What Is Order Picking? Strategies, Picking Systems & Best Practices

The recent boom in eCommerce has prompted a series of challenges, including a greater need for onshore inventories, increased customer expectations and product returns.

With these challenges, the need to optimize processes such as order picking, is greater than ever before.

We’ll explain the process of order picking, along with the best order picking strategies and systems you can utilize to streamline your picking processes.

Plus, we’ll share the best technologies you can leverage to complement your strategy and further improve picking accuracy, speed and efficiency.

Optimize your picking processes.

What Is Order Picking in a Warehouse?

Order picking, or warehouse picking, is the process of retrieving items from a warehouse, which are then packed and shipped to the customer.

Warehouse picking allows you to efficiently fulfill customer orders by choosing the correct goods from your inventory thanks to order picking systems such as picker robots and voice-picking systems.

Effective order picking reduces — or even eliminates — mispicks and improves overall customer satisfaction.

Warehouse Order Picking Strategies

To optimize picking processes and, in turn, the entire order fulfillment process, it’s important to find the order picking methods and strategies that work best for your organization.

Common warehouse picking methods include:

Single Order Picking

Single order picking, or discrete order picking, is a warehouse picking strategy in which a picker manually picks a single order.

In this method, a picker receives printed pick lists and travels through the warehouse to manually collect each item on the list for a specific order.

Zone Picking

Zone picking, or pick and pass, is a warehouse picking strategy in which the facility is divided into several zones and pickers are assigned to specific areas.

Each picker is responsible for collecting items within their designated zone and passing the order to the next zone until all items in the order are picked.

Batch Picking

Batch picking is a warehouse picking strategy in which pickers collect multiple orders simultaneously during a single pass through the facility.

In this method, orders with similar items or destinations are grouped together — for example, all orders containing a specific type of electric component or all orders destined for the same city.

The picker then retrieves all items for these grouped orders in one journey around the facility.

Wave Picking

Wave picking is a warehouse picking strategy in which orders are grouped and picked in waves throughout the day based on specific criteria, such as delivery schedules or shipping destination.

In this method, a warehouse management system (WMS) schedules and organizes the waves.

Pickers are assigned to collect items for a batch of orders during each wave, which allows for a more organized and efficient use of labor and warehouse resources.

Parallel Picking

Parallel picking is a warehouse picking strategy in which multiple pickers work simultaneously on picking partial parts of the same order.

In this method, an order is divided into smaller parts or sections, and each picker is responsible for collecting items from their assigned section of the warehouse.

For example, if a phone accessory kit consists of different items stored in various areas of the warehouse, one picker can be responsible for collecting earphones from one section, while another picker collects a phone case from a different area.

Once all parts of the order are picked, they are consolidated at a central location before packaging and shipping.

Parallel Picking

Cluster picking is a warehouse picking strategy in which a single picker collects items for multiple orders simultaneously using a multi-compartment cart or trolley.

In this method, the picker travels throughout the warehouse once, picking items for several orders and placing them into different compartments or bins on their cart.

Warehouse order picking strategies

Warehouse Picking Systems

Warehouse picking systems come in different types to enhance picking efficiency and accuracy.

Types of warehouse picking systems include:

Single Order Picking

Collaborative robots, or cobots, are advanced warehouse robotics designed to work alongside human workers to enhance efficiency and productivity.

They are equipped with sensors and built-in safety features for seamless collaboration. In warehouses, cobots are used for tasks like palletizing (organizing products on pallets), as well as picking and packing orders.

A male warehouse employee using a cobot​
Cobots are advanced warehouse robots that can collaborate with human workers to help boost picking productivity

Zone Picking

Pick to light systems are assisted picking systems that guide warehouse operators with visual picking instructions, to help reduce errors and improve picking accuracy.

They utilize LED displays and sensors installed at various storage locations within the warehouse.

Batch Picking

Voice-picking systems are picking solutions that utilize voice prompts and advanced speech recognition software to communicate picking instructions to employees through headsets.

Warehouse employees receive verbal commands on which items to pick and where to find them, allowing them to keep their hands and eyes free for the task.

