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Warehouse Management

Waveless Picking and its Importance in Ecommerce Fulfillment

Explore waveless picking, its importance in ecommerce order fulfillment and comparison between wave picking vs waveless picking for max efficiency

Team Hopstack
March 28, 2024

In this blog

Warehousing and Order Fulfillment are intricate parts of any e-commerce business. There are many moving parts, and the entire warehousing process is dynamic. 

Especially in the current day and age, where speed and accuracy are vital to running a successful e-commerce business, choosing the optimal fulfillment strategy is critical. There is so much information out there, and opting for the right warehousing strategy for your e-commerce business can get challenging.

There are many picking strategies: Batch Picking, Zone Picking, Voice Picking, Wave Picking, and Waveless Picking. This article will discuss how choosing the right picking process for your warehouse can contribute to efficient order fulfillment

According to research, outdated and manual picking can account for more than 50% of the picking process. Hence, it is critical to understand order picking dynamics and choose the right one for your business.

Before we go ahead, it is important to understand what Wave and Waveless Picking mean; let us dive in.

Introducing Waveless Picking

Waveless picking, or waveless fulfillment, is an order picking process that is designed to be more flexible and responsive than traditional wave picking. Whereas Waveless picking focuses on continuous order flow, allowing warehouses to react in real-time to changes in order demand or priorities. 

Instead of grouping orders into waves and releasing them at set times, waveless picking uses a dynamic task management system that constantly feeds orders into the system as soon as they are received.

Waveless Picking in function is pretty much similar to Wave Picking. But, the biggest reason to use Waveless Picking for e-commerce is the benefit it offers in terms of the cut-off time.

E-commerce orders have shorter SLAs, and using Waveless Picking allows continuous processing of orders for fulfillment. Hence, Waveless Picking is also referred to as Order Streaming. Just as the name suggests, a continuous stream of orders is systematically tasked to Warehouse Associates to ensure orders are picked and processed continuously.

What is Wave Picking?

Wave Picking

Wave Picking or Waving is an essential part of warehouse management. It involves allocating specific types of inventory to storage locations and assigning picking tasks to these locations whenever necessary. Waving is done at particular times throughout the day. The Wave Picking process is designed:

Picking Strategies
  • To organize
  • To schedule
  • Reduce Cut-off times
  • To group
  • To pick orders in batches. 

Wave Picking might sound simple, but due to the complexities in modern warehouses, Waving as a process can get slower and inefficient. For each item in the order, the Warehouse Associate will have to find the item and pick it individually. 

But, just like everything else, there are pros and cons. Let us understand this with an example, a CPG company doing B2B fulfillments for its distributors gets all the orders before the Wave cut-off time. In this case, all the orders are batched and released for fulfillment effectively. For such scenarios, Wave Picking is more suitable. 

On the other hand, in a peak-order scenario, the time taken for picking will be more due to the Wave cut-off time. Hence, Wave Picking might not be the best practice in such conditions.

Features of Waveless Picking

Knowing what is most suitable for your e-commerce business is essential when running a successful e-commerce business. 

According to a case study, Cambridge Foods increased its productivity by 250% because of its well-implemented Warehouse Management and Wave Planning. Here are a few noteworthy features of Waveless Picking you should know about:

Features of Waveless Picking

Dynamic Batch Handling

The Picking is executed in batches. This is true regardless of Wave Picking or Waveless Picking. The main difference between Wave Picking and Waveless Picking is how it handles batching. 

The concept here is that, as you receive an e-commerce order, all the items in question are batched together by the Warehouse Management System. A task is created and assigned to a Picker for picking. In the case of Wave Picking, batches are created only at specific schedules. 

On the other hand, for Waveless Picking, the Warehouse Management System schedules batch continuously in real-time, as and when you receive an order.

Active Tasking

Given the nature of Waveless Picking, tasks are assigned to maximize efficiency. Let us understand this with an example. Consider two identical warehouses. They sell the same products and have a similar workforce. 

The main difference is that Warehouse A uses Wave Picking, and Warehouse B uses Waveless Picking. When Warehouse A receives an order, it batches the orders and assigns picking tasks to a Picker, regardless of where these are located on the warehouse floor. 

On the other hand, Warehouse B assigns picking tasks to Pickers who are strategically closer to the inventory location on the Warehouse floor. Because the objective of Waveless Picking is to reduce picking times and find optimal picking routes, picking is faster and more efficient.

Order Lead Time

Today's demanding e-commerce requires agile solutions. At this point, people are used to super-fast deliveries and solutions. It is critical to provide our customers with what they want as accurately and quickly as possible. 

Implementing Waveless Picking enables quicker Order Turnaround Time than Wave Picking, mainly because of the dynamic nature of item sequencing of orders. 

