Picking Process: Key To An Efficient Supply Chain

Picking Process in WMS System

Are picking errors disrupting your warehouse? 

Order picking can be tough, leading to inefficiencies and higher costs. 

But is there a fix? 

Enter the Warehouse Management System (WMS), a powerful tool that offers multiple warehouse picking solutions.

Let's explore how a WMS can improve order picking, reduce errors, and boost warehouse efficiency. Let's see how technology can enhance your operations.

What is Warehouse Picking?

Warehouse picking is an important part of preparing orders in a distribution center. It affects how fast and accurately the work gets done, thus affecting costs and service quality.

This process involves choosing and gathering the customer-ordered products. The entire process is managed through the Warehouse Management System (WMS), which uses different picking methods. Here are some of the popular picking processes.

1. Conventional Picking

Conventional picking, or discrete picking, is the most common method used in warehouses. Workers pick one item at a time for individual customer orders. They receive a pick list, go to each item's location, scan the location and item barcodes, and place the items in a box. Once all items for the order are picked, the box goes to packing for shipping.This method is easy to implement and works well for smaller warehouses with fewer items and orders. It allows for tracking worker accuracy and quick order fulfillment. However, it can be inefficient for larger warehouses or high-volume orders, as workers spend a lot of time traveling between locations.

2. Cluster Picking

In Cluster picking, workers gather products for multiple orders simultaneously, reducing travel time in the warehouse. Using carts or totes with multiple bins, each representing a separate customer order, workers collect items as they move through the warehouse. This method allows them to visit each location only once to fulfill multiple orders simultaneously. Cluster picking offers advantages such as reducing worker travel time, increasing picking throughput and efficiency, and minimizing picking errors. However, it requires more setup and configuration in the Warehouse Management System (WMS) and can pose challenges in warehouses with a wide variety of SKUs.

3. Reverse Picking or Put to Store

Reverse picking, also known as put to store, is a process of placing received items into storage locations in the warehouse. This step is important for maintaining accurate inventory and ensuring items are available for order fulfillment. Workers use a pick list or mobile device to locate assigned storage locations and place items there, scanning both location and item barcodes to confirm the put away. Effective practices include slotting frequently picked items near the packing area, using clear signage and barcode labeling, providing mobile devices for direction, and training workers on the process.

4. Pick and Pass

Pick and pass, also known as zone picking, is a method used in warehouses to fulfill orders. Each worker is assigned a specific zone in the warehouse where they pick items for orders. Once they gather the items from their zone, they pass them to the next zone for further processing. This approach reduces worker travel time and allows for parallel processing of orders, making order fulfillment faster. However, it requires careful planning to balance workloads and zones effectively. To optimize pick and pass, warehouses should analyze order patterns, use efficient technology like a Warehouse Management System (WMS), and provide clear instructions and training to workers.

5. Bulk Picking

Bulk picking methods streamline order picking. Instead of picking items one by one, workers gather multiple items together for several orders at once. This saves time by reducing the number of trips workers need to make. Bulk picking works best for items frequently picked from the same location. It can start when orders are released or with a separate program afterward. This method helps reduce the time spent restocking shelves, decreases worker travel time, and improves overall picking efficiency. To optimize bulk picking, warehouses can focus on frequently picked items and avoid it for slower-moving products, making order fulfillment faster and more efficient. 

6. Cross-Docking

Cross-docking is a logistics strategy used in warehouses to move goods more efficiently. Instead of storing products for long periods, incoming goods are unloaded from trucks or containers and immediately loaded onto outbound trucks for shipment. This reduces the storage need, reduces costs and time products spend in the warehouse. Cross-docking works best for high-demand items with consistent inbound and outbound traffic. It improves supply chain efficiency and responsiveness to customer demands by minimizing storage time and handling. However, successful implementation needs careful coordination of inbound and outbound shipments to ensure timely transfers and minimize disruptions in the logistics flow.

Picking Process in a Warehouse With a WMS: How’s it Done?

Introducing a Warehouse Management System (WMS) completely changes how warehouses handle picking, making it faster and more accurate. With a WMS, warehouses can make picking operations better by using advanced technology and simpler workflows. Let's have a look at how the picking process changes when a warehouse has a WMS.

#1. Picking Process Phases

In this, orders initiate the picking process. The WMS assigns tasks based on stock availability. Workers gather items, sort, label, and organize them for packing. Orders are double-checked for accuracy. Finally, items are loaded onto trucks for delivery, ensuring timely and accurate shipment.

 #2. Advance Planning

Planning ahead is vital. By looking at past orders and what customers usually want, the team gets ready for future orders. This helps manage stock better, prevents shortages, and makes picking faster and more accurate, keeping customers happy.

#3. Routes and Travel

Smart route planning is key for efficient picking. The system finds the best paths, cutting travel time and boosting productivity. By considering item locations and order priorities, workers take logical routes, speeding up picking and accuracy. This approach trims unnecessary travel, improves worker efficiency, and meets customer needs promptly.

#4. Product Picking or Retrieval

Product picking is central to warehouse operations, especially with a WMS. Workers follow system instructions to gather items accurately. Methods like batch or zone picking boost efficiency. While these methods are effective for even greater efficiency and accuracy, some warehouses may integrate automated warehouse picking systems with their WMS. Streamlining picking reduces handling time, errors, and enhances order fulfillment speed and accuracy, satisfying customers.

