There are four basic methods of picking parts in a warehouse and ERP helps all of these work. Picking is the task where items are selected or picked from a warehouse shelf to be used in production or to be shipped to a customer.
With piece picking a worker moves to a particular warehouse location and selects an item needed for an order. That person then moves to another location and selects a second item. The same person will move to different locations until their order is complete when they move back to a central location where the complete order can be packaged. ERP provides the list of items to be picked for the order. ERP generates a sequence of orders to be picked based on established rules. ERP informs the picker where the items are located in the warehouse. ERP transactions will move the group of items from stockroom inventory to the order.
When a business has orders with low number of items per order, batch picking can help with efficiency. The same picker now has several totes, one for each order. The worker selects items from warehouse locations based on the same lists used for piece picking but the same items might be placed in several totes while at the same location. Batch picking is particularly effective when many orders require some of the same items. ERP will select those orders that should be batched and will assign the batch to a worker. When each tote is complete, the worker returns them to a packaging area and collects another batch of orders to fill.
Zone picking is also known as ‘pick and pass’. Each worker stays in their assigned zone so movement is reduced to a minimum. Totes for each order are passed from one picker to another. Often the totes are moved along a conveyor. When a tote has passed through each zone, it ends up in the packaging area. Users can define warehouse zones in the ERP, so that pick lists can be sorted by zone, and that workers receive lists showing only items to be picked in their zone.
This is a variation on zone picking. All zones will be picked at the same time and picked items move to the packaging area where other workers will assemble items to match orders. This method is fastest and often is used when there are a high number of SKUs and relatively high numbers of items per order. Wave picking can be best when waves are directed to carriers or truck routes. Here both zones and waves will be assigned by ERP based on rules set by the business.
All of these picking methods work with technology such as pick to light, voice picking, barcodes and RFID. Integrate ERP with the other system and send the picking items requirement and location to a voice pick headset instead of a paper pick list.
*Tom Miller is a writer for ERP Focus.