The order picking system is the system by which items are “picked” from a wholesale storage location in the correct type and quantity to fill an order. This process usually takes place in a warehouse or some other location where items are kept in a stock quantity, such as the parts room of a service center. Order picking systems can range in complexity from fully automated robotic systems to manual systems that rely entirely on handwritten instructions and manual labor. The type of order picking system is dependent upon the size and complexity of the storage location, the products, and the customer requirements.
The order picking process begins when the storage location receives an order. In a fully automated environment, the order is typically received in the form of a real-time Electronic Digital Interface (EDI) feed to an appropriate Warehouse Enterprise System (WES) or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) program. In a manual system, the order can be received on a typed, printed or even handwritten request.
Once the request is received, a warehouse employee or program will generate a pick slip. A pick slip provides the data needed for the picker, another warehouse employee or robotic system to gather the requested items and bring them to the appropriate outbound shipping location.
The basic information included on a pick slip indicates the item type, quantity, storage location and the bay, truck, bin or packing location where the items are to be taken. Once the pick slip is generated, the picker locates and retrieves the items as requested. After the items are retrieved, they are taken to the next appropriate location for outbound shipment.
Many items require secondary handling before they are ready for shipment, such as inspection, packaging or over-packing in larger containers. When this occurs, it is usually referred to as a pick-and-pack picking system. When the order has received any required secondary processing it is ready for shipping. For items being shipped a long distance, labels are usually printed and applied, and packing slips and bills of lading are printed for the customer and the carrier.
A critical component of any effective order picking system is that of inventory control. When items are removed from a storage location, the inventory quantity and location must be updated. This allows the storage location operators to keep track of their inventory. Laser bar coding on stored items is a fast and effective way to track when items change location or quantity. The order picking process is critical to any logistics operation, and the more efficient it is, the more efficient the company can be.