Cross Picking: The Secret to Increasing Warehouse Picking Throughput

Operations managers have always been told “You want to pick orders faster – batch ‘em!” And if you’re already batch picking and you need even more throughput? “Better expand your order fulfillment system.”… but not anymore.

Using cross picking, it might not be totally necessary to increase the size of your existing batch fulfilment system to meet your need for speed. Higher throughput rates can be accomplished using the same floor space with the same order picking technology by adding a cross picking system to your existing batch picking system.

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A clever twist on batch picking, Cross Picking doubles batch sizes for a big throughput boost within the same footprint. This “batch picking on steroids” approach can increase picking speeds by 30% over traditional batch picking strategies. Cross Picking Systems allow orders to be filled from two zones without physically moving the order totes from zone to zone – basically you’re allowing an operator to pick from one zone but put into two zones.

The concept is simple: Two pick zones — comprised of horizontal or vertical carousels or vertical lift modules (VLMs) — are positioned face-to-face. In the middle of the two pick zones is a batch station consisting of a side-by-side roller conveyor with a series of alternately angled flow racks (also called slides) on top. Atop the conveyor and beneath the slides sit two rows of order totes, back-to-back — one for each pick zone. The entire system is light-directed.

Cross picking with VLM

Cross Picking can increase throughput

The nitty gritty details on how it works

Just as in standard batch picking:

  • The WMS first groups orders into batches and releases them for fulfillment.
  • The operator in each zone sets up the batch, using a scanner to marry the order tote with the batch station location.
  • When ready, each operator starts to pick in their zone. The lights on the machines direct the operator to the correct location and indicate the quantity of items required. The operator performs the pick and confirms with the machine.

But with Cross Picking:

  • When the operator turns to the batch station to distribute the picked items among the waiting order totes, they are directed by put lights under each order tote (as in standard batch picking) AND put lights on a second level above the order tote and below the slide.

cross picking with pick to light

  • As directed by the put lights, the operator drops the correct number of items into each order tote AND onto each slide — sliding required parts into orders located in the opposite zone.
  • When an order tote has been filled with all of the required items from both zones, the put lights indicate the order is complete. The operator pushes the completed order tote onto the next area.

Because of the face-to-face configuration and the angled slides, items are picked from the pod in which they are stored, but can be used to fill orders in both pods without physically moving the order totes. The Cross Picking System eliminates the need to pass an incomplete order from one pick zone to the next, saving time and increasing throughput.

Benefits To Expect By Implementing Cross Picking:

  • Double batch sizes
  • Increase picking productivity by ~30%
  • Eliminate wasted time transferring totes from zone to zone
  • 99.9% order fulfillment accuracy

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