What your business needs to know about warehouse pick rules

picker in a warehouse using pick rules

If you work in a warehouse, the word “picking” is likely to be part of your day-to-day vocabulary. But what do you know about “pick rules” and their potential impact on your warehouse operation?

What is a pick rule?

Pick rules are a set of criteria programmed into your WMS software to give each order that comes into your warehouse a special rule. These rules group orders within the system to make it easier for management to determine what resource is required for the day and assign pickers to one of these desired groups of orders. Each picker will then pick their orders based on one of these rules for their day at work. The rules can be assigned to different people throughout the day based on the volume of orders coming in for each one.

Adopting pick rules has various benefits for warehouse managers, staff and the wider business, which is why we’ve pulled together five things every warehouse operative needs to know about this technology:

1. Eliminates the need for a warehouse manager to be sat at their desk

Let’s face it, the warehouse isn’t a sit-down environment and the computer admin to manage a workforce is time-consuming and laborious. Luckily, handheld devices are self-efficient in assigning their own picks using pick rule technology. Once a picker has finished a pick based on the rule they are assigned to, they can simply refresh their device and automatically receive a new pick based on their assignment.

This modern technology frees up management to make those all-important decisions from the warehouse floor, allowing them to be proactive, rather than force them to be stuck behind a computer screen for hours on end.

2. Provides endless possibilities in the warehouse

Pick rules can come in different shapes and sizes, with the ability to handle different variables such as weight, delivery method, bin number and a heap of other categories. Grouping orders together using these variables ensures more efficiency and speed in the warehouse because of preparation.

For example, if a picker is assigned to smaller items, they can use a small trolley with small totes for a lighter load to gain more rhythm from picking items of a similar size. In comparison, larger items can be separated into their own picks and allocated to a forklift driver who can pick the large parts of the orders.

By grouping items into relevant categories, it eliminates any unnecessary back and forth for the picker, allowing them to maintain focus and increase their picking rates.

3. Increases efficiency in how orders are picked and despatched

Efficiency is key in a warehouse to ensure orders are fulfilled correctly for customers, making it even more important to have a system in place that streamlines the picking and despatch operation.

Our picking technology allows operatives to send comments on a handheld device, providing direct instructions to a picker. For example, if you were assigning a picker to cover the smaller orders, a comment could be pushed to their handheld that says, “Collect a small trolley for this assignment”. This will keep the picker moving along with their day, rather than have them second-guessing before starting an assignment.

The system also has a built-in priority feature that will automatically assign the picker to what’s next on the list. So, if your picker has finished with the smaller items for the day, their handheld will automatically move them onto medium items. Or, if they’re assigned to items with a 24-hour delivery slot, they will automatically move onto 48-hour delivery slots upon completion, allowing the business to efficiently meet customer expectations.

4. Controls where pickers are positioned in the warehouse

Pick rules serve as a crucial tool for warehouse managers, allowing them to strategically distribute their workforce throughout various sections of the warehouse floor. This intelligent distribution is key to maximizing efficiency and minimizing congestion in the workspace. For instance, by employing these rules, a manager can assign one picker to cover isles A-D, focusing on a specific category of items, while another picker is sent to isles G-H, perhaps dealing with a different type of inventory. 

This methodical allocation of tasks ensures that workers are evenly spread out, preventing the clustering of pickers in one area, which can lead to inefficiencies and delays. It also optimizes the use of space and resources, as each picker becomes more adept at handling the specific types of items in their designated isles. This can reduce the time and effort required for pickers to move between different areas, as each one becomes more familiar with their assigned section. This results in a smoother, more streamlined picking process and colloborative work environment. 

5. Provides helpful business intelligence

Implementing pick rules in warehouse operations not only streamlines the picking process but also serves as a valuable source of business intelligence. By categorising orders based on specific criteria, businesses gain insights into which pick rules are most effective and commonly used. 

This kind of data is instrumental for management, enabling them to generate comprehensive reports that detail the volume and nature of orders processed. Such insights are invaluable in understanding workflow patterns, peak periods, and types of items that are more frequently handled.

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