The 21st century is witnessing the expansion of businesses at a rapid pace to fulfill the demands of end consumers. Comprehensive software suites such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) are helping them in the process. These tools have predefined workflows and processes that help in faster order fulfillment. One such process is Batch Picking.
In this blog, I will acquaint you with the basic concept of batch picking in ERP systems and how it proves beneficial for businesses who manage millions of orders and shipments on any given day. You will also get a brief idea about automated batch picking processes.
What is Batch Picking?
Batch picking, also known as multi-order picking, is the process of combining and processing multiple orders simultaneously in a batch. It is characterized by a single ‘pick instruction’ that initiates the entire process. After order picking, goods are sorted/consolidated by order or shipping destination.
Batch-picking systems are common in the food, fashion, and e-commerce industries.
Batch Picking in Warehouses
The warehouse is a busy environment with many complex workflows in action. Managing it efficiently is crucial to ensure the timely fulfillment of orders in a short span of time.
In a manual picking operation that involves racks and shelves, the operator is compelled to use a mobile batch cart. He gives manual commands to push the cart throughout the warehouse to fill orders.
Using batch picking, an operator can pick multiple items from one storage location and distribute them amongst a batch of orders. The order batching and picking activities are driven through a WMS or inventory management software like Odoo. For example, if one has to process sales orders along the same route, they can opt for batch picking to complete such transfers. Batch Picking thus reduces the transport time and cost of a vendor.
Once the batch is confirmed, each transfer can be managed separately. Packaging, backorders, returns, scraps, etc. can be managed within the batch itself. Odoo enables its users to cancel and remove transfers from a batch if something has gone wrong in the consignment. If a transfer is delivered partially, the batch will be in a running state until the order has been fulfilled completely.
Automated Batch Picking Operations
Batch picking systems are instrumental in increasing the overall efficiency of warehouses. Automation adds a feather to its cap and streamlines the process in bigger warehouses.
Automated batch picking systems consist of a designated zone with at least two automated storage units arranged beside each other. There is a batch station 6- 8 feet in front of the access openings. The operator works in the middle.
The operator can manually select the orders to batch from the software. Elsewhere, the software automatically creates a batch of orders based on your order profile (SKU commonality), customer delivery date, shipping carrier cutoff time or other predetermined criteria.
Once the batch of orders is created by the software, the operator needs to set up the batch station. Each order location on the batch station is fitted with a put light to direct the operator while picking items. To start the batch picking process, the operator uses a barcode scanner to scan the batch station location and the order box, matching them in the software’s database. Now the software knows the ‘put’ location of each order.
When everything is ready, the operator starts the automated storage devices to retrieve and deliver the SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) required to fill the batch of orders. The process is completed in two steps:
When the first SKU is delivered to the operator, a pick light illuminates on the storage device and the operator picks the quantity as directed, and pushes a confirm button.
The operator proceeds towards the batch station to the waiting put lights and distributes the first SKU amongst the waiting orders. A confirmation button is pressed to indicate that the SKU was placed in the waiting order.
When all SKUs are distributed among the batch of orders, the 2-step cycle is repeated to pick the remaining SKUs needed for filling the batch of orders.
As the first machine is working to retrieve another SKU, the second machine has the next pick ready so the operator is never waiting. With proper SKU slotting, the wait time is minimal.
Summing it Up
Batch picking increases both throughput and operator efficiency. It optimizes order-picking effectiveness by maximizing pick quantities and minimizing operator walking distances. In any distribution center, walking from one location to the next accounts for 60% of a picker’s time and this can be reduced to 0% by using automated cloud ERP solutions. Additionally, accuracy is mostly guaranteed in the process and you can also explore advanced strategies such as color picking or cross picking.
About Control ERP
Control ERP is a cloud-based ERP system that is powered by Odoo. It is a perfect product for warehouse managers and can orchestrate an automated batch picking workflow for them. You can get in touch with us to discuss your business requirements or schedule a live demo at your convenience.