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Warehouse Management Blog

Our team of Fulfilment Consultants share warehouse management best practice and advice.

The best ways to optimise your inventory picking

How To

WRITTEN BY Oliver Rhodes /

08 November 2010

Your inventory picking strategy depends on how sales orders are divided into inventory picking lists. These can be configured within warehouse management software to allocate and divide up sales orders in a variety of ways. The different picking methods are described below, and in all cases when we refer to picking, we recommend electronic picking using a handheld mobile computer, not paper pick lists:

Inventory picking by location:

Some customer orders may be made up from stock items that are held across multiple sites, warehouses, or stores. This means that the inventory picking list for an individual sales order must cover the multiple locations to ensure that all parts are there that make up the order as different people will be picking the various parts. This is not an optimal method of picking your sales orders.

Inventory picking by warehouse zone:

Warehouse operator travel time is reduced by dividing up a warehouse into zones and allocating inventory picking to specific warehouse operators within each zone. Travel time reduction is the number one reason for putting in inventory management systems for large companies. Zone picking is common where there are conveyors and items are picked into the outer container before being moved on to the next zone. This can work very well as a speedy picking method.

Inventory picking by product group:

This is where products of the same type are placed on the same inventory picking lists. An example of this would be a sales order that requires mattresses and beds - mattresses are allocated to one picker and the beds to another. This is a good inventory picking method if you have similar products stored in similar location.

Inventory picking by Load – FILO (First in last out):

The pallets that are going to be delivered by the lorry last are picked first. In large warehouses that have multiple dock doors, picking to FILO means that the pallets can be organised along the loading bays and loaded up in reverse order to which they will be dropped off. Good for companies with their own fleet and are picking by load or route.

Inventory picking according to FIFO (First in first out):

This rule is often applied to inventory picking for stock that is kept outside and exposed to the weather. Think of a companies like a builders merchant or concrete drain manufacturer. Although the product can withstand the elements, being able to apply a first in first out rule to inventory picking is advantageous as it limits stock degradation. Moving to food and beverage, consumables in general, this is a critical way of picking to ensure you are rotating your stock, rather than writing it off. Better still is the one described below.

Inventory picking by FEFO (First expiring first out):

This rule is critically applied in food, beverage and pharmaceutical storage. For these products, priority picking and shipping of goods that are expiring first is necessary to avoid waste stock.

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