Wave Picking: The Daily Definition
What is wave picking?
Wave picking is an inventory picking and packing strategy. Instead of picking items on an order-by-order basis, teams of employees pick all of each individual inventory item needed to pack all of the orders going out that day. Orders fulfilled this way are called wave orders.
During a “normal” fulfillment process, orders are filled one at a time. So, items A, B, and C are picked for the first order of the day. Once that’s done, items A, C, and D are picked for the second order. Then items A, D, and E for the third. You get the idea.
When wave picking, you assign a team of employees to pick all of the A items that you need for all three of these orders. Another team picks all the B items, another the C. This saves your warehouse workers a lot of time and energy. Reducing the number of trips made through the warehouse equals more efficiency. This can also help improve your overall pick-and-pack efficiency.
Our two cents:
If warehouse workers are wasting precious time and steps by crisscrossing paths all day long, wave picking is a fulfillment method worth looking into. Wave picking is just one of the many methods of improving overall warehouse efficiency. Whether or not your company should use this strategy has a lot to do with your warehouse setup. If wave picking would complicate your fulfillment processes without improving your efficiency or accuracy, though, it’s probably not worth your time.
Wave picking is very similar to batch picking, but there are some key differences between the two. In batch picking, you don’t typically assign different teams of warehouse employees to different items. Batch picking tends to work better for smaller businesses whose orders typically don’t include a large assortment of different items, businesses who have a limited SKU count, or businesses whose inventory does not require much physical space (jewelry, for example).
We recommend taking a week or two to collect some data on your warehouse’s performance (count those steps or calculate how much time it takes to pick an average order). Consider whether or not wave or batch picking would improve your processes. You’ll be glad you did!