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Top 6 Methods to Improve Warehouse Picking Efficiency

Phuc Le
August 23, 2023

The process of picking items for order fulfillment is both demanding and time-intensive. Luckily, there exists a range of methods at your disposal to enhance the selection process by strategically utilizing manpower and various forms of material handling technology. It's of paramount importance to ensure that you've adopted the most suitable picking approach for your company prior to making investments in technology or automation to support your picking processes and drive cost savings.

Regrettably, there isn't a universally ideal picking technique. When deliberating on a warehouse picking strategy, it's essential to take into account factors such as your order patterns, material flow, the physical layout of the facility, the quantity of items in each order, the workforce availability, and the timing and manner in which orders are released by your management system. What might perform effectively in one scenario could prove less effective in another.



Warehouse picking involves retrieving goods from a storage facility or distribution center to fulfill customer orders. It is a pivotal aspect of the order fulfillment process, demanding a combination of advanced machinery and labor-centric processes to ensure a high level of accuracy for every shipped order.

Enhancing supply chain efficiency often revolves around refining warehouse picking procedures. The most suitable picking strategy can vary depending on factors such as warehouse size, product diversity, and workforce size. Understanding warehouse slotting is key to arranging your storage facility optimally for your chosen picking method. Here are four prevalent warehouse picking strategies:

1. Discrete Order Picking:

Discrete order picking involves selecting items one by one to fulfill individual customer orders. While this approach is simple, its efficiency can be limited in larger warehouses with extensive product offerings. According to a study by the Supply Chain Quarterly, the average order picking accuracy for a discrete picking process is around 99.5%, indicating a high level of precision. However, the travel time required for pickers to access individual items can contribute to longer fulfillment times, impacting overall efficiency.

2. Zone Order Picking:

Zone picking aims to address the efficiency challenges of discrete picking by dividing the warehouse into zones and assigning pickers to specific areas. The data from a case study published in the International Journal of Production Economics revealed that implementing zone picking resulted in a 25% reduction in travel time and a 10% increase in order picking efficiency compared to a discrete picking method. This strategy is particularly effective in larger warehouses with diverse inventories and a high volume of orders.

3. Batch Order Picking:

Batch picking involves assigning multiple orders to pickers, who then gather all the items for those orders in a single trip to the picking area. A study conducted by the Journal of Manufacturing Systems found that batch picking can lead to a 30-50% reduction in travel distance compared to discrete picking. This reduction in travel distance directly translates to increased picker productivity and order fulfillment speed. Batch picking is particularly advantageous when dealing with high-density warehouses or when orders consist of similar items.

4. Wave Order Picking:

Wave picking combines aspects of both zone and batch picking. It involves separating the picking and sorting tasks into distinct phases. A case study by the Institute of Industrial Engineers found that wave picking reduced the number of picking trips by 40% and decreased the number of lines picked by 25%. This approach optimizes sorting efficiency and allows for resource allocation to specific tasks. Wave picking is suitable for warehouses with varying order volumes and multiple customer requirements.

The choice of warehouse picking strategy should be based on factors such as warehouse layout, product diversity, order profiles, and available labor resources. While data and metrics indicate the efficiency improvements each strategy can offer, it's important to conduct a thorough analysis of your specific warehouse operations to determine which strategy aligns best with your goals. Implementing the right strategy can lead to significant gains in order fulfillment efficiency, accuracy, and customer satisfaction.implementation of an optimal order picking system within your warehouse is pivotal. These advantages of a well-structured order picking system are:



1. Lowering Warehouse Costs:

Picking, especially in expansive warehouses, can be resource-intensive. The Aberdeen Group reports that warehouses spend approximately 55% of their total labor costs on picking. Implementing a warehouse order picking system can mitigate this. A study by WMS Solutions found that a well-executed order picking system could lead to a 20% reduction in labor costs.

By introducing technology that assigns similar orders to a single picker, efficiency is optimized. This translates to reduced labor hours and, ultimately, lower costs. The Material Handling Institute's research showcases that warehouses using order picking technology report a 45% decrease in labor hours.

2. Elevating Customer Satisfaction:

Customer satisfaction hinges on order accuracy and timely delivery. A survey by Voxware revealed that 70% of respondents consider accurate order fulfillment as a primary driver of satisfaction. On the other hand, picking errors can result in return rates of up to 30%, as reported by the National Retail Federation.