That's not all; Warehouse Management Systems facilitate accurate and safe order picking when equipped with Waveless Picking technology, facilitating exact and secure order picking. Here is an article from Hopstack to learn more about Order Lead Time and other important metrics.

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Omnichannel Capabilities

With today's rapidly evolving Supply Chain, it is vital to ensure your business can handle Omnichannel Fulfillment at any stage. But here's the catch, Omnichannel Fulfillment means fulfilling orders from retail stores and warehouses as and when required. 

Depending on the type of order, you will have to choose between Wave Picking and Waveless Picking. But, if you aim to improve the e-commerce Order Fill Rate, Waveless Picking is simply the better choice for Omnichannel Fulfillment.

We recommend you check out our article on Omnichannel Fulfillment to learn more.

Automated Workflow

Robotics and Automation in Warehousing have been around for a while. It is critical to equip your workflow with the right Warehouse Management Software. Advanced Warehouse Management Systems come equipped with the ability to systematically direct Picking tasks to these Robots and Material Handling Equipments. 

That's not all; because Waveless Picking is a automated warehouse picking process, Warehouse Automation is more effective for e-commerce businesses.

Check out our article on why Automated Order Fulfillment is necessary for e-commerce businesses.

How Waveless Picking Benefits Your Ecommerce Fulfillment?

Waveless Picking brings so much value to your e-commerce business. When you enable your Warehouse Management System to facilitate Waveless Picking, you significantly improve your Warehouse Workflow. Here are a few benefits of Waveless Picking you should know about:

Benefits of Waveless Picking

Improved Inventory Picking Rate

When you implement Waveless Picking, Inventory Picking Rate for your e-commerce business dramatically improves. Waveless Picking is strategically designed to improve the Inventory Picking Rate. This directly contributes to increased throughput for your warehouse.

Accurate Picking

According to a study, one of the major factors causing inaccurate picking is old or outdated picking technology. Hence using modern solutions is essential to avoid inaccuracies during picking.

Waveless Picking can be equipped with Quality Control Mechanisms effectively, which ensures picking errors are avoided. This improves one of the most vital Key Performance Indicators - Order Picking Accuracy or OPA and reduces damages and errors. 

Improved On Time Shipping Rate

Waveless Picking is built to save time in order processing as orders are continuously streamed as and when they arrive, causing more minor delays and pile-up of orders. This means orders are shipped on time, every time.

Reduced Costs

Waveless Picking by nature is dynamic. It is designed to sequence picking tasks based on the priority of the order and the path that has to be taken for picking.

According to research, around 50% of warehousing costs constitute Picking Costs. That is why Modern Warehouse Management Systems are equipped with intelligent algorithms to facilitate efficient Waveless Picking.

Consistency in Warehouse Performance

One of the major benefits of Waveless Picking is consistency in Warehouse Performance. Warehouses will likely have variations in Inbound orders from time to time. In such scenarios, Waveless Picking is most suitable for a warehouse, as it sequences picking tasks actively to ensure the warehouse throughput is optimal at all times.

Increased Profits

Regardless of the tools you use for your e-commerce business, it should be directed toward improving value and increasing profitability. At this point, it is safe to say that Waveless Picking for e-commerce businesses in an Omnichannel Setting is profitable.

Ready to Make the Switch?

We at Hopstack understand the challenges behind running a successful e-commerce business in today’s competitive market. We believe when your e-commerce business is equipped with top-of-the-line modern technology, you unlock a new level of potential.

Hopstack’s advanced Picking modules offer flexibility to choose between Wave Picking and Waveless Picking, all from the same warehouse. For instance, when you receive an e-commerce order, Waveless Picking can be set as default. And in Omnichannel scenarios, you can specify rules and conditions to handle these orders, to opt for Wave Picking or Waveless Picking effortlessly. In any case, Hopstack automatically chooses what works best for your business, saving you time and effort. 

With Hopstack, you can set pre-defined cut-off times for picking orders. Warehouse Managers can create schedules for Pickers to ensure they complete picking tasks within the defined timeframe. This ensures continuity in warehouse operations is not broken.

Hopstack’s intelligent algorithm saves and uses data points for efficient picking and scheduling priority-based order fulfillment allocation. That’s not all; in cases where you have not defined custom cut-off times, you can choose to set the configuration to FIFO (First In, First Out) or FEFO (First Expired, First Out). Doing so will ensure you are in adherence to Lead Time SLA consistently. 

Hopstack’s Waveless Picking module is strategically backed by an intelligent Order Batching and Warehouse Picking Optimization algorithm. This ensures the most optimal picking task sequencing considering vital parameters such as available warehouse staff, warehouse layout, inventory locations, and order priority, which ultimately guarantees efficient picking at all times through seamless warehouse optimization.

Schedule a demo with our industry experts to learn more about Hopstack and the best practices to make the most of your warehouse!

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