Batch picking in ecommerce: What is it and why does it matter?

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In today’s fast-paced ecommerce landscape, getting things done swiftly and correctly is more crucial than ever.

Every minute and every action counts.

Businesses, big and small, are always on the hunt for ways to improve their operations, aiming to serve their customers better and faster.

One major sticking point of inefficiency in many ecommerce businesses is how they pick their products from warehouse shelves to process and send to customers. That’s why you’ll very often see efficient warehouses using some form of batch picking.

Batch picking is a process that alleviates much of the inefficiency and error associated with the single-item picking method.

If you feel the pinch of inefficiency in your warehouse, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll go over:

  • What exactly is batch picking, and how it improves the packing process
  • How batch picking works (with examples)
  • Variations of the batch-picking process you can implement to best suit your business

Batch picking is one of the most popular picking methodologies among ecommerce giants and startups alike.

Let’s dive in to understand its significance.

What is batch picking?

Batch picking is an innovative approach to order fulfillment. Instead of handling one order at a time, this method involves processing multiple orders simultaneously.

In practical terms, it means that when a worker makes a trip around the warehouse, they aren’t just picking items for a single order. They are collecting products for several orders during that single trek.

Compared to the traditional one-order-at-a-time approach, batch picking stands out as a more efficient alternative.

The rationale behind this is simple: fewer trips around the warehouse equate to less time spent walking or maneuvering equipment, leading to faster order processing.

By grouping orders together, businesses can optimize their workflows, conserve resources, and ultimately accelerate the pace at which customers receive their orders.

Batch picking vs. single-order picking

Single order picking, unlike batch picking, involves the collection of items for one order at a time from the warehouse shelves.

While batch picking aggregates multiple orders, streamlining the process by minimizing repeated trips, single-order picking focuses on a more individualized approach. This method can be beneficial in scenarios where precision and personalization are paramount.

For instance, in cases where orders are highly customized or involve delicate handling, single-order picking can ensure that the unique requirements of each order are met without confusion or overlap.

However, while it offers a high level of accuracy, it may not be as time-efficient as batch picking, especially in high-volume environments. Each picking methodology has its strengths, and the choice between them should be influenced by the specific operational needs and challenges of a business.

Why does batch picking matter?

Batch picking, or just efficient order picking in general, matters for several reasons that go beyond just saving time.

First, batch picking helps workers do their allotted work faster. Instead of picking one order at a time, they can pick many orders together. This means they finish their workload quickly and are freed up to work on other tasks.

Second, it makes the work easier and more organized. Workers don’t have to go back and forth in the warehouse too much. This means there are fewer people moving around, which makes things less crowded (and much safer!).

Lastly, when workers can do their jobs better and faster, they feel good about their work. Don’t underestimate the motivating power of high employee morale! Plus, there are fewer mistakes, which is good for everyone.

How does the batch-picking process work?

Envision the bustling aisles of a supermarket. Now, instead of a single shopping list, picture a worker with multiple lists representing several customer orders (each of which includes multiple items).

Rather than going around the store and picking each list one by one, the worker stops at the produce section, picks all the necessary items for every list, and then moves on to the next aisle. This continues until every order is complete.

When done properly, order pickers shouldn’t need to visit the same picking location twice.

That’s batch picking in action. Instead of walking the aisles for each individual list (or order) and then starting over, the worker efficiently traverses the layout once, gathering items for all those lists together.

The process begins with your inventory management software grouping similar orders or those that share products located in close proximity within the warehouse. Armed with this consolidated list, the worker navigates the warehouse aisles, collecting products for these multiple orders in one go.

Linnworks utilizes a state-of-art technology to group orders and create the most efficient picking lists for warehouse employees.

Once the items for all the grouped orders have been collected, the worker then moves to a centralized packing station. Here, each product is meticulously sorted according to its specific order.

They’re then packed with care, ensuring that every package contains the correct items. Once packed, these individual shipments are sent off for delivery.

This streamlined method not only maximizes worker efficiency but also reduces the wear and tear on equipment and cuts down on overall warehouse traffic. The result? A smoother, faster, and more cost-effective order fulfillment process.