Prolonged picking times also impact customer contentment. The Logistics Bureau states that delayed order fulfillment due to inefficient picking can lead to negative customer perceptions and hampered loyalty. Improved accuracy, as supported by the Supply Chain Consortium, correlates with a 35% reduction in customer complaints.

3. Alleviating Warehouse Staff Burden:

A well-designed order picking system alleviates staff workload. DHL Supply Chain's study found that implementing technology to guide pickers reduces errors by 60%. This optimized allocation of routes and item verification contributes to heightened efficiency.

The synergy of streamlined warehousing, efficient picking strategies, and adept technology has far-reaching implications. A study published in the International Journal of Logistics Management reveals that efficient warehouse organization reduces order picking distances by up to 50%, translating to notable labor savings.

The multifaceted benefits of an adept order picking system are supported by empirical data. It reduces costs, enhances customer satisfaction, and eases the burden on warehouse staff. The interplay between meticulous warehouse organization, strategic picking methodologies, and technology optimization serves as a catalyst for elevated warehousing efficiency.



Efficient warehouse picking plays a pivotal role in ensuring accurate order fulfillment and streamlined operations. Here are five proven methods to optimize warehouse picking efficiency:

1. Implement Zone Picking:

Zone picking involves dividing the warehouse into distinct zones, each assigned to specific pickers. This approach minimizes picker travel time and reduces congestion. According to the Warehouse Education and Research Council (WERC), zone picking can lead to a 20-50% reduction in travel time compared to traditional methods. By reducing unnecessary movement, zone picking enhances efficiency and order throughput.

2. Utilize Technology:

Incorporating technology like barcode scanners, RFID systems, and pick-to-light systems can significantly boost picking efficiency. A study by Zebra Technologies found that companies that adopted mobile technology for picking experienced a 50% improvement in order accuracy. These technologies provide real-time data, reduce manual errors, and enable faster order processing.

3. Batch and Wave Picking:

Batch picking involves picking multiple orders simultaneously, while wave picking focuses on separating the picking and sorting processes. These methods capitalize on the concept of economies of motion. A study by the Journal of Manufacturing Systems reported a 30-50% reduction in travel distance with batch picking. Combining similar orders and sorting them later optimizes picker movement and increases efficiency.

4. Optimize Layout and Slotting:

Strategic warehouse layout and slotting can significantly impact picking efficiency. The Material Handling Institute states that well-organized warehouses experience a 20-30% increase in productivity. Grouping frequently picked items closer to the packing area and utilizing high-demand storage locations improves picker accessibility, reducing travel time.

5. Training and Staff Empowerment:

Investing in proper training for warehouse staff is crucial. A study by the International Journal of Production Economics found that training reduced picking errors by up to 60%. Empowered staff are better equipped to navigate the warehouse efficiently, handle unexpected situations, and contribute to a culture of continuous improvement.

6. Outsource Warehouse Picking and Order Fulfillment

When it comes to improving the picking process in the warehouse, outsourcing fulfillment is the most hands-off option. You can free up warehouse space without quickly outgrowing your current setup by outsourcing only the parts of the fulfillment process that you do not want to handle in-house (such as direct-to-consumer fulfillment) while keeping the parts that you do handle in-house (such as B2B eCommerce orders).

By implementing zone picking, leveraging technology, utilizing batch and wave picking, optimizing layout, and investing in staff training, warehouses can achieve higher accuracy rates, faster order processing, and improved overall operational efficiency.



Leveraging a third-party logistics provider (3PL) for picking and packaging services offers a range of advantages, with a notable reduction in customer returns being a key highlight. This collaboration harnesses technology to minimize errors and enhance accuracy, leading to cost-efficient return logistics management.

Moreover, the agility intrinsic to 3PL providers allows swift adaptation to demand fluctuations while upholding the seamless continuity of picking and packing operations. This adaptability ensures operational stability amidst dynamic market changes.

A further advantage emerges in the realm of shipping charges. Collaborating with a 3PL not only streamlines the selection and packaging processes but also enables bulk pricing negotiation by amalgamating shipments. This leads to cost savings that can be extended to customers, particularly as ground shipping and storage costs trend downward.

This proposition resonates particularly with online businesses devoid of physical establishments. For such entities, the utilization of 3PL's picking and packaging services translates to lean overheads and circumvents the need for significant logistical infrastructure investment. This synergy contributes to sustained operations and financial efficiency.


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