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Zone Picking vs. Wave Picking: What Are the Differences? 

Zone Picking vs. Wave Picking: What Are the Differences?

Despite serious setbacks from the pandemic, manufacturing is still one of the biggest industries in the world, with experts saying the sector will be worth $732.2 billion by 2027.

As general manufacturing booms, warehouse technologies will drive innovation and continue to revolutionize the sector. Warehouse order picking practices is just one example to consider. 

This article will teach you the differences between wave picking and zone picking, so keep reading to learn more. 

What Is Wave Picking?

Wave picking (cluster picking) is when pickers pack one order and one stock-keeping unit (SKU) at a time. You can organize wave picking around different factors, such as:

  • Common SKUs
  • A commonality in SKU location (warehouse zone)
  • Shipping dates
  • Common carriers
  • Common sorting or kiting processes

Wave picking focuses on when orders are picked to meet a shipping deadline or fulfill a set number of orders per shift.

It’s similar to discrete picking in that items are processed serially. But wave packing is different because it takes place during a scheduled window. 

Wave picking is often more efficient than order line picking. It can reduce travel time for pickers too. In addition, you can optimize picking and shipping operations because you can schedule pick-up times throughout the day. 

However, selectors have to complete one wave before starting another, so processing more than one wave at a time is challenging. This can lead to idle time for some pickers.

To access our wave picking guide, view here for more information.

What Is Zone Picking?

Zone picking (pick and pass) is when selectors are assigned to a specific zone within the warehouse. The picker selects all the SKUs in that zone for every order that comes through the warehouse. 

If an order has SKUs in several zones, the orders pass through each required zone, with different pickers filling the order. Orders often follow a strategic series of movements across the warehouse to maximize efficiency.

When developing a zone picking strategy, think about the following variables:

  • Number of zones or segments
  • Storage policy
  • Equipment
  • Staffing
  • Shortcuts

Zone picking is advantageous for large warehouses that handle a lot of SKUs. Each selector can gain specific familiarity with their zone and the SKUs there. This will increase picking speed and reduce human error.

However, zone picking only allows for one scheduling period per shift, which means there is a strict cutoff period for orders to enter the queue. 

Which Is Better?

Each picking method has its advantages and disadvantages, so one isn’t better than the other. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to fulfilling orders. 

To choose a technique that is best for your business, evaluate the following:

  • Current inventory situation
  • Workforce
  • Technology
  • Infrastructure
  • Warehouse layout

You can determine which picking method best meets your warehouses’ needs by assessing these factors. Additionally, you can research more zoning picking and wave picking tips for further assistance.

Wave Picking vs. Zone Picking Explained

Both zone and wave picking are excellent techniques for pickers to use in manufacturing to fulfill orders. Most warehouses use a combination of these techniques and others to fill orders as efficiently as possible. 

If you found this article useful, check out the blog for more content. 

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