How does batch picking differ from other picking methods?

At its core, batch picking shines when it comes to processing multiple orders simultaneously. This efficiency translates to fewer trips around the warehouse, reduced time per order, and ultimately, faster order fulfillment.

However, it’s essential to recognize that no one method fits all scenarios. While batch picking excels in certain environments, wave picking and zone picking might be better suited for other situations.

To get a comprehensive understanding of these methods and determine which could be the best fit for your operations, we invite you to explore our in-depth articles on wave picking and zone picking.

What are the benefits of batch picking?

The ascent of batch picking in contemporary warehousing isn’t a mere trend; it’s a testament to the powerful advantages this method delivers.

As businesses tailor their strategies to meet ever-evolving demands, a batch-picking system provides them with the agility and efficiency they need.

So, what makes batch picking stand out? Let’s dive into the transformative benefits it brings to your own warehouse operations.

Efficiency and productivity take center stage

Batch picking streamlines the picking process, effectively minimizing repeated trips through the warehouse aisles.

Instead of catering to each order separately, pickers can consolidate their efforts, using a picking list to gather items for multiple orders in one go.

This process optimization means that a greater number of orders can be processed within the same timeframe, boosting overall productivity levels.

Swift order processing with cost efficiency

The direct consequence of reduced repeated trips is a drastic reduction in order processing time. Faster order processing isn’t just about speed—it also has a positive ripple effect on labor costs.

By maximizing what can be achieved during each trip in the warehouse, the batch-picking system ensures you’re squeezing more value out of the same or even fewer resources. The outcome is a healthier bottom line for businesses.

Precision matters: getting the right order every time

Nobody likes errors, especially when it comes to order fulfillment. They can be a drain on finances and can tarnish a brand’s image.

By employing a batch picking system, and more specifically, when it’s combined with state-of-the-art technologies, the chances of these slip-ups reduce drastically. Customers receive what they expect every time, solidifying their trust in a brand.

Scaling gracefully with ecommerce growth

The dynamism of ecommerce demands adaptable solutions. As businesses experience spikes in order volumes, it’s vital to have a system in place that can keep up. Batch picking shines here, providing a solid foundation that’s built to handle growth.

The system’s inherent flexibility allows it to manage an influx of orders without straining resources, ensuring your warehouse operations remain nimble and responsive.

Cementing customer loyalty with speed and accuracy

In an era where customer satisfaction can make or break a brand, delivering a seamless experience is non-negotiable. And this is where a well-implemented batch picking system makes its mark. Fast deliveries, coupled with pinpoint accuracy, leave a lasting impression.

Such exemplary service not only retains customers but transforms them into brand advocates, further solidifying a company’s standing in the market.

How to implement batch picking in your warehouse

Transitioning to batch picking is not merely about choosing a new method; it’s an overhaul of your entire order management system.

Adopting batch picking requires more than just a decision. It’s about assessing your current processes, understanding the specific needs of your warehouse, and creating an environment conducive to its success.

This might mean reorganizing your warehouse layout to group the same items together, training your staff on the nuances of multi-order picking, or investing in technology that supports and enhances the batch-picking method.

Warehouse layout and design considerations for batch picking

The layout of a warehouse or distribution center plays a crucial role in the success of batch-picking operations.

Warehouse managers need to consider various aspects of the design to ensure not just efficiency but accuracy in order fulfillment.

Organizing picking zones and product placement

Strategically organizing products within specific zones is vital to reduce picker travel time and picking errors. By grouping frequently ordered items or products that are often ordered together, warehouse managers can streamline the batch-picking process.

Moreover, considering the flow of the warehouse and the relationship between different items can make a notable difference.

For instance, if certain items are regularly shipped together, placing them in close proximity to the distribution center can save significant time and effort.

Maximizing picking efficiency through layout design

Beyond product placement, the overall design of the warehouse impacts the efficacy of any picking method, including discrete order picking. An intuitive warehouse layout, where high-demand items are placed in easily accessible locations, can exponentially enhance picking efficiency.

