Picking more than one item (in a batch) at the same time seems like an obvious means of improving throughput, reducing labor, lowering equipment acquisition costs and improving accuracy and cut-off times. The trick is how do you implement batch picking? The answer truly depends on what level of equipment and automation you have or would like to implement. Let's start at the very beginning...
Manual Batch Picking - So let's say you have bays of shelving or rack and use the "supermarket" means of order picking (pickers going up and down rows of inventory). Even with a totally manual system, by setting up a cart with either totes, shelf levels or even tape dividing the flat surface into quadrants you can start basic batch picking.
The key is to make sure the paper pick list is clearly marked which quadrant, cell or tote that order will be picked into. Depending on the number of lines per order you need to keep the number of orders even to what a picker can remember the similarities. So it might be two to four orders of three lines each. The picker scans the pick lists and highlights the common SKUs for the orders. As he walks he picks what he needs to complete the orders and delivers it to packing when done.
You have just implemented batch picking in the most basic form, but you will have improved your throughput and a labor requirement, the only question is by how much?
Manual Batch Picking With Software - Same as above, but depending on the type and level of your software, orders with higher levels of commonality can be batched together and the pick list can be routed intelligently. By intelligently I mean not passing any needed SKUs while completing the batch.
Automated Batch Picking - Using any number of goods to person automated systems, a batch or work station is created using software and pick lights to direct the operator. The work station is often conveyor (or carts) with mounted position lights for each order, often between six and nine orders. The operator scans (and marries) the bar code (or often called license plate) on each tote with the position on the work station.
This tells the software that order 11121 is now sitting in position five for order 888888... and so forth. The pick lights direct the operator to pick a specific quantity of an item and place the correct quantity in the active order. The operator keeps picking and putting until the batch is complete and they send the orders to the next zone.
Dynamic Batch Picking Work Station - The next level up from automated batch picking is dynamic batch picking. The principles are the same except much of the labor in batch picking is eliminated with automation.
When dynamically batching, the operators simply pick from the automated storage and retrieval system and place the appropriate items in the active orders. They never have to induct and marry totes into positions or discharge totes to the next zone... this is done dynamically via the software and hardware system. Not only does this eliminate the labor, but also speeds up the throughput of the system by a minimum of 33% OVER the automated batch picking system.
Dynamic batching used in distribution centers has demonstrated that they improved the fastest and slowest operators by 1/3. This means the picker who is the slowest improves their throughput by 33% as does the operator who is the fastest by 33%.
So in the end, batch picking helps improve the efficiencies of your order picking system regardless of the system! These efficiencies can dramatically reduce labor, floor space and equipment acquisition costs while extending order cut-off times and improving order and inventory accuracy.
Best part is batch picking systems can be added to your existing operations and systems often quickly and easily.www.ISDDD.com