The warehouse is a bustling maze loaded with inventory wherein pickers must go on an adventurous treasure hunt to find the customer’s order. Navigating through each shelf for a particular order is very hectic on the part of pickers and also reduces their efficiency. This is why wave picking is considered as the efficient way in the warehouse and its operations. 

With tons of order-picking methods in the industry, wave picking stands out from its competitors. But what is the wave-picking method? How is it different from the age-old batch picking? What are its advantages and disadvantages? 

Let’s explore these questions in this blog post! 

Wave Picking

What Is Wave Picking? 

Wave picking is an order-picking method wherein the entire inventory is categorized into waves based on similarities, and pickers are assigned to collect the waves from their locations rather than collecting each order individually. A wave consists of a group of orders based on criteria such as product type, availability, shipping times, due date, etc. 

It’s also known as cluster picking, as the picker doesn’t waste time and effort picking up every order. Rather, he picks up a batch of orders at one go. It’s a type of short interval scheduling (SIS) and is proven to be the most efficient among all the order-picking methods. 

Wave picking order picking method comes in two variations: 

  1. Fixed: In this method, the wave of orders is sent for packing all at once after being picked. All the orders must be picked before they are sent to be packed. 
  1. Dynamic: In this method, an order from a wave is sent for packing right after being picked. One picked order wouldn’t hold back from being packed because of other orders in the wave. 

How Does Wave Picking Work? 

Wave picking may sound simple but is actually a bit complex. It’s because it requires the continuous collaboration of multiple roles to complete the order.

However, we can understand the entire process within 3 simple steps. 

  1. Pre: It’s the first step wherein all the waves are formed and organized based on some specific variables. The orders are grouped together to form waves that the picker must pick up later. It’s the planning step of the entire wave-picking process. Although it sounds quite cumbersome, it becomes a lot easier with a warehouse management system which basically does the laborious task of making waves.
  1. Performing: In this process, pickers are assigned a wave. With hand-held scanners to help them know more about what and how much to pick, they set off to collect the items for that wave. This way, they are able to complete multiple orders simultaneously. 
  1. Post: When all the orders are picked, they are sorted and again put into their scheduling waves for shipment.

How Does Wave Picking Differ from Batch Picking? 

You must have come across the most common order-picking method, batch picking. Did your mind question how it is different? Here you go! 

While batch picking involves a picker picking items from one part of the warehouse irrespective of their similarity, wave picking involves picking items listed in the wave only. Pickers in batch picking have just one task window throughout their entire shift. Whereas in this picking, pickers have multiple windows within a single shift. 

In batch picking, the picker visits the inventory locations only once. This reduces the traffic, congestion and the chances of accidents. On the contrary, the pickers must visit the same location multiple times in this picking, thus putting the SKU at risk. Moreover, batch picking is ideal for businesses with small warehouses while other picking is perfect for large businesses and warehouses.

Advantages of Wave Picking

Are you wondering about the advantages? Read on & explore!

1. On-Time Shipments and Deliveries 

Everything from categorizing orders into waves to shipping the waves is pre-planned in wave packing. This reduces the hustle for shipping, thus promising on-time shipping and deliveries. 

2. Ideal for Fresh or High-Security Goods 

Fresh goods, such as food items, spoil quickly. In this picking, items with a close expiry date can be put together in a wave and shipped. This prevents wastage of such inventory. Similarly, high-security items requiring special care can be grouped together and processed. This eliminated the hassle of shipping each item with care.

3. Optimizes the Picking Process   

In wave picking, pickers don’t need to travel to multiple locations multiple times to collect items. Instead, they pick a wave containing all the orders with similar attributes. This optimises the picking process, thus reducing the travel time and time wastage.

4. Improved Efficiency  

As the items are already grouped in waves, the picker doesn’t need to spend time sorting and categorizing them. This not just saves time but also improves the efficiency of the pickers accurately. thus allowing them to complete multiple orders all at once. 

5. Improved Productivity  

Wave picking reduces the need for pickers to take regular trips to different warehouse locations to pick up the orders. Moreover, it lets pickers complete many orders simultaneously, ultimately improving their productivity.

6. Reduction in Errors and Bottlenecks 

Wave picking is a cohesive approach wherein pickers focus on a specific group of products at once. It streamlined the process, reducing congestion and confusion caused in the aisles due to batch picking and other such methods. This ultimately reduces errors and bottlenecks in the picking process, thus fostering a smooth workflow.

7. Cost Effective  

Wave picking reduces the need for human labor and helps you optimize your resource allocation. It’s a cost-effective approach as it reduces the travel costs of pickers, chances of product wastage, etc.

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Disadvantages of Wave Picking 

Despite the advantages, this picking method also comes with some disadvantages. Let’s have a look at them.

1. Complex 

Implementing an order picking method within a warehouse is quite complex. Firstly, managers and other stakeholders must plan it carefully. Moreover, it also demands constant coordination. The toughest part is training the employees. Thus, it leads to a steeper learning curve, so it’s not ideal for small warehouses.

2. Risks of Downtime  

Another noteworthy disadvantage of implementing the wave-picking method is the high risk of downtime. While the waves increase the efficiency of pickers, it also leads them to face idle hours between waves. Moreover, other unforeseen delays and disruptions can also impact the flow of goods, thus increasing the risks of downtime. 

3. Increased Setup Time 

Setting up the entire process within a warehouse requires planning, time, and meticulous attention to detail. Small mistakes can wreak havoc on the entire supply chain.

4. Limited Flexibility  

The orders are batched in waves, which makes it difficult to make changes at crucial times. This inflexibility is a major con for warehouses that are prone to urgent adjustments and last-minute modifications.

FAQs: Wave Picking 

1. What is wave picking? 

Wave picking is an order-picking method wherein the entire inventory is categorized into waves based on some similarities, and pickers are assigned to collect the waves from their locations rather than collecting each order individually.

2. What are the types of wave picking?  

There are two types of wave-picking methods: fixed wave picking and dynamic picking.

3. How does wave picking differ from batch picking? 

While batch picking involves a picker picking items from one part of the warehouse irrespective of their similarity, wave picking involves picking items listed in the wave only. Moreover, batch picking is ideal for businesses with small warehouses; it is perfect for large businesses and warehouses.

4. List the advantages of wave picking. 

The advantages of are: 

  1. It’s ideal for fresh and high-security goods. 
  2. It optimizes the picking process. 
  3. It improves the efficiency and productivity of the picking process. 
  4. It improves accuracy, thus reducing bottlenecks. 
  5. It’s cost-effective.

5. List the disadvantages of wave picking. 

The disadvantages of are:

  1. Implementing this order picking method is quite complex. It requires careful planning, coordination, and meticulous attention to detail.
  2. There are high risks of downtime in this method.
  3. The method offers limited flexibility, and you can’t make any last-minute changes.

Wrapping Up 

The wave picking method stands out among all other order-picking methods. It’s because it’s organized, improves order consolidation, and is highly scalable. It also improves efficiency and productivity of the pickers and the entire supply chain while offering cost-saving benefits too. Before implementing this method, make sure to analyze if your business really needs it. 

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