Case picking is the gathering of full cartons or boxes of product, typically done on a pallet. Extremely important among warehouses processes, there are a wide variety of methods for case picking that range in terms of difficulty level. For instance, the most basic method of case picking involves a person who serves as the order picker of a stationary product that is stored on either static shelving or a pallet rack. However, other methods of order picking involve machinery such as automatic palletizers and forklift trucks.
The three most important aspects of successful case picking are high productivity, short cycle times, or the amount of time is takes to get an order from order entry to the shipping dock, and a high level of accuracy. Unfortunately, in some case picking methods, achieving one objective can interfere with achieving the others. Therefore, it is important not to put too much emphasis on one objective versus the other two, but instead to implement a case picking method that offers a balance of the three. Used primarily to get orders ready to be transported, order picking is essential to industries such as office furniture, food processing, industrial, pharmaceutical, warehousing, commercial, distribution and material handling.
There are four common case picking methods: the basic case picking method, batch picking, zone picking and wave picking. In the basic case picking method, the products are stored on either a pallet rack or various floor locations in bulk. A hand pallet jack or a motorized pallet truck will then pick the cases up from the storage area and transport the product to its desired location in order to be packed. In batch picking multiple cases will be picked in a single run in order to fulfill multiple orders. Typically, a picker will use a cart with multiple cartons so that they are able to fulfill more picks per trip to one bin or many bins in the same location. However, batch picking is rarely used in case picking because there is only so much space on a pallet to be filled. In zone picking, the warehouse is divided into several pick zones that are each assigned to an order picker. That order picker can only pick the items in that zone. The orders are picked at the same time that they are moving on conveyor systems from one zone to the next. This case picking method is also not often used. Wave picking is a variation of zone picking. In wave picking the orders move from one zone to the next for picking while all zones are picked at the same time. The products are later sorted and consolidated into individual orders. Wave picking is the quickest case picking method for picking multiple orders.