layout, and labour availability. The right picking strategy, when matched with the proper technologies and software, can drive substantial improvements.

Person-to-goods strategies

Legacy strategies like pick-by-SKU and pick-by-location remain common but have inherent inefficiencies. More advanced options like zone picking and pick-to-conveyor systems can boost productivity significantly by reducing picker travel time and leveraging technologies like pick-to-light, voice direction, and RF scanners.

Goods-to-person automation

For DCs struggling with compressed order cycles or labour constraints, goods-to-person automation solutions like autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), automated storage/retrieval systems (ASRS), cube-based systems, robotic item pickers, shuttles, and cranes can provide exceptional productivity gains.

“Use automation to eliminate picker travel while increasing productivity and order accuracy,” Shane advises.

The right software

Sophisticated software is vital for optimising any advanced picking operation. A best-of-breed warehouse management system (WMS) with integrated automation controls can synchronise processes, provide performance insights, and enable strategies that maximise system efficiency.

Shane concludes: “With the multiple technology choices now available, it is imperative that picking strategies be matched with the right solution based on the business's specific challenges today and future flexibility.”

Swisslog has published a comprehensive new white paper that provides an overview of leading picking methods and technologies for distribution operations.

To access the free white paper, download here: https://www.swisslog.com/en-gb/contact/download-form?mediaItem=988A68198A0746EEB294144CCF6A993D