Mail Order Picking Case Study

Whilst working for a major internet and mail order retailer of lingerie products, there was a need to find ways of reducing the labour cost in the warehouse.

Analysis showed:

·       Average order size is very small at around 2.6 units per order

·       The physical size of the orders, being lingerie, is also small.

·       The method of operation was to pick each order individually from a paper-picking list, necessitating a large amount of walking for each order.

·       The order was then placed in a holding area prior to packing for despatch, which was also performed on an individual order basis.

·       That the proportion of time taken to walk around the warehouse for the order pickers represented some 90% of their workload.

A “normal” way around this problem is to batch orders together, and then using automated equipment, sort the batch into individual orders.


·       The capital cost of such a solution is very high

·       It is very inflexible

·       The uncertainty surrounding the likely future volumes made this option unattractive.

What was needed was to find a way of minimising the walk time, by ensuring that more than one order could be picked each time the picker went around the warehouse.

The solution:

·       A picking trolley was developed which allowed up to 24 orders to be picked on each walk sequence

·       The principle was extended to the packing operation by using part of the trolley containing 8 orders being delivered to the packing station.

·       A new layout was devised for the packing stations.

The result:

·       The theoretical picking performance increased by a factor of 12.

·       The packing performance was increased by 70%

·       The capital cost of this solution is in direct proportion to the throughput as additional trolleys are only purchased as the existing ones become fully utilised.

·       This gives a fully scalable solution, which can easily be transferred to new warehouses as they are set up.

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