Case Picking

Case picking refers to selecting items for order fulfillment by retrieving items in a larger quantity rather than by individual products, streamlining the process for bulk orders.

What is Case Picking?

Case picking is a crucial element in modern warehousing. In this guide, we'll dive into everything you need to know to set your warehouse up for success utilizing case picking – including what case picking is, common applications, benefits you can expect and challenges you may run into while you’re implementing case picking systems. First, let's take a practical look at the role of case picking in warehousing operations.

What is Case Picking & How is it Used?

Case picking refers to the process of completing customer orders by selecting complete cases of products. Individual products are commonly referred to as eaches, such as a basketball. A case is a container of multiple eaches, such as a box with 3 basketballs. Individual products are commonly referred to as eaches, such as a basketball. A case is a container of multiple eaches, such as a box with 3 basketballs. Unlike each picking or piece picking, where individual items are selected within a case, case picking streamlines the process by gathering entire cases of products for more efficient shipment and reduced labor.

Overview of the Order Fulfillment Process

Before we delve into case picking specifically, let's start with a broader understanding of the order fulfillment and picking process. This will help you grasp where case picking fits into the larger picture.
Order picking is one element of the order fulfillment process, which encompasses the entire process of filling customer orders, including receiving, picking, and shipping the order. 
There are a variety of picking methods that can be used to collect the products needed for an order. Each method excels at optimizing certain processes, and methods are chosen depending on the type of products being handled, the customer order profiles, and the facility capabilities. The method of case picking is ideal for dealing with products packaged in cases or bulk quantities. Focusing on pickingentire cases of products allows the warehouse processes to work more efficiently while reducing errors, decreasing costs, and optimizing storage. Let’s explore each of these benefits in depth.

Benefits of Case Picking

With a variety of benefits, case picking is a vital process in modern warehousing. Let’s explore some of these benefits:

Increased Efficiency

Efficiency is the backbone of many successful warehouse operations, and case picking can contribute to increased efficiency. By gathering whole cases instead of individual items, workers simplify the picking process, saving valuable labor hours and effort.

Reduced Lead Time

With enhanced efficiency in case picking, the warehouse experiences smoother traffic flow due to fewer individual products being moved, reducing the chances of bottlenecks and delays. This translates into quicker order fulfillment and shorter lead times.

Reduced Errors

Errors in picking and shipping can result in costly returns and customer dissatisfaction. Case picking significantly reduces the margin for such errors. When workers deal with entire cases, the complexity of picking individual items diminishes, making it easier to maintain accuracy and reduce the risk of shipping incorrect products.
Additionally, case picking can facilitate better quality control. Handling complete cases allows workers to inspect fewer individual products, allowing a more thorough review before products leave the warehouse, providing an extra layer of scrutiny to identify and rectify any issues. This commitment to accuracy enhances the company's reputation for reliability and product quality.

Optimized Storage Space

Space is a commodity in a warehouse, so optimal utilization of storage space is paramount. Case picking can be an impactful way to utilize space more effectively. By consolidating individual products into complete cases, warehouses can stack and store items more efficiently. This minimizes wasted space and reduces the need for additional storage facilities.
Furthermore, improved storage optimization simplifies inventory management. By moving cases of product, instead of eaches, product inventory is easier to track and monitor, simplifying restocking plans. 

Decreased Costs

One of the most compelling advantages of case picking is its potential to reduce costs across the board. As previously mentioned, case picking increases efficiency, which directly impacts labor costs. With less time and effort required for picking, labor expenses decrease significantly.
Moreover, case picking can minimize material handling costs. The need for complex picking technologies and conveyor systems may be reduced, resulting in lower maintenance and energy expenses.
Additionally, reduced errors and optimized storage space, both outcomes of case picking, contribute to cost reduction as well. Fewer errors lead to fewer returns and replacements, saving on shipping and restocking costs. Optimized storage reduces the need for extra warehouse space or external storage solutions, further reducing expenses.

Increased Customer Satisfaction

Ultimately, all the benefits of case picking—increased efficiency, improved lead time, reduced errors, optimized storage, and decreased costs—culminate in one vital outcome: heightened customer satisfaction. Meeting customer expectations for prompt delivery and accurate orders is essential for building trust and loyalty. When orders are fulfilled quickly, accurately, and economically, customers are more likely to be satisfied with their shopping experience.

Overcoming Challenges in Case Picking

While case picking offers numerous benefits, it's not without its challenges. Warehouse managers and operators must be aware of these challenges to address them effectively and ensure a smooth and efficient case picking process. 

