Guest contribution • 05.02.2020

Take the shortcut

Logistics optimisation through the use of multi-order picking

To maintain competitive advantage, logistics service providers and retailers have embraced automated order picking in their warehouses by implementing pick-to-cart, pick-to-light, voice picking and other technologies. However, despite the success of these ICT solutions, considerable benefits can also be achieved by reorganising key logistics processes.

How to implement a multi-order picking solution and how to avoid potential obstacles? 

Identify the optimal order picking method

The optimal order picking method depends on many factors, such as the product range, peak period volumes, resource, warehouse size, number of customer orders and the desired delivery times. Without an analysis of these factors and identification of the key logistics bottlenecks, any investment in an automation solution will not yield optimal efficiency. It is also important to determine which underlying technology will provide the most benefits.

Distinguish between dynamic or static order picking

To find the best picking method, it is important to distinguish between dynamic and static order picking: 

A woman passes a shelf with a multi-level trolley
Source: Zetes

Dynamic order picking

The operators remain in a fixed location and all the ordered items are provided within their reach – for example, in a robotised warehouse. Dynamic order picking has the important advantage of eliminating all travel distances.

Static order picking

Each picker goes to the storage locations, either by foot or with a picking trolley or a forklift. 

A further distinction with static order picking is between single- and multi-order picking. If most orders have many SKUs, the travel times between the items are often short and single-order picking is probably the best solution. However, if there are only a small number of items for each order, then multi-order picking can be a time saver. 

Assess and minimise travel distances

The choice for single or multi-order picking can lead to considerable differences in efficiency. With multi-order picking, the primary goal is usually to minimise travel distances. This is done by picking all items for several orders (multi-order picking) on a single route, or by picking the total quantity of one specific SKU for several customers at the same time (batch picking). 

With these two options, all picked items must also be assigned to the right customer orders in an intelligent manner. If splitting the items after picking takes too much time or leads to errors, the potential efficiency improvement drops, or the delivery reliability suffers.

A man in a suit sitting on an orange Z
Jeffrey Verberne, Logistics Business Consultant, Zetes
Source: Gaetan Nerincx

Execute process analysis and business logic

It is always necessary to analyse the order handling and order picking processes to know the advantages that can be achieved.

Key questions to ask are:

  • What are the current travel distances of all order pickers, and how many packages per hour do they pick on average? 
  • Is the product range or part of the range suitable for item-based or order-based multi-order picking, and does that fit within the time windows available for order picking? 

For many small, individual orders, it is often not worthwhile to implement multi-order picking due to the expected delivery time, e.g. same-day delivery. However, the order streams of logistics service providers and retailers with more sizeable warehouses and dozens of order pickers are large enough that an investment can usually be recovered within a short timescale. An important consideration to take in this regard is whether the existing ERP and/or WCS/WMS system has the capability to support multi-order picking. 

So how does this work in practice?

A.S Watson, Dutch market leader in health & beauty, is a great example of how businesses can benefit from multi-order picking.

Coen Mulder, Functional Control Supply Chain Development at A.S. Watson explains: 

“After using single-order picking for a while, with all pickers travelling through the entire warehouse, we got together with Zetes to look at ways to minimise our travel distances. We came to the conclusion that we could achieve about 16% efficiency improvement by combining orders with the support of quantity calculations for taking along the best order carriers (pallets or bins). Based on the business case, we then jointly implemented multi-order picking.”

Jaqueline van Oostrum, Supply Chain and Logistics Project Manager at A.S. Watson adds: “Coupled with minimising travel distances, multi-order picking delivers additional time savings – for example, because staff don’t hinder each other or have to wait in the warehouse alleys. Looking back on this project, we see that our implementation of multi-order picking for the current assortment exceeded everyone’s expectations, with an impressive 38% improvement in efficiency. The average number of packages per hour picked in this order stream has risen from 90 to 125. In light of that success, we have also implemented multi-order picking for part of the special-offer products, with the aim of achieving similar improvements with this second order stream”.

Author: Jeffrey Verberne, Logistics Business Consultant, Zetes

related articles:

popular articles:

Thumbnail-Photo: Daimler Trucks: automated trucks
26.09.2019   #software developement #business developement

Daimler Trucks: automated trucks

Torc Robotics now a part of the new Autonomous Technology Group of Daimler Trucks

Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics are actively developing and testing automated trucks with SAE Level 4 intent technology on public roads. The initial routes are on highways in southwest Virginia, where Torc Robotics is headquartered. All ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Retail imports surging ahead of more tariffs...
16.09.2019   #retail #data warehouse management

Retail imports surging ahead of more tariffs

Imports at major retail container ports in the US reached unusually high numbers

Imports are expected to surge again before another round of tariffs takes effect in December, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.“Retailers are still trying to ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Multi-channel pilot
22.08.2019   #multichannel commerce #logistic solutions

Multi-channel pilot

Zalando delivers same-day for adidas.fr in Paris

Ordered from adidas, delivered by Zalando: In Paris, the two long-term partners are running a test on how to efficiently steer logistics capacity. During the pilot phase, Zalando delivers goods on the same or next day from its own logistics center ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Shopify to acquire 6 River Systems
17.09.2019   #logistics (software) #warehouse management

Shopify to acquire 6 River Systems

A team of experience in fulfillment software and robotics

Shopify Inc., the leading multi-channel commerce platform, today announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire 6 River Systems, Inc., a leading provider of collaborative warehouse fulfillment solutions. In June, Shopify introduced the ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Half of online shoppers did not receive their package...
20.11.2019   #online trading #delivery

Half of online shoppers did not receive their package

Delivery services and item insurance

Clutch, B2B ratings and reviews firm, surveyed online shoppers and found that more than half (51 percent) say they did not receive at least one package they ordered online in the past six months.Sixteen percent (16%) of the packages shoppers did not ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Supply chain of the future
18.10.2019   #digitization #logistics

Supply chain of the future

New research from Coyote Logistics recommends a strategic balance of technology and human support

As technology continues to transform the workforce and logistics professionals navigate a rapidly changing supply chain, Coyote Logistics, a leading global third-party logistics (3PL) provider, released the results of its proprietary Tech + Humanity ...

Thumbnail-Photo: TÜV SÜD: Certification for the Cartonplast Group...
10.10.2019   #logistic solutions #logistics

TÜV SÜD: Certification for the Cartonplast Group

French location of the company in Dagneux complies with international standards

On 3rd October 2019 Cartonplast France successfully completed the certification audits by TÜV SÜD Management Service GmbH according to ISO 22000 and ISO 9001. Cartonplast (CPL), the leading European supplier of reusable plastic layer pads ...