As a 3PL, you need to constantly improve efficiencies to both attract and retain new clients while also increasing your profitability. While grouping multiple similar orders into one pick instruction can improve efficiency, it only works when you implement an effective method for your batching process. By transitioning from manual batching to automated processes, you can enjoy time savings and reduce opportunity costs through increased efficiency. Here’s how.
What is Batch Automation?
Batching is intended to improve accuracy and speed. However, as with most manual processes, it is time-consuming and increases the risk of errors. Automated systems, on the other hand, leverage technology, adding a layer of efficiency that optimizes the batch-picking process. There are different ways to introduce batch automation, including:
- Robots: Robots can work alongside picking teams, making it easier to find time-saving routes to reduce steps when walking to each picking location. Pickers also have instant access to picking information. The assistance might be purely physical, such as carrying heavy bins or totes. Robots can also be autonomous, handling manual tasks like transporting inventory to counting or sorting stations.
- Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS): AS/RS technology, such as vertical lift modules (VLM), can automatically collect items on demand. Warehouse workers can input the items they need, and the VLM delivers them.
- Warehouse management software (WMS): Software creates pick routes to speed up the process. You can reduce walk times and average pick and fulfillment times by allocating pickers to the highest-demand SKUs without the need for robots.
- Automated batch-picking carts: Software uses cart locations to create pick routes to find nearby single-pick orders for assigned multi-ordered batch picks.
- Automated order processing: The efficient receipt of orders also manages order batching, e.g. grouped by BOM, product, shipping carrier, etc.
You can choose the best automation solution based on your budget, the scale of your warehouse square footage, order volume, and the number of SKUs.
Leveraging an Integrated WMS
Using an integrated 3PL WMS, you can automate more elements contributing to the batching process, including:
- Order management: The order life cycle is managed using order data to automate processing with batching, allowing pickers to focus on specific items instead of picking several individual items throughout the entire warehouse one order at a time.
- Warehouse management: All resources are managed automatically, so during the batching process, pickers can easily navigate to bin locations while having complete visibility of inventory. You can also leverage other technology, like your barcode scanners, to confirm picks and leverage batching pick strategies based on typical orders or your warehouse layout/locations.
- Inventory management: Your inventory management software provides real-time inventory counts so batch picking is never disrupted due to a failure to replenish fast-moving items. Instead of waiting for SKUs, low inventory triggers automatic orders, so pickers always find what they need.
With an integrated WMS encompassing order and inventory management, pickers avoid bottlenecks that commonly interfere with batch picking. Automation using an end-to-end solution manages items throughout the batch and order-picking process to further optimize the benefits of batching with enhanced speed and improved accuracy.
Benefits of Batch Picking Automation
There are several benefits to automated batch picking, including:
- You can further reduce the number of pickers needed so managers can ensure the most demanding areas of the warehouse are always sufficiently staffed
- You can improve insights into the best routes to further reduce walking distances to minimize the time it takes to pick orders
- Your WMS provides a centralized system with all relevant data and functionality to streamline warehouse processes
- You further increase the number of orders picked with improved efficiencies through a reduction of time-consuming manual tasks
- You can refocus productivity on the number of orders each day, so pickers are not going through the entire warehouse picking item by item and order by order
- You further increase order volume throughput without the need for more pickers or overworking your existing workers
- Through improved efficiencies, your warehouse becomes more scalable to accommodate more clients or provide scalability for existing clients
Reduced Opportunity Costs
Batching automation ensures resources are used for the best purpose, reducing the impact and costs of order processing. Managers gain economic efficiencies by making the right decisions on how they allocate resources by reducing time-consuming manual tasks.
Batching automation brings more value to your clients, providing a streamlined order-picking method. Through automation, you reduce time and opportunity costs, leveraging a proven picking method allowing your clients to become scalable while you increase profitability.
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