Managing high order frequencies in the e-commerce warehouse with optimized picking routes

<em>E-commerce is booming: after all, consumers view online shopping as the "new normal". Is your logistics system prepared for this new normal? Or will the surge in demand overwhelm your processes? Here you will learn how warehouse operators manage the increased order frequency with optimized picking routes.</em>

Author: Amelie Demmler

Congratulations! If you operate an e-commerce center, you’ve bet on the right business model. Online retail keeps growing and growing. Sales in Germany were around 100 billion euros in 2021, as calculated by the industry association bevh. This is an increase of 19 percent, after 14 percent in the previous year. There is no end to the boom in sight. By the end of 2022 alone, the industry expects an additional sales increase of 12 percent.

One driver of dynamic growth: customers now perceive e-commerce as the normal and customary thing to do. They order more - and above all much more frequently. Around four out of ten people surveyed by bevh (40.9 percent) store online more often than once a week.

This boom is bringing in record numbers for e-commerce – but hopefully not on the side of costs. Is your warehouse capable of managing a consistently high and further increasing order frequency without the demand for resources shooting through the warehouse roof in return?

If not, I have a solution for you that will enable more efficient order management: optimized picking routes. By the way: I’ve explained how to manage the general challenges in the current market environment with these five tips for modern logistics processes in the e-commerce warehouse.

Picking as a central factor for efficient order management

For warehouse operators, they are the most important people in the world: they're known as pickers. They literally keep the business running. When customer orders arrive, they go to the corresponding storage area, remove the relevant goods from the loading containers and transport everything to the dispatch department on a picking cart or other transport vehicle. The efficiency of this process depends entirely on whether the picking staff can bring together and dispatch the articles in the shortest possible time without obstacles.

With increasing order frequencies, a higher pick rate is a desirable target. Responsible employers won't try to push the limits of their employees' capacity. Instead, they will exhaust the potential from a much more productive source: route management. In my process analyses, I often determine that the routes for picking orders are not optimally planned.

Inefficient or incorrectly planned routes pile on travel time, increase stress and lower the motivation of your warehouse staff. Furthermore, this often results in empty trips - one of the most frequently lamented weak points in logistics. At worst, lax route planning can even increase the risk of accidents if pickers overlook other employees or driverless transport vehicles as a result. This means that optimizing routes provides significant efficiency reserves.

Optimize picking routes without stress

The latest generation of digital assistance systems calculate picking routes with a much more far-sighted approach than previous software solutions. They also consider last-minute changes that occur after the original route planning and update the order distribution again in real time. This is advantageous particularly where high order frequencies are involved, since the system will transfer freshly received article requests to a picking specialist as the next most important task if they are urgent, even though a different and now less important to-do was on the schedule just moments before.

Employees receive continuously updated order descriptions on their smartphones. They can also confirm the completion of subprocesses using their phones, so that their progress is also continuously fed into route planning. In the same way, they can also communicate manual interruptions, for example if a product is missing or damaged. The software then adjusts the plans accordingly.

Such solutions shorten route times and accelerate order handling so that the e-commerce center can complete more orders in a shorter time with the same number of staff. In addition, continuously optimized route guidance reduces employee stress levels by removing the pressure of having to fully complete all their trips.

SYNAOS optimizes picking routes

A solution that offers exactly that is SYNAOS Warehouse Execution. We designed it specifically for the needs of modern e-commerce centers. It controls and orchestrates all relevant processes in the warehouse - including order and route management.

The digital assistance system uses the latest software technology to issue a route nearly in real time with up to 200,000 planning cycles per second. SYNAOS calculates the routes in the background based on incoming customer orders, available personnel, storage positions, article dimensions and many other parameters. A mobile app sends order information to the picking staff and receives feedback. The interplay between humans and technology is fully automated. As a result, e-commerce centers benefit from a much higher number of completed orders while maintaining the same manageable workload for employees.

As a SaaS solution, SYNAOS Warehouse Execution is quickly ready to go and easily scalable. Therefore, it is an attractive option for logistics companies of any size.

In summary: Move around less, deliver more

The online boom is bringing in record numbers for mail-order businesses, but is also putting pressure on warehouse management processes. With optimized picking routes, e-commerce warehouses can manage the challenge of increasing order frequency by utilizing resources much more cost-effectively than before without increasing employee workloads to an unacceptable degree. Because the digital assistance system from SYNAOS continually adjusts route planning in real time, picking staff are guided directly to the next-priority order without unnecessary detours and warehouse managers can achieve their cost targets more easily.

Amelie Demmler
Amelie Demmler
This industrial engineer is an expert in process optimization. She analyzes, advises and assists logistics companies on their journey towards faster processes and reduced costs – and writes about it here.
Amelie Demmler

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