Wave Picking

Heavy-duty picking equipment are machines designed to handle large, heavy or bulky inventory. Heavy-duty equipment include:

  • Forklifts: Lifts and transports heavy loads, especially palletized products
  • Reach trucks: Retrieves items from high shelves in narrow aisles
  • Order pickers: Lifts warehouse pickers to the level of high racks for picking individual goods
  • Stackers: Used for stacking and retrieving pallets in stacking areas

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)

Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are sophisticated robots that can independently travel in a warehouse, reducing the need for human intervention.

They use technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence and sensors to plan and adapt to their paths in real-time.

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS)

Automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) are computerized systems that automatically store and retrieve items in a warehouse.

Automated storage and retrieval system are integrated with a WMS to identify which items to retrieve.

This warehouse solution includes tote shuttles, mini-loaders, vertical lift modules, horizontal carousels and unit loaders.

These systems are ideal picking and storage solutions to streamline storage and retrieval processes for efficiency and accuracy.

At Modula, we reimagine warehouse operations with our leading automated solutions, designed to improve picking efficiency and accuracy.

Our solutions include:

  • Put to Light: Save time on warehouse picking and increase accuracy when processing large batches of orders. Our Put to Light system features an OLED configurative display and uses a scanner and LED lights to direct the operator to the location where the items must be placed.
  • Modula Picking Station: This solution uses the Put to Light system for batch picking and order consolidation and allows for scanning or touch light validation to boost accuracy.
  • Modula Picking App: This innovative solution is for improving picking and replenishment operations. The app allows picking operators to manage picking on their mobile devices and monitor processes on the go.
  • Modula Picking Cart: This system is equipped with shelves, four wheels, Put to Light controllers, battery backup and Wi-Fi controllers. It also features five configurable displays and scan or touch validation for improved speed and accuracy.

Improve picking accuracy and efficiency.

Modula Picking Solutions

Order Picking Best Practices

Once you have invested in order picking systems, the next step is to implement these solutions into your warehouse picking processes.

Order picking best practices include:

Optimize Your Warehouse Layout

Arrange your warehouse to streamline the flow of goods, reduce travel time for pickers and ensure easy access to frequently picked items.

For example, you can arrange your warehouse for optimal picking by placing the most frequently picked items near the shipping area.

This minimizes the distance pickers need to travel to collect these items, speeding up the entire picking process.

Use the Correct Equipment

Equip your team with appropriate tools to improve safety and achieve accurate picking.

Equip your team with appropriate tools to improve safety and efficiency in the picking process. This includes using automated storage and retrieval systems to reduce physical strain and utilizing AMRs for picking efficiency.

Implement a Warehouse Management System

Utilize a WMS to optimize picking routes and reduce mispicks. When you use a WMS, it analyzes the order and determines the most efficient route based on the items’ locations.

For example, if a customer orders a pair of shoes, a jacket and a backpack, the WMS first identifies where each item is stored. It can direct the picker to start at the footwear section, move next to outerwear and finish at the accessories area, if this is the shortest possible path.

Modula’s warehouse management system is designed to seamlessly integrate with our advanced automated storage and retrieval systems, creating a unified and efficient warehouse management experience and improving overall productivity.

It stands out as one of the market’s most intuitive and advanced software solutions and effortlessly interfaces with nearly all DMS and ERP systems, optimizing processes such as receiving, storing and picking.

Optimize and prioritize orders.

Modula WMS

Track Your Warehouse Productivity

Regularly monitor and analyze warehouse key performance indicators (KPIs) related to picking, such as picking productivity and picking accuracy, to identify areas for improvement and implement changes when needed.

Outsource Fulfillment To a 3PL

Consider partnering with a 3PL for expert handling of your warehousing and fulfillment needs — especially if you are scaling operations.

Order picking best practices

Wrapping Up on Order Picking

To recap, order picking is the process of retrieving and collecting products from a warehouse or storage facility to fulfill customer orders.

Order picking works by warehouse employees identifying the items listed in an order, then finding them in the facility with the help of order picking systems.

At Modula, we help you streamline the picking process through automation to help reduce mispicks, increase speed and improve picking accuracy.

From Put to Light systems to automated storage and retrieval systems, our solutions are designed to improve efficiency throughout your warehouse operations.

Reach out to our team to discover how our picking solutions can help meet your needs.

Streamline warehouse picking.

Modula Picking Solutions