Wave picking is a term for a process used in a warehouse management system to describe a process to support managing the work of a warehouse or distribution center. Wave picking is an application of short interval scheduling, to assign orders into groupings (waves) and release them together so as to allow management to coordinate the several parallel and sequential activities required to complete the work. The individual orders in the wave are dependent on the criteria used to make the selection. The wave data includes the workload by order or function (case picking, repack picking, pallet movement, pick position replenishment, packing, etc.), providing management the information to calculate staff requirements and assign staff by function, with the expectation that the work in each function, within each wave, can be started and be completed at about the same time. There are two basic planning elements and benefits of wave picking.
- To organize the sequence of orders and assignment to waves, consistent with routing, loading and planned departure times of shipping vehicles or production requirements, etc., to reduce the space required for shipping dock handling to assemble orders and load; and
- To assign staff to each wave and function within a wave, with the expectation that all the work assigned to each wave will be completed within the wave period, providing management with the ability to monitor and manage performance throughout the day, and respond in a timely way to problems that occur, and more effectively utilize the staffing throughout the shift.
Material handling methods and equipment are independent of waving. Each set of method (e.g., order pick, batch pick, bulk pick) and equipment (e.g., conveyor and sorter, ASRS, order picker, pallet jack, fork lift) will yield a different expected productivity rate for management to use in determining the number of staff-hours to assign to each function by wave.
Additional benefits of wave picking include the improved ability to
- measure productivity within a function;
- budget labour;
- estimate the throughput capacity based on staffing levels;
- evaluate the impact of changes in methods and equipment by function;
- provide feedback regarding performance; and
- better understand the nature of the workload as it changes seasonally, as a consequence of demand, and as a consequence of sales efforts and marketing campaigns.
* Source: Wikipedia.