A cost-effective approach to zone picking and order consolidation
In the current labor market, warehouse management teams are looking for any way to reduce their reliance on increasingly hard-to-hire hourly associates to complete execution tasks like order picking and consolidation.
While some distributors are turning to automation and robotics to replace mundane, time-intensive work, a large majority are not yet ready for the cost of implementation. In some cases, that’s because they don’t have the infrastructure to support them, and in others it’s because they don’t have the budget available for such capital-intensive projects.
However, advanced warehouse optimization solutions like Lucas can enable simple, but effective process improvements that drive productivity increases without large infrastructure changes or super-sized budgets to customize your WMS.
For example, a common strategy for improving the efficiency of order picking is to divide the warehouse into different picking areas or zones and to split orders for picking by zone. For warehouses picking smaller orders into totes or cartons, the order totes can be passed from zone to zone to complete picking (pick and pass). But for DCs picking larger orders by zone, it is typically more efficient to consolidate the items for the order after picking across all zones (pick and merge).
Learn how it works at a high level in this quick, two-minute video, which shows how to merge the orders in a so-called “follow the leader” staging process:
Like other methods for improving warehouse execution, follow the leader staging can be used to consolidate orders without requiring any changes to your host system or warehouse management system.
Unlike most automation, this process has limited hardware or infrastructure requirements, so it can be scaled up rapidly with limited additional investment.
And it works seamlessly alongside existing systems. Lucas can send updates to your WMS as each pick in the order is completed, even if it’s being completed by different pickers simultaneously. This means your inventory tracking stays accurate and complete.
For additional gains, follow the leader staging can also be used in conjunction with the intelligent batching in our travel optimization module, leading to a substantial increase in productivity without sacrificing order accuracy or visibility.
This short animation describes a simple strategy for streamlining how orders are picked in a warehouse. Large orders are broken up into smaller picking assignments by zone, and then grouped back together in a process we call “follow the leader staging”.
For this visualization, blocks represent assignments, and blocks of the same color belong to the same order.
The WMS sends large orders to Lucas, and the system uses rules to break them down into smaller assignments, which are then picked by users on the warehouse floor.
Assignment creation rules could include only include building assignments up to a max volume or weight limit, or breaking assignments up by the zone they’ll be picked from.
Because this assignment is the first one completed for the yellow order, Jennifer lets the user determine where to stage the assignment (and therefore the yellow order).
The next picker to finish has an assignment for the orange order. Because there is already an orange order assignment staged in lane 02, Jennifer directs the user to stage their assignment at that lane.
Optionally, the user can be required to speak a checkstring at the staging lane to confirm that they have placed their assignment in the correct place.
Again, Jennifer directs the user to stage the assignment with the rest of the blue order at lane 03.
Finally, another example of a picker finishing the first assignment for an order – the user gets to decide where to stage it.
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