The English expression PICKING means “choice”, “selection” and also “harvest”. Depends on the context. But in Intralogistics the most appropriate translation would be SEPARATION. According to José Crespo de Carvalho, in the book “Logistics and Management of the Supply Chain”, published in 2012, “the separation of orders or picking consists of collecting the right products, in the right quantity, in order to satisfy the needs expressed by customers” . Alexander Rivera Alegre, in the work “Heuristic Method for Choosing the Picking System of a Logistics Operator”, released in 2005, explains that the Picking process “begins with the conversion of the customer’s order to a picking list, called the picking list , which shows specific locations for each type of product, quantity and sequence of collection of products to be collected, and then the operator walks through the distribution center, collecting the products from the warehouse and transporting them to the packaging and distribution location”.
The two quotes were taken from an academic work done by Business Administrator Ricardo Jesus de Oliveira for Fundação Getúlio Vargas, published in 2019. Every year the Picking operation is the subject of studies by specialists in Logistics and Administration. And the reason is simple: it is a job that consumes 50% of all the operational costs of a storage unit, as they require a lot of labor or a large investment in automation.
You have surely already understood that the Picking process involves the separation of goods for the subsequent shipment to the customer, which inevitably goes through four steps: SKU location, item collection, movement of the goods within the warehouse and control (checking ) of what has been done. Even so, the volume of human errors is frequent. Therefore, methods were created in an attempt to reduce the number of errors.
Some of these separation strategies have become more popular with Intralogistics operators over time. For the Log Frio website, these are the main ones:
- DISCREET PICKING (OR BY REQUEST)
Here, only one employee starts and finishes the operation, being responsible for collecting one product at a time, managing one order at a time. This modality reduces the chances of errors, as there is only one document for each product separation order. However, this process is the least productive and requires more steps and displacements, because as the operator must complete the entire picking order, the time spent in displacement is much greater than in the other procedures. However, discrete picking can be advantageous for companies that have a low number of orders with a high volume of items in each order.
- PICKING OR AREA OR ZONE
It is the modality in which operators are divided by areas called zones, or areas of the warehouse where they will collect orders. Each zone has certain product categories. Each employee of the picking activity is related to one of these zones, so when an order arrives in stock, the employees separate the necessary items from each area and the order is closed after the collections are completed. This model can be the most advantageous in operations with a high number of SKUs, as operators travel time is reduced. On the other hand, it is necessary to have great organization in the warehouses so as not to overload certain areas or cause errors in the order.
- PICKING BY BATCH
Here, the procedure is very different from picking by zone, because in this activity, the employee waits for the accumulation of orders up to a certain amount, and then starts picking. When the operator collects, he collects the sum of the quantities of each product needed to carry out the distribution. It then distributes the quantities collected by each order. If the diversity of items in stock is low, this procedure will increase operator productivity. However, the possibility of errors increases.
- PICKING BY WAVE
In this modality, which is very similar to discrete picking, each operator is responsible for collecting one type of product at a time. What differs is that this procedure is done from a schedule, that is, in certain shift periods, in order to meet deadlines agreed with customers. In operations with a high number of SKUs and a large number of items per order, wave picking can be a good solution, as it ensures greater operational efficiency.
The Delage site gives some suggestions to optimize the Picking areas. All very useful:
- Regularly review storage, supply and replenishment strategies, avoiding stock fragmentation (ie, allocating the same SKU in different locations within the warehouse);
- Make sure that all items and addresses are properly identified, leaving everything in its proper place;
- Conduct periodic inventories of all stock;
- Map your process from start to finish, to detect possible failures;
- Pay special attention to receipt, as this usually avoids errors in future steps;
- Train your employees well, so they become safer, more organized and productive;
- Count on WMS (Wharehouse Management System) to generate tasks, notify errors and provide real-time data;
- Implement the right automation for your business, because in addition to the WMS we have radiofrequency tags to identify SKUs, for example. Not to mention Picking automation systems, such as:
- Pick-to-light: in this method, the separation of products is guided by an indicator light, which lights up at the addresses where the demanded items are located.
- Voice picking: this system guides employees from the verbal communication received by headphones, indicating the commands for the separation of the products.
- Goods to person: this system can be done with the help of robots, which bring directly from the stock the products demanded in the order.
We can help your company in this process. Águia Sistemas is a national leader in Intralogistics. Keep in touch with us.