Space Optimization and Layout Design

Balancing maximum storage space with easy case access is crucial. Case picking requires a layout that can specifically facilitate the efficient movement and access to individual cases. The varying sizes and weights of cases and the need for quick access to different SKUs without moving entire pallets makes the need for strategic layout design integral to a successful case picking operation.

Inventory Management and Accuracy

On a warehouse level, keeping accurate inventory levels is essential to avoid stockouts or overstocking. Meticulous inventory management is even more important when using case picking. The need to track and manage a larger variety of items at the case level complicates inventory management as systems must be in place to ensure that the correct case is picked and inventory levels are precisely maintained. Warehouses need systems for real-time tracking, especially when dealing with a diverse range of products with different turnover rates.

Labor Efficiency and Ergonomics

Case picking involves unique demands due to the frequent handling of individual cases. The physicality of lifting, carrying, and selecting specific cases (which can vary significantly in size and weight) requires specific ergonomic solutions and efficiency strategies tailored to case picking. Workflows should minimize travel time and physical strain, potentially involving material handling equipment and training in proper lifting techniques.

Optimizing Your Case Picking Process

After integrating case picking into your warehouse operations, the journey toward continuous improvement begins. It's crucial to refine and optimize your case picking processes as they become an integral part of your operation. Here are some key areas to concentrate your efforts as you optimize your processes.

1. Select the Right Storage Method

Selecting the most suitable storage method for your products is the foundation of an efficient case picking process. Consider factors like product size, weight, turnover rate, and order volume.

  • Pallet Storage: Ideal for bulk storage common to case picking. Pallet storage allows for quick retrieval of cases but may require special MHE for handling and picking.
  • Rack Shelf Storage: Maximizes vertical space and accessibility, suitable for medium-sized cases.
  • Carton Flow Rack Storage: Excellent for high-volume picking with a constant flow of cases to pickers, reducing manual handling.

2. Improve Picking Ergonomics

Creating a safe and ergonomic workspace for pickers is crucial. Implement the following practices:

  • Proper Shelving Heights: Adjust shelf heights to reduce excessive bending or reaching, minimizing strain on pickers.
  • Optimize Fast Moving SKUs: Locate the fastest moving cases to the most ergonomic locations to maximize ergonomic safety.
  • Ergonomic Equipment: Provide ergonomic tools and equipment such as adjustable picking carts, workstations, and comfortable footwear.

Picker Training: Train pickers on safe lifting techniques and the importance of ergonomics to prevent injuries.

3. Embrace Technology Systems

  • Incorporating technology into your case picking process can lead to significant improvements in accuracy and efficiency. Consider the following technology solutions:
  • Warehouse Management System (WMS): Implement a WMS to optimize case picking routes, track inventory in real-time, and manage order prioritization.
  • Barcode Scanners: Equip your pickers with barcode scanners to quickly and accurately identify and confirm items, minimizing errors and maximizing efficiency.
  • Automation: Explore automation options like conveyor systems, pick to light, and robotic picking solutions for high-volume case picking operations.

4. Directed Picking

Directed picking involves using a system that guides pickers to the exact location of items. It minimizes the time spent searching for products and ensures a streamlined picking process.Directed picking can be applied to various picking strategies such as zone or batch picking

5. Warehouse Management System Integration

Integrating your case picking process with a robust Warehouse Management System (WMS) is essential for efficient inventory control and order fulfillment.

  • Real-time Inventory Tracking: WMS provides real-time visibility into inventory levels, ensuring accurate order fulfillment.
  • Order Prioritization: WMS allows you to prioritize orders based on factors like delivery deadlines or order value.

6. Continuous Improvement

Regularly evaluate your case picking process for areas of improvement. Encourage feedback from pickers, analyze performance data, and make adjustments accordingly. Continuous improvement ensures that your case picking process remains efficient and adaptable to changing demands.

By implementing these optimization strategies, you can streamline your case picking process, enhance efficiency, and reduce errors. This not only leads to cost savings but also improves customer satisfaction by ensuring accurate and timely order fulfillment. Remember that optimization is an ongoing process, and staying responsive to changes in demand and technology will help you maintain peak performance in your case picking operations.

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Case picking stands as a cornerstone in contemporary warehousing, capable of markedly improving efficiency, precision, and overall customer satisfaction. We hope these principles and best practices are beneficial as you consider case picking in your warehouse design. 
For expert guidance and support in selecting, implementing, and fine-tuning your order picking operations, reach out to Maveneer. We're here to assist you in reaching peak performance in your warehouse operations!