Wave picking is an intelligently orchestrated picking strategy for warehouses that groups orders by common logistics criteria assigned based on the end customer, type of carrier, volume, or size of the order. The process is used to support management and workers through a warehouse management system to assist in planning and organizing the daily workflow. To start the flow for the day by the order departure plan and the available work, wave picking is the short-lived sequencing and combining of orders into small intervals known as waves. When the plan is finalized, the WMS (Warehouse Management System) releases the waves to the warehouse sequentially throughout the day to allow the management to coordinate several parallel activities needed to complete the daily work plan. The wave planning data holds the workload such as order lines, cases, each item, and value-added services categorized by functions such as case picking, repack picking, pallet movement, pick position replenishment, providing management the information to calculate the staff requirement and assign the functions to staff, with the reasonable expectation that the work in each function, within each wave.
Warehousing in the Supply Chain
Warehousing is an integral piece in the broader picture of the supply chain for the physical product. Warehouses function as intermediary storage facilities and supply the functionality to reduce costs by perfecting inventory purchases, saving shipping costs, and speeding up delivery times. Warehouses aid the efficient working of the supply chain by filling the following gaps:
Demand and Supply Imbalance
There is no perfect world where demand equates to supply. In a bid to shorten this gap, the companies manufacture in high quantities, and the product must be stored somewhere. This is where the warehousing comes in, storing the excessive inventory. Likewise, if there is high demand for goods and the stock is low, then the companies start producing in bulk, so to deliver the product to customers, the product must be stored in specific accessible locations, again in warehouses.
In some warehouses value-added services are provided as part of the warehouse operations such as labeling, sorting, and shrink-wrapping are processes that are not performed at the manufacturing plants and the warehouse provides an opportunity to perform said activities.
Sorting and Splitting
Warehouses also provide a space to sort and split large orders into smaller final packages to be delivered to the end customer. A customer could order multiple products from different vendors, so the products are finalized according to the order of the customer.
Wave Picking Process
Wave Picking is a scheduled order picking routine that can be executed in brief time intervals (30 to 60 mins) many times throughout the day. This exercise can process multiple orders from different customers at the same time. The picked orders are sorted at the sorting location and dispatched to their respective routes.
The wave picking process is an intelligent, yet complicated process, divided into four operations:
Order selection is the first step in the wave-picking process. The order to be processed in wave picking is selected based on:
- Order Type
- Order Age
- Transportation Lead Time
- Distance From Warehouse to Destination
- Trailer Dispatch Time
Fulfilling the above criteria ensures that no order is left unprocessed.
After the selection of orders, the next step is to assign the order to the operator. Careful assignment of the task to the workforce can save time and improve precision. Important points to be considered while assigning orders to pickers are:
- Capacity of Picker
- Traveling Time (from start to pick a location, from one end of the aisle to the other, between aisles)
- Time available
- Number of workforces available
When the order is picked from a location, a label is assigned to the order, which holds the relevant information of the order and regarding sorting and processing.
Wave picking is a process involving multiple orders picked at the same time, the orders are sorted according to their order number. The operator scans the label through a handheld device and the sorting information is displayed on the device screen. Multiple operators are assigned to a location, which increases the sorting efficiency.
After picking, the order is delivered to the dispatch area. Orders to be dispatched are grouped based on the route of the truck carrying the orders to their destinations, and the number of delivery stops on that route is also considered. The group dispatch ensures that the delivery system performs to its full efficiency.
Wave picking can increase the operational complexity and application cost if not implemented accurately.
Optimizing the Picking Process
For an efficient picking process, it is essential that the warehouse should be well optimized and organized properly, the following points ensure the proper functioning of the picking process:
- The products should be labeled correctly and placed correctly in their respective locations.
- The products should be stacked in a formation that requires less equipment to be used by the operator.
- The routes taken by the pickers around the warehouse should be well defined, so the picker does not get lost along the way.
Benefits of Using Wave Picking
The wave-picking process is beneficial in solving crucial challenges faced in the warehouse.
- The wave-picking process simply solves the challenge of theft, human error, and lack of automation and eventually solves the problem of inventory inaccuracy.
- For the wave process to function properly, it needs efficient warehouse layouts and optimal inventory locations. Consequently, improving the entire layout of the whole warehouse.
- Sometimes due to human error, a process can be triggered more than one time in a warehouse, as wave picking is entirely an automated process, it leaves no room for human error and redundant processes.
- Time saved by wave picking is the most important item in its list of pros. The efficiency of the system not only saves time but also meets crucial deadlines.