Warehouse operations have become powerful globally as more businesses shift to online sales and delivery models. Previously, warehousing was left mainly for inventory purposes. It did not directly affect product or service delivery since most customers shopped in-store.
With the exponential growth of online shopping and e-commerce, efficient warehouse operations have become the backbone of successful e-commerce businesses.
The global warehousing and storage market is expected to grow from $601.68 billion in 2021 to $658.51 billion in 2022 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.4%.
As the demand for warehousing grows, batch picking has become a favored process in warehouse operations. In this case study, we’ll look at how batch picking coupled with vertical storage solutions such as Kardex’s Vertical Lift Modules and put-to-light technology can improve the efficiency of warehouse operations and lead to more satisfied employees and customers.
What Is Batch Picking?
Batch picking is an order picking method. It requires pickers to collect items for multiple orders simultaneously. Also known as batching or multi-order picking, batch picking offers greater speeds than other picking strategies such as single order picking.
With the latter, pickers handle one order at a time walking up and down the aisles. Repeated trips are made to the same location in the warehouse for the same or similar items but for different orders.
With batch picking, the pickers combine multiple orders into small batches. For each batch they tackle one SKU at a time, paying a single visit to each item’s location in the warehouse. It cuts travel time significantly. As a result, the pickers fulfill more orders.
A batch typically consolidates about eight to 20 similar orders into one pick list. These batched orders have several similar items or remarkably similar pick paths in the warehouse.
This setup improves productivity. With an optimized route, the operators spend more time picking than walking to each item’s location in repeated trips. Additionally, fewer operators are needed to perform item picking. There are fewer bottlenecks and congestion as orders grow within the limited warehouse real estate.
What Are the Advantages of Batch Picking in a Fulfillment Operation?
Batch picking offers fast and accurate picking that improves order fulfillment, benefiting businesses in the long term. Customer satisfaction and loyalty improve when they receive their orders accurately and quickly.
Some of the advantages of batch picking in a fulfillment operation include:
Faster Pick Rates
This is perhaps the most significant benefit of batch picking. According to these findings, compared to standard shelving that can only deliver 50 lines an hour, batch picking can improve speed to 400 lines per hour.
Batch picking is more efficient than other forms of order picking. Operators can collect items for multiple orders simultaneously. Optimized picking paths used in batch picking reduce travel time significantly.
Improved Employee Satisfaction
Since batch picking reduces the number of trips or shifts needed to fulfill orders, employees feel less physically taxed. Therefore, their morale gets a boost. They also have better focus, reduced mental fatigue, and improved accuracy.
How Can Batch Stations Be Integrated with Vertical Lift Modules, Put-to-Light Technology, and Conveyor System?
Warehouses can improve space utilization and efficiency further by implementing batch stations with vertical lift modules, put-to-light technology, and a conveyor system.
In this configuration , a group of BOSTONtec custom batch stations are positioned side by side in the access area of Kardex vertical lift modules. They are set up to fulfill multiple orders simultaneously in a batch picking arrangement.
The lower shelves act as a work surface set at an ergonomic height, allowing operators to put retrieved items in the totes easily. Each tote holds the items for one order.
Put-to-light devices are mounted on the upper shelves to guide the operators in putting the correct number of items in the respective totes.
The operators push a button on the vertical storage unit to have the items of the same SKU brought to them automatically. No need to pace up and down the aisles between racks.
The put-to-light system shows operators which totes on the batch stations need these items and how many are needed.
The operators work through the batch of orders, one SKU at a time. Completed orders in the totes, as indicated by the put-to-light system, are pushed off the batch station onto the conveyor. They are transferred to the next work area for packaging.
Below is an example of packaging stations that are connected to the conveyor system.
What Are the Benefits of This Configuration?
The custom batch stations in conjunction with vertical storage solution have multiple advantages over standard warehouse order fulfillment setups. These include:
- Customizable solution: They can be customized easily to fit an operation’s layout and workflow.
- Space-saving and cost effective: They make full use of horizontal and vertical space and are budget friendly.
- Smooth integration with various storage solutions: They can be integrated with a variety of horizontal and vertical storage solutions to meet an operation’s specific needs.
- Maximized efficiency: Together with a vertical storage solution, they provide an optimal setup for batch picking. It reduces operator travel and picking time. It maximizes fulfillment operation’s throughput.
- Improved accuracy and worker morale: Operators focus on one SKU at a time. Put-to-light technology further simplifies their job. Less errors, less stress, and more satisfaction.
- Reduced non-value-added motions: Less time spent on motions that don’t generate value, such as walking up and down the aisles.
- Reduced exposure to ergonomic risks: Less repetitive motions and manual material handling that could cause ergonomic injuries to workers.
Order Fulfilment Centers Should Benefit from a Well-Implemented Batch Picking Setup
A batch picking setup can significantly improve throughput in an order fulfillment center or warehouse when paired with a vertical storage solution, ergonomic workstations with an integrated put-to-light system, and conveyors.