The rise of ecommerce has precipitated a sea change in logistics that has massive implications for 3PL warehouses. Global online retail spending reached nearly $2 trillion in 2016 and is expected to double by 2020, putting tremendous pressure on warehouses and warehouse management systems (WMS).
Like me, you’re probably doing more online shopping than ever before—making smaller orders more often and expecting fast and free delivery, even when it’s not urgent. These increasing demands for speed, accuracy, and visibility mean that putting in place efficient, technology-driven systems is crucial to compete in the global marketplace.
The Rise of Split Case Picking
Enter split case picking. Unlike traditional full pallet or case picking, split case picking involves individual products being picked from unique locations and placed directly into shippable cartons.
Split case picking is far more complex and labor intensive than its larger scale counterparts. Variable demand has seen a shift from fixed weekly delivery schedules to same-hour, same-day, 24- or 48-hour cycles, with vastly increased picker travel time. With industry estimates suggesting that up to 60 percent of total pick and pack time is taken up by walking or moving product around and 55 percent of total costs in a warehouse are from manual labor, this can have a huge impact on your bottom line.
Six Ways to Optimize Split Case Picking
Making split case picking work in your warehouse requires a multifaceted approach that puts speed, efficiency, and accuracy at the center of your processes. The following are some ways I’d suggest to optimize your picking performance:
Minimize Touches. Reducing touches should reduce costs, plain and simple. A robust WMS can enable picking and packing directly to the shipping carton, eliminating the need for a dedicated packing station.
Cartonization. This automatically analyzes each product’s dimensions, volume, and weight and then determines the optimal carton size to pack order lines. Carrier compliant shipping labels are printed at the time of order allocation and pickers simply put products in the labelled shipping carton pre-determined by the cartonization algorithm.
Segregate Single-Line Orders. Single-line orders can generally be picked in large batches because they don’t need to be consolidated with other items, eliminating the packing and sorting function altogether.
Multi-Order Batch Picking. Batch picking, the practice of picking multiple orders at one time, can be accomplished in a non-automated environment at a relatively low cost with pick trolleys. Rather than filling one order at a time, the picker will pick the products required for multiple orders in one pass through the warehouse.
Pick and Pass. Pick and Pass is an order picking methodology where pickers are assigned to specific zones within the warehouse. Cartons move between areas as the picks from the previous area are completed. Pick and Pass is most effective in warehouses with a large number of products and a high volume of orders.
Slotting Fixed Pick Areas. In slotted fixed picking, products are dedicated to one or more locations. Typically, each pick location is configured with minimum and maximum quantities for replenishment. When orders are allocated in the WMS, the system will attempt to allocate the inventory from the fixed pick locations and, if necessary, create a replenishment order to refill the pick location. When deciding what products to slot, consider using the 80/20 rule: dedicate slots for the 20 percent of your products that make up 80 percent of your order volume.
The ecommerce revolution is here and is not likely going away. Putting robust systems in place now could help insulate you from losing customers, keep you one step ahead of your competitors, and help you win new business.
John Ramsey Mabe is product manager at WiseTech Global.