Warehouses are busy places and along with the volume of activity that goes on within its walls, they are also prime places to optimize processes and streamline day-to-day functions. Every time something is made more efficient, it makes people’s jobs easier, cuts costs, and it also helps you fulfill orders quicker and more accurately which leads to better customer service and increased repeat business.
With improvements to warehouse management systems comes procedural improvements like waveless picking. Before we get into the benefits of waveless picking, we should describe what the waves are and why they are such a problem.
What is wrong with traditional picking?
Traditional order processing for a large warehouse never really took the conditions in the warehouse into account when sending pick orders. Instead, the traditional way was for the warehouse management system (WMS) to send “waves” or groups of orders based on information and requirements that were determined outside of the facility. What happens is that there is a lot of activity at the beginning of the wave as the warehouse scrambles to fulfill the orders. Productivity then slows as the orders are filled and pickers are waiting for the previous wave of orders to be filled before the next wave comes. This means the volume of work is disproportionate to the resources allocated to complete it with a lot of activity at the beginning of the wave and much less at the end of it.
Why waveless is better
With waveless operations, the WMS will continue to pull orders based on the dynamically changing conditions in the warehouse. Underutilized resources will no longer have to wait for orders and can move immediately into the next round of orders without having to wait for the previous pick to be completed. This allows orders to be assigned on a real-time basis which greatly reduces or eliminates the downtime associated with traditional wave order processing.
This flexible, pull-based approach lowers the need for labor and reduces the equipment requirements per order which means resources are better allocated and costs are lowered. Waveless picking also allows for real-time updates to orders meaning customers know instantly where their order is and when they can expect it to arrive. This keeps workers continuing their tasks at a steady pace that is matched to the current work-zone conditions without over-assigning or under-assigning picks. If a picker is available they can communicate that availability upstream and optimize the entire picking process.
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