Wave Picking is often thought of as something complicated or scary, but in actual fact it's very straight-forward and chances are, even if you don't have a warehouse management system you're probably wave-picking already and simply didn't realise!
Wave picking is picking multiple orders simultaneously. In a paper-based warehouse, it's a fancy name given to grabbing two invoices from the printer at once, and grabbing the products for both at one time to prevent needing to walk back and forth through the warehouse twice.
Within a warehouse management system, the same basic concept applies where multiple orders are picked at once to save time.
Warehouse operators first group orders together into a "wave". These could be small, with only 2-5 orders, or massive, with 100+ orders being simultaneously picked.
While there are several different ways to operate a wave, most common is "Picking Per-Product", in which the picking and packing processes are split from one another.
Picking by product means that pickers pick stock from the shelves in bulk, and bring it back to some staging area where packers pack orders individually.
For example, say 10 orders all require the same product. The system will tell the picker to go to a single location and pick 10 of that item, then bring it back to the staging area, this is where the efficiency gain occurs because rather than returning to the same location 10 times, they were able to travel there only once.
The packer then takes one of each of those items from the staging area and adds them to the orders that require that product - how this part works depends on the individual business, but generally the orders will be separated by where they're going so the packer can easily tell which order is which.
Pros of Wave Picking
- Highly efficient if you're picking many orders that contain the same items.
- Picking and Packing processes are split so you have two chances to check what's going into an order. Note: if both the pickers and packers scan the items, then this becomes a very secure process.
Cons of Wave Picking
- Generally more space is required, as you typically need an area you can use for "staging" between the pick and pack processes.
- If you wave picked 100 orders, and between them there were 300 different products, it would become very difficult for the packer(s) to find the right items within the staging area.
- If every order is different, then the biggest efficiency driver (picking multiple items at once) is lost. Therefore, effectiveness depends on the similarity of the orders being picked.
Within CartonCloud we handle Wave Picking both through the Mobile App, and also through the Web Interface. The Web Interface always needs to be used to construct the Wave, then the mobile app can be used by both Pickers and Packers to wave-pick and pack the orders.
For more information on Wave Picking, including examples both "Picking Per-Order" and "Picking Per-Product", check out our knowledge base article.