Order fulfillment is the process of finding and picking items to fulfill customer orders. This process tends to be the most labor-intensive operation in warehousing, and one of the most impactful on customer satisfaction and operational profitability. The fulfillment goal is always the same: get the right product on the right truck, at the right time, going to the right person, with the least amount of effort.
Picking the right method and technologies for picking varies based on unit and cubic movement of inventory, seasonal order volumes, item affinities, and more. If you are moving pallets, cases, totes, our team has likely developed and implemented a solution that would benefit your operation.
Selecting the right picking strategy is tricky, there are a lot of variables you have to consider about orders, inventory, items and the overall process in the building to achieve service levels that delight your customer. A range of technologies are available that can be applied, each with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. We have experience creating discrete, batch, and batch consolidation picking solutions, applying the right fit of technology for labor efficiency, throughput and accuracy.
Operator-to-goods (OTG), or person-to-goods, is the picking process where a selector is directed via work instructions to a physical inventory location to make a pick. This is the most common form of operation and typically involves picking inventory from a pallet, case flow, or bin shelving. There are a range of picking processes that can be used to drive up efficiency and accuracy when using this method.
Radio Frequency (RF)
RF picking is a widely used technology where information is presented to selectors via a mobile device often worn on their wrists. The method increases accuracy and picking rates over paper-based picking and allows for a flexible implementation for order processing and types of inventory to be handled. This picking technology is often used for discrete order picking or combined with order consolidation strategies with mixed SKU tote batch picking.
PickPad™ is a tablet-based solution that uses graphics to simplify and direct picking operations. The application uses a picking sled or cart carrying multiple order totes fulfilled by direct cluster or batch picking, an operation where a picker is directed to pick a quantity of inventory and distribute individual quantities into orders. The method can increase your order fulfillment productivity 40% over traditional RF or paper picking, while enabling picking accuracy approaching 100%.
Pick-to-light technology is used to increase picking efficiency and accuracy, most commonly used in a less than full case, each picking environment. The method uses a light directed activity for selectors to find and pick inventory in their assigned work zones. The process can support discrete and batch order picking, often in pick-and-pass configurations. Our software allows increased capacities by enabling multiple workers within a zone, a helpful strategy to adjust to business volume fluctuations and peaks.
Put Wall Solutions
Put wall solutions provide a flexible and scalable order consolidation for ecommerce and kitting operations. Inventory items are presented to an operator in donor totes, which were created by a batch picking process somewhere else in the building. After scanning an item, a put-to-light device indicates to the operator which order, put-wall cubby, the item is associated with. This method of order consolidation enables 450+ lines per hour throughput with +99% order accuracy.
Goods-to-Operator (GTO), or goods-to-person, changes the picking process to remove unproductive walk time seen with operator-to-goods picking. With this method selectors are assigned a workstation and inventory is transported to them for order picking or consolidation. The inventory can be supplied via a batch pick or automated storage and retrieval system, and the workstations configured as put-walls, sortation inductions, or automated workstations.
Goods-to-operator workstations are designed to minimize operator movement, bringing inventory items to the operator so they can pick and put them to orders with a minimal amount of walking. Workstations are configured with inventory donor totes and order totes in combinations that best fit the overall operation of the business. Configurations are typically 1:n (donor to order totes) with common configurations of 1:1, 1:4, 1:6, or more. The solution usually includes a single SKU pick process for the donor totes and a system that manages the flow of inventory to workstation for consolidation of the order. Picking performances ranges from 100 – 1000 orders per hour, while the operator’s pick rate tends to peak around 650 reaches / hour.
Robotic goods-to-operator uses advanced autonomous mobile robots as an automated storage and retrieval subsystem that includes put-away, inventory storage, replenishment and order picking. The solution is very flexible in how it adapts to changing inventory profiles and order volume changes. The modular system architecture of this approach can scale to increase storage volume or fulfillment throughput independently by adding more storage racks or robots, as needed. The subsystem works by tracking inventory stored in racks, and bringing the racks required to fulfill an order to an operator station. The operator picks from racks as they are presented, and consolidates items required for an order. Solutions can be sized and configured to process a wide range of inventory and up to 48 orders at one operator pick stations.
Goods-to-sorter induction strategies supersize the Put Wall order consolidation process achieving sort rates of up to 9,600 items per hour, 13,300 items per hour when virtual sortation configurations are used. The solution presents inventory to an operator who inducts the items on a loop sorter. The loop sorter sorts the item into an order chute for consolidation. Multiple configurations can be implemented for inductions stations and order chutes to match the volume of operations and inventory types.