Labor is the single largest operating cost in most DCs, and travel often accounts for half of all labor time, especially in order picking. In some DCs, pickers can travel upwards of 12 miles per shift. In order to reduce travel, some warehouses utilize batch picking. However, just like any advanced process, there are multiple ways to batch orders.
Below we’ve included an overview of batch picking, the benefits and two different ways to batch orders – traditional FIFO sequencing and AI intelligent batching.
What is Batch Picking?
Batch picking is an alternative to discrete order picking. In discrete order picking, workers pick each order individually on a trip through a DC or zone. In contrast, batch picking (which is also referred to as cluster picking) is a warehouse order picking strategy in which workers pick multiple orders on each trip through a distribution center or zone within the DC.
So, rather than making two discrete trips through a DC to pick two orders, a single picker can pick a batch of two orders on one trip, cutting travel in half.
What Are the Benefits of Batch Picking?
Batching allows for pickers to significantly reduce travel. If 10 orders are batched together, a picker will be able to pass through the pick zone once as opposed to 10 times, dramatically increasing productivity.
Higher productivity reduces costs, and has additional benefits for workers. In addition to reduced fatigue, batching can reduce crowding within a pick area, since you need fewer workers to pick the same volume of order.
Two Different Types of Batching Orders
1) Traditional Batching (First In First Out)
Traditional pick paths will send a picker through a serpentine pick path to pick up all the items for each order. Batching with a warehouse management system will follow a first in, first out sequence (order 1 will be batched with order 2, etc.) without taking travel distance or other factors into account.
Although this method does reduce travel compared to traditional discrete picking (picking a single order at a time), there is a better way to batch orders.
In order to maximize our travel reductions in our batch picking strategy we need to take into account product locations, starting and ending points and the potential travel path.
2) AI-Based Intelligent Batch Picking
The second batching method utilizes AI-based algorithms to make more optimized batches of orders. We call this method “intelligent batching” and can be performed through the Lucas travel optimization module in our warehouse optimization suite.
This batching method uses advanced mathematical models and artificial intelligence (AI) to create the best possible batch.
Intelligent batching weighs a number of factors in addition to travel and applies AI-based algorithms to determine which orders and items should be grouped together in a batch.
This method of batching considers the following factors, which can be weighted differently in different operations:
- Order priority
- Product locations
- Product dimensions
- Starting and ending points
- Potential travel path
- User permission
FIFO Batching (WMS Directed)
AI-Based Intelligent Batching
Distributors Can Cut Travel in Half and Double Productivity With AI-Based Intelligent Batching
If you’re looking for ways to increase productivity in your warehouse or distribution center, consider using batch picking. Batch picking allows warehouse employees to spend more time picking and less time walking. However, warehouse management systems don’t maximize the gains from batch picking.
If you’re interested in maximizing gains you can get from batch picking, consider utilizing AI-based optimization software. Distributors using this method of batching have more than doubled picking productivity and cut labor hours in half without making any changes to their warehouse layout or adding expensive automation or robotics.
Learn more about our travel optimization module here or if you’d like to get a free travel simulation to see your potential travel savings, send us a message and we’ll be in touch.