Pubblicato il 22/03/2024

Hybrid order picking is transforming warehouse and ecommerce logistics


Did you know that the fusion of technology and precious human touch is revolutionising ecommerce order fulfillment?

In fact, the purpose of logistics operations is to fulfill orders as fast as possible, and, as solutions powered by technology are optimising processes, they are also transforming the functioning of a warehouse. Picking is among the operations undergoing significant evolution within this context. With the adoption of tech-driven solutions, the process of picking and packing items for order shipping is becoming faster and more accurate. The adoption of automated systems is eliminating the need of traditional manual, repetitive processes, aiding humans and making their jobs easier. In this article, we’ll discover everything about hybrid order picking, a relatively new concept that is strategic in improving order picking and accuracy.

What is hybrid order picking? 

Hybrid order picking is a strategy that combines human workforce with automated systems and tools to pick customer orders. This method leverages new technologies like pick-to-light systems, picking devices, or voice picking systems. Hybrid order picking requires humans and technology to collaborate and interact and, to leverage the full potential of this system, staff need to be adequately trained in using the technology adopted in the warehouse. Hybrid picking strategies may also include robotics to improve efficiency of warehousing operations, like semi or fully autonomous robots for picking tasks, Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) for the transport of goods, or pick-and-place robotic arms to move items from one location to another.

Evolution of picking systems 

In the past, warehouse order picking processes were carried out exclusively by humans who had to search for items in the warehouse, manually pick and pack them, and cross them out from their picking list. Of course, especially if dealing with a large volume of orders daily, reliance on manual processes significantly increased the chances of error, because item quantities could easily be confused or orders could be too easily forgotten. Furthermore, the processes were much slower and dangerous, as pickers had to manually transport goods to the packing location, walking long distances or retrieving items from difficult and unsafe locations.

Thanks to technology, picking operations are now much faster, safer, and accurate. Technological solutions, like automated guided vehicles or robots can carry multiple heavy items simultaneously, thereby improving productivity and making the job easier for the warehouse staff. Some of the most popular technologies adopted in warehouses to optimise operations are:

  • Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) that automatically and autonomously generate optimised picking lists, analyse warehouse design & SKU locations, and integrate with technologies like pick-to-light systems, scanners, retrieval systems, and voice picking solutions to automate repetitive tasks and streamline operations.
  • Barcode scanners that allow pickers to identify and verify item locations faster.
  • Pick-to-light systems run by a Warehouse Management System (WMS) that light up the location of SKUs and quantities to pick.
  • Voice picking technology run by a Warehouse Management System (WMS) that converts picking tasks into vocal instructions for pickers, who then use voice tags to confirm item locations.
  • Goods-to-person systems, like Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) that lift racks and bring them to the operator.
  • Automated robots that autonomously pick and transport items.

How humans and technology interact in hybrid order picking systems

In hybrid order picking operations, humans guide and supervise robots, as well as automated systems, contributing to enhancing the accuracy of picking processes by intervening, checking, and correcting operations. Technology and automation, on the other hand, support humans in refining and making the picking process more agile and safe. Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) that integrate with ecommerce platforms are indispensable to automate order processing, streamlining operations like dispatch to the correct distribution centre for fulfillment, or automatic creation of picking lists and shipping documents.

The future of warehouse picking operations

Technology will continue to evolve and play a crucial role in enhancing warehouse picking operations, reducing the need of manual labour, while preserving the essential element of human oversight. These developments are fundamental for the efficiency and safety of warehouse operations.

Future technological developments include:

  • The Internet of Things (IoT) will be increasingly adopted in warehouses to streamline specific picking operations, allowing humans to concentrate on more complex tasks.
  • Drones equipped with cameras and sensors to identify items on less accessible shelves. This will increase safety in the warehouse, eliminating the need for workers to use ladders or forklifts.
  • Augmented Reality (AR) glasses to project digital information directly onto warehouse goods, allowing staff to access real-time data instantly.

Contact us to set your business apart as a leader in delivery efficiency!

Join eLogy to
support your sales

Start automating your logistics processes today by joining hundreds of digital entrepreneurs from all over Europe.