This doesn’t just mean placing popular items at the front; it’s about understanding the flow of operations, from receiving to shipping and designing the space to support that flow.

The end goal is to minimize unnecessary movements, reduce the chances of picking errors, and expedite the order fulfillment process.

Technology and tools for effective batch picking

Warehouse management systems (WMS)

In the realm of warehouse operations, warehouse management systems, like Linnworks, stands at the forefront of driving efficiency. They streamline the management and monitoring of batch-picking processes, ensuring not just effective but efficient picking.

Linnworks, in particular, excels in charting the optimal pick path, guiding pickers along the most direct routes, and eliminating redundant steps. This precision in picking routes ensures that workers spend minimal time traversing the warehouse, leading to faster order fulfillment.

The difference brought about by integrating a sophisticated warehouse management system like Linnworks can transform an operation from merely good to outstanding.

Use of barcode scanning and RFID technology

The advent of barcode and RFID technologies marked a paradigm shift in warehouse operations. These tools are genuine game-changers, revolutionizing the picking process.

They expedite the order fulfillment process and, more crucially, ensure a significant reduction in errors. By employing these technologies, each product is swiftly and accurately matched with its order.

Linnworks integrates with these technologies to ensure that pickers are directed efficiently, minimizing backtracking and ensuring a more direct picking route.

Final thoughts

Batch picking isn’t merely the flavor of the month in the realm of picking methods. Instead, it represents a paradigm shift in how the order picking process is approached, with a keen focus on speed, efficiency, and accuracy. This strategic pivot in the picking landscape is especially relevant in the rapidly evolving world of ecommerce, where demands can shift as swiftly as consumer preferences.

But as with any strategy, success doesn’t just lie in the adoption—it’s about mastery. Implementing batch picking is just the starting point. The real magic happens when businesses fine-tune their picking strategy, tailor it to their unique needs, and integrate the right technological tools to elevate the process.

As you venture deeper into the world of batch picking or explore other picking methods, always remember: your approach should be dynamic, adaptable, and geared towards constant refinement.

That’s the hallmark of a business primed for unparalleled success in the ecommerce space.

Book a demo now to try our inventory management software for yourself and see how it could improve your processes.

Batch Picking FAQs

What’s the difference between batch picking and cluster picking?

Batch picking and cluster picking are both methods to improve the efficiency of the order picking process in warehouses. Here’s a simple breakdown:

Batch picking:

In batch picking, a warehouse worker collects items for multiple orders in one single trip through the warehouse.

For example, if there are 10 orders that each need a specific type of shoe, a worker would go to the shoe section once, pick all the shoes for those 10 orders, and then move on to the next item on the list. The idea is to minimize the number of trips a worker needs to make to the same location.

Cluster picking:

Cluster picking is a bit different. In this method, a warehouse worker uses a cart with multiple bins or totes. Each bin or tote represents a separate order. As the worker moves through the warehouse, they pick items for multiple orders simultaneously, placing each item in the respective order’s bin or tote.

So, if three orders require three different products from the same aisle, the worker can pick all those products in one pass, dropping each product into its respective order’s bin.

In essence, while both methods aim to reduce the worker’s travel time in the warehouse, batch picking consolidates multiple orders into one pick list, whereas cluster picking uses a multi-bin system to pick for several orders at the same time.

Is batch picking the same thing as wave picking?

No, batch picking and wave picking are not the same. Batch picking is about collecting items for many orders at the same time.

Wave picking is a method where orders are picked in groups or “waves” based on certain factors, like shipping times.

What is an example of a batch order?

Imagine you work at the warehouse of an ecommerce business like Zara, a popular clothing brand. On a busy sale day, you get orders from all over the country.

You have a list that shows 10 orders, each asking for the same black ankle boots in different sizes. Instead of walking to the boot section 10 times, once for each order, you head there just once. You pick all the required sizes for those 10 orders in a single trip.

This is an example of a batch order, where multiple requests are fulfilled together, saving time and effort.

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