Batch Order Picking for 300
Line/hour (LPH) Productivity
THREE ENCOUNTERS WITH BATCH ORDER PICKING.
My first encounter with a real life batch picking operation was a
medium size drug wholesaler in the mid-Atlantic region. This rather innovative company had
an urgent need to increase picking productivity and had developed their own version of
multi-order picking. They printed out a pick list for 15 totes that would be placed five
each, on three shelves of a wheeled pick cart. The pick document listed the items to be
picked on the left side of the paper followed by 15 columns, one for the pick quantity
into each of the 15 pick totes.
In spite of the obvious difficulty of using a 15 column pick
list, they found that pick productivity was more than doubled (to about 160 lines per
hour) due to the greatly reduced walking time. Unfortunately, the accuracy was so poor,
they had to hire one checker for each picker. In spite of the problems however,,
productivity was increased enough that they continued to use this new technique.
Mail Order Vitamin Sales
Several years later we visited a mail order vitamin and
supplement distributor who was using a 5 column pick list to pick 5 orders in one pick
trip. Since the product and orders were quite small (most would fit in an 8 inch square
carton) all 5 orders would easily fit on a small 2 shelved cart which could be wheeled in
the narrow pick aisles. Since the pick path for their 12,000 SKUs was about 1000
feet, past shelving, pallet rack and some flow rack, even 5 orders at a time saved
significant travel time and they achieved a pick rate of about 150 lines per hour.
There was always the possibility of picking the wrong item or
putting items into the wrong box, so they developed an in-house barcode scanning system to
100% verify each order. This scanning was done by the picker, reducing the total
pick/check productivity to about 110 lines per hour, still a very good rate for a system
with 12,000 products and all picking operations performed manually.
A Grocery Catalog Home
Based on the good results observed on the two operations above,
as well as the knowledge that LL Bean had successfully used batch picking in their early
catalog distribution operation, we proposed a custom radio frequency (RF) terminal picking
operation for a new home delivery grocery operation. Since the home delivery of groceries
would be expensive, it was imperative that picking and replenishment be as productive as
By directly packing dry groceries onto recycled grocery store
shelving along with the use of a limited amount of 10 deep flow rack for higher
movers, a minimal cost system capable of holding 1 to 5 days of all items was developed.
The grocery orders were cubed at midnight each day and trucks routed for efficient
delivery the next afternoon and evening. By cubing each order, we assigned it one to three
compartments in a wheeled pick cart.
A plastic grocery bag with a bar coded address label was placed
into each of the 16 compartments on the wheeled cart and logged into the RF terminal as
"A" to "P". The terminal directed the picker to each pick location in
order. A pick was made by scanning the products UPC bar code to verify the correct
item was picked. The cart compartment was scanned to verify the item went into the correct
order. Counts for more than one piece were scanned to verify quantity. When all picks in
the cart (6 to 15 orders) were completed the grocery bags were placed into covered totes
for delivery. Any product shortages were updated to the RF system so that accurate
delivery invoices could be printed after picking was completed.
Approximately 2000 dry grocery and drug items, ranging from paper
towels and soda bottles to aspirin and baby food, were in the pick line which stretched
about 1400 feet. The pick rates for the three best pickers averaged 270 lines per hour.
This was achieved without conveyor or any need for QC accuracy checking! When product was
received, it was scanned with the RF terminal and the slot number designated by the system
was written on the cartons. They were sorted by aisle, scanned for inventory control, and
packed out directly to flow rack or shelves. The highest moving items were put in rack or
floor pallet slots so that no reserve inventory system was required. As an extra benefit,
the terminal system made it easy for temporary help to pick accurately in a very short
Originally the plan had been to switch to an expensive
pick-to-light system on the high moving items (that is the main reason some flow rack had
been installed) but the batch terminals were so efficient that this investment proved
unnecessary. One final note, pass-along conveyor was originally installed with the flow
rack, but it was quickly removed when the much higher productivity of batch picking became
Click here for more information on
batch order picking!
If you don't find what
Some Recent Testimonials
(Contact us to speak
directly to a writer.)
you are very welcome for the references. You may not know
this but we RAVE about the suggestions you made to us for
our "Distribution Center", and how right your
suggestions were…" Dan G.,
Pres., Pipersville, PA.
forward to having you involved for our DC implementation plan
and in future endeavors as well. Your input was extremely
valuable to us".
Brent T., President Jacksonville, FL
is incredibly difficult - I would never have been able
to do this without all your great help"! Dave W.,
Owner, Chicago, IL.
I wanted to say that all your suggestions work great! Thanks so much.
Secondly, in the later part of May, we will be moving out of our current
facility into a new one. I was wondering if I gave you the layout could
you draw up a design. You told me if there were ever changes, just ask for
a new layout, so here I am. Thanks a lot!" Bob V., Owner, New Kensington, PA
know it has been a while, but we finally signed on a new
building, and are looking at a mid July move. We have three
dock highs, and two roll ups. Please do your magic and lay out
the floor space. Thanks." Rami R.,
Owner, Chatsworth, CA
renovation is going great. The large shelving is all moved and
the small shelving is about 75% in its new location. A company
is coming in Tuesday to build the new shelving...then we can
start to relocate all the product. Thanks for all the help."
Jeff L., Operations Manager, Victoria, BC, Canada.
received the final report, thanks for the summary of findings
and the recommendations. What was most valuable for us was
the process of getting to the goal and the discussions around
it… Thanks again for your help…Joachim
S., Systems Manager, New York, NY
proud to say that our first day of production in our new
location was March 6. Thank you for your work on our
behalf. Looks like we got off to a fine start in the warehouse
and picking areas. It's always a pleasure hearing from you."
Charlie T., Project Manager, Amityville, NY