#5. Order Consolidation & Verification

After picking, workers group items for each order into containers or pallets for easier packing. They carefully check items against the order list to fix any mistakes before packing. These steps cut errors, ensuring customers get the right orders quickly, keeping them happy. This efficient process of warehouse picking and packing is essential for seamless order fulfillment and customer satisfaction.

#6. Dispatch & Transportation

The final step in picking warehouse is sending out orders for delivery. After making sure everything is packed correctly, workers load the orders onto trucks or vans. They coordinate with carriers to schedule pickups and deliveries, ensuring orders get to customers on time. This streamlined approach to warehouse picking and packing minimizes handling time and ensures accurate order fulfillment, ultimately enhancing customer satisfaction.

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What Are The Main Errors In Warehouse Picking?

Recognizing and correcting common errors in warehouse picking is essential for efficient and accurate order processing. By identifying these issues, warehouses can implement strategies to reduce mistakes and improve overall operations. Let's explore some of the main errors.

Picking Errors

Mistakes like selecting the wrong item or quantity can upset customers and raise costs from returns. Warehouses can tackle this by using barcode scanners and pick-to-light systems for precise picking. Training staff well and doing regular checks also help cut down on picking errors.

Inventory Inaccuracy

Wrong inventory records can cause shortages or excess stock, delaying orders and raising  costs. Warehouses can fix this by doing regular cycle counts to match physical counts with system records. Using an automated inventory system that links with the WMS also helps by giving live updates on stock levels

Poor Organization and Layout

Messy warehouse layouts and disorganized storage can cause picking mistakes and 
delays. To fix this, warehouses should arrange their layout to reduce travel time between pick spots and use clear signs for easy navigation. Zone-picking methods and well-labeled shelves can also help make picking faster and more efficient.

Correcting key errors in warehouse picking is vital for seamless operations. Fortunately, Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) offer various picking solutions that can help minimize these errors and optimize the picking process.

What Is The Impact of Warehouse Picking Errors?

Warehouse picking errors can have significant repercussions on overall operations and customer satisfaction. Here are key impacts:

#1. Increased Costs: 

Picking mistakes results in extra expenses from returns, replacements, and reshipments. These costs add up fast, affecting the warehouse's finances. Also, fixing errors takes time and resources away from productive tasks, making the financial impact worse.

#2. Reduced Customer Satisfaction: 

Picking mistakes cause wrong or late orders, upsetting customers. When customers get the wrong items or face delays, they lose trust in the warehouse. Negative feedback and reviews due to picking errors can harm the warehouse's reputation, driving away potential customers.

#3. Operational Inefficiencies: 

Picking mistakes disrupts warehouse operations, causing delays and inefficiencies. Wrongly picked items may need to be returned to inventory, adding handling and processing time. Staff may spend extra time fixing errors, taking focus away from crucial tasks.

Fixing warehouse picking errors is important for smooth operations. Quality control, employee training, and tech help reduce mistakes, improve things and keep customers happy.

​How To Automate Picking With a WMS

Automating the picking process with a Warehouse Management System (WMS) can improve efficiency and accuracy. To achieve this, implement automated picking systems with features:

1. Integrate Barcode Scanning

Use barcode scanning to simplify item identification and tracking. Workers scan barcodes on items and storage locations, ensuring accurate picks and reducing errors. The WMS updates inventory records in real time, keeping stock levels accurate.

2. Batch and Cluster Picking

Use Batch and cluster-picking methods to group multiple orders together. The WMS organizes tasks to minimize travel distance and time, allowing workers to pick up multiple orders simultaneously. This reduces redundant movements and boosts efficiency.

3. Continuous Monitoring & Feedback

The WMS picking process continuously monitors operations requiring real-time feedback and performance metrics. Managers can track key performance indicators (KPIs) and identify areas for improvement.

Advantages of Implementing a WMS in the Order-picking Process

Here are some advantages of integrating a Warehouse Management System (WMS) into order-picking operations. See how this system boosts efficiency and accuracy, optimizing warehouse workflows for better performance.

#1. Cost Savings

Implementing a WMS in order picking saves money by making workflows more efficient, reducing errors, and improving overall operations, which lowers labor and inventory costs.

#2. Up-to-date & Digital Stock Information

The up-to-date and digital stock information a WMS provides ensures accurate inventory tracking, faster decision-making, and enhanced customer service, improving efficiency and customer satisfaction in warehouse operations.

#3. Error Elimination​

A WMS helps eliminate errors in order picking by automating processes and barcode scanning. This ensures accurate order fulfillment, reduces the need for returns, and improves overall warehouse efficiency.

#4. Increased Productivity

A WMS increases productivity by optimizing picking routes, automating tasks, and providing real-time inventory data. This helps workers complete orders faster, reduces downtime, and improves warehouse efficiency.


Implementing a WMS in the order-picking process can improve warehouse operations. It helps businesses save costs, provides real-time stock information, reduces errors, and boosts productivity. By increasing efficiency and accuracy, businesses can better meet customer demands and improve satisfaction. Using a WMS leads to a more efficient and reliable warehouse operation.

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