Pros and Cons of Waveless Picking
To wave, or not to wave?
For many warehouses, distribution centers, and order fulfillment operations, that question likely bubbles up from time to time—when there is talk of getting labor costs under control, boosting efficiency, implementing a new technology in support of the picking operation, or generally changing the operation’s workflows. Which picking strategy makes the most sense: Wave picking, or waveless picking?
Are you considering changing your picking strategy, or else implementing a formal picking system for the first time? Below, we take a close look at wave picking: What it is, the pros and cons that come from leveraging it, and the alternatives you may also want to consider.
Got questions about how to leverage wave, waveless or overlapping waves picking in your facility? Speak with a member of the Conveyco Team!
What is waveless picking?
Waveless picking is a picking strategy that is often compared directly against wave picking, largely because they work in very different ways.
In waveless picking, batches are dynamic and constantly changing. As new orders are received by the system, they are automatically added to the batch for picking. Those orders with the fastest shipping requirements (such as same-day or next-day shipping) are prioritized over other orders with slower shipping requirements. When a picker completes the pick that they are actively working on, the WES automatically checks for the next best pick, and directs them to that spot. This is in direct opposition to wave picking, in which batches are “locked” once a wave begins.
Waveless picking is also sometimes referred to as “order streaming.”
Benefits of Waveless Picking
Waveless picking is leveraged most often in ecommerce picking or other operations with aggressive shipping requirements, such as those that receive a large volume of orders with same-day and next-day shipping requirements. This is because waveless picking allows the WES to constantly reevaluate the queue of orders so as to prioritize those with the most urgent deadlines.
Another key advantage of waveless picking is that it tends to level out the peaks and valleys in productivity that are common in wave picking, leading to a more predictable throughput and efficient equipment utilization rate.
Alternatives to Waveless Picking
Waveless picking is most often compared directly against wave picking, as discussed above. The other picking strategy that can be considered, however, is overlapping waves, which can be thought of as something of a blend between wave and waveless picking.
Overlapping wave picking works like traditional wave picking, in that it involves static batches (waves). However, while wave picking requires that one wave be completed before the next can begin, overlapping wave picking releases the next wave once the prior wave has peaked in productivity, but before it is fully finished. Overlapping wave management provides greater throughput by mitigating the low productivity valleys found in both wave and waveless picking.
Like waveless picking, this results in lower peaks and higher valleys of productivity, but often with higher throughput than waveless picking.
Which picking strategy is right for your operation?
Proponents of either wave picking or waveless picking often tend to approach the discussion of “which is better” with an answer in mind. They will say “Wave picking is always better” or “Waveless picking will always outperform” but the truth is that there is no simple, one size fits all answer of which method is best.
The best picking strategy for your operation will be the one that enables you to pick and process the most orders in the most efficient manner possible. For some businesses, that will mean leveraging waveless picking. For others, it will mean wave picking. And for others still, it will mean leveraging overlapping waves, or another method altogether.
That being said, if your operation caters to the ecommerce space, or another industry that sees a high volume of orders with same- and next-day shipping requirements, then waveless picking could be the right solution for you. Ask your WES provider or systems integrator if they will do an analysis on your data and present the results to wave, waveless and overlapping waves. Be cautious on providers who can’t or won’t evaluate overlapping waves and call in Conveyco.
If you would like a no-obligation consult as to which strategy makes the most sense for your needs, speaking with a trusted systems integrator and WES provider can help you understand your options. Contact us today to speak with a member of the Conveyco Team.