Order Picking Efficiency

Order picking makes up roughly half of the activities and costs involved in running your Melbourne distribution warehouse. This important job reflects both your warehouse productivity and level of customer service—in the form of timeliness of orders and error rates. Therefore, picking efficiency in your warehouse is paramount and will rely heavily on the layout design of your warehouse and your chosen pick method.

Layout Design

The two main goals of your layout design are to reduce the distance travelled during a pick and to efficiently utilise storage space. Incorporating cross aisles allows your pickers to move from aisle to aisle, without needing to travel to the end of the aisle or back track. They allow flexibility for pick paths and reduce the overall pick distance. However when too many cross aisles are added, storage space can become too spread out and result in an increase in order picking distance. Narrow aisles can offer increased space utilization, but can also lead to congestion from one-way travel. Although as the narrow aisle gets busier, congestion decreases. This is because workers spend more time picking, which means less time travelling and therefore blocking one another. Generally order-picking productivity happens best at ground level as well. The reality though, is that some warehouses lack the room at ground level and are forced to utilise vertical space by way of mezzanine flooring. To best utilise your mezzanine level, place the slowest moving items on the mezzanine floor so more time is spent at ground level. Alternatively you can utilise your mezzanine floor as a pick zone instead.

Pick Method

There are many different order-picking methods to choose from. The basic methods and considerations however are:


  • Single-order picking = picking one order at a time
  • Batch picking = picking groups of orders at the same time to minimise repeat visits to the same product location
  • Zone picking = picking orders from SKU (stock keeping unit) zones
  • Wave picking = picking orders by a set, e.g. high priority orders; by carriers; by a specific customer bulk ordering
  • Sorting = at what point will the items be sorted—on the go, or at the end


When pick density is high, zone picking is generally more efficient. However when pick density drops there may not be enough activity to keep workers adequately busy in zones, so it is better to opt for the batch picking method. There are other factors to take into consideration when choosing your picking method, such as the number of transactions, number of orders, picks per order, quantity per pick, and value-added services such as private labelling, as well as whether or not you are picking per piece, case, or full pallet loads.


The main aim of your layout design and picking method are to achieve maximum speed, efficiency, and accuracy. However in the modern business environment, flexibility and adaptability are also essential. Consequently you may find that a combination of picking methods is needed. If your current layout design and order-picking system are not up to scratch, then it might be time for a change.




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