Chess Logistics Technology has made extensive changes to its Empirica warehouse management system to increase the flexibility of ‘Pick and Pack’ functionality. The new features have been added to meet higher demand from existing customers and new business prospects, reflecting the increased use of this picking practice in retail distribution and Internet fulfilment operation. The new functionality supports simultaneous picking of multiple orders into separate handling media, reduces handling movements and enables more efficient picking paths. Warehouse operations are simplified and create less congestion which leads to enhanced productivity, faster response times and improved overall efficiency.
Pick and pack, sometimes also referred to as cluster picking, is the ability to pick order items directly into a despatch container (eg cardboard box) which can then be labelled, sealed and despatched after picking to eliminate a separate packing stage. The process usually involves picking multiple orders simultaneously to enable a single pick journey to facilitate maximum order pick efficiency.
The facilities now available within Empirica WMS allow variable PPM (pick and pack media, eg trolley or cage) to be used with a definable capacity of slots or carton spaces. The despatch containers (boxes etc) can be of multiple sizes and the system can determine the appropriate size to use according to order profile. The system will allocate product to boxes either by volume or by definable product size which means the most appropriate box size is used to pick each order.
Empirica WMS provides a simple user process for ‘pick and pack’ operation via wireless handheld device. Using a touch-screen interface, pickers will select an option to pick and pack and identify the PPM in use. By doing this the system can recognise their individual profile and assign them the correct number of pick and pack orders. The system will then instruct the product and quantity to be picked across multiple orders as the picker follows the designated pick route.
One specific feature allows for zoning. This allows pickers to work and be allocated orders within specific zones so that multiple pickers can operate simultaneously while avoiding aisle contention. When orders are completed, the picker is able to generate required paperwork (pack list, delivery notes, etc) via the handheld device. Carrier labels may also be generated via interface to carrier despatch systems, and the complete picked and packed consignment can be delivered to the despatch door. If required these final stages may also be carried out by a separate packing desk.
In terms of benefits, pick and pack clearly has the potential to eliminate packing desk activity as a separate function. However many operations may also gain major benefits on the picking side as the functionality is ideal for picking multiple small item orders. In the Internet fulfilment environment, which may involve a typical home delivery of one to five items or a smaller retail order, the ability to maximise order pick while minimising picker journeys will deliver significant efficiencies.