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Enterprise e-commerce

What is wave picking?

Wave picking is the best way to streamline the picking process. 

A key consideration when setting up an online grocery channel is how to pick and pack online orders as efficiently as possible without disrupting in-store customers.

One option is to outsource this process to a third party as a quick fix. As we have mentioned in an earlier blog, however, this comes with many pitfalls. It creates inefficiencies by adopting a single-order by single-order picking process.

Freelance shoppers will arrive in-store to collect and queue for their order, followed by a different freelance shopper collecting a different order.

Individual picking like this means that one customer’s shopping is picked per round. This is the most inefficient method of picking and causes unnecessary additional traffic and disruption in-store. 

pick pack grocery store


How does wave picking work?

Wave picking is a form of online order picking that combines batch picking, a way of grouping multiple orders into small batches, and zone picking, where employees are assigned to pick and sort from a designated zone. Wave picking is carried out by grouping order items into a batch based on a common factor, such as shipping carrier, priority, or location. By creating a digital map of a store that logs exactly where all items can be found, aisle by aisle, the wave picking software employs a special algorithm that will automatically group and reorder a shopping list in a way that it follows the layout of the store.

After being picked, batches are brought to shipping stations where they are sorted into individual customer orders before being packed and shipped. This type of short interval scheduling allows work to be broken down into orderly, manageable chunks and reduces the number of picking trips that employees make, improving efficiency. Wave picking is useful for several types of businesses, but it works particularly well to optimize online grocery orders.

Think of wave picking like going grocery shopping for your household. You ask each person in your family to write down a grocery list, then collect the lists and head to the store. One option would be to go through each list individually and gather the items, making several trips around the store.

If you were to treat grocery shopping like wave picking, you would collate the lists and divide them into zones of the store. Then, each of your family members would be assigned a zone in which they would pick items before finally meeting at the checkout lanes. 

While this example may not be practical for all families, it is an incredibly efficient method for picking large volumes of orders in a timely manner. 

Benefits of wave picking

The main selling point of wave picking is its efficiency. By sorting orders into waves throughout zones, workers only need to make one trip to each zone per wave, reducing the time spent going back and forth between zones.

In addition, wave picking identifies areas that lack efficiency. The process of wave picking is optimized from start to finish, with the capability to completely streamline picking operations.  

Increased efficiency is a notable selling point of wave picking, but it is not the only one. Wave picking allows employers to better handle sudden influxes of orders during peak business hours because pickers are working simultaneously and in separate zones, reducing the number of trips they make and the area they are occupying.

Challenges with wave picking

Despite its efficiency, wave picking does have some drawbacks, as it involves multiple moving parts and as a result, has a high potential for error. 

Another disadvantage of wave picking is that it can increase the amount of time that workers and equipment must wait between picks. Wave picking is serial, meaning that one wave must finish before a new wave can start. This effectively halts work between waves until all steps are completed and the process can start over again.

How to implement wave picking

The implementation of wave picking into your online grocery store is a quick and simple process.

Emporix’s pick-pack-ship system features in-store wave picking that connects existing stores to create a total customer experience. Comprising several microservices, Emporix’s built-in wave picking algorithm can triple your picking performance and propel you into the future of e-commerce

The benefits of wave picking will be upscaling order fulfillment, increasing pick and pack efficiency, decreasing disruption in-store, and improving margins from online grocery orders. By utilizing the wave picking methodology, grocers can estimate labor requirements and overall, minimize labor costs. 

Efficient pack and ship grocery store processes are critical for profitability. With Emporix’s commerce solutions, such as wave-picking, businesses have the capabilities to boost their picking performances and margins. To find out more, get in touch with us here

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