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Once a picker – always a picker

Today the task of order picking in a warehouse is a stressful one; time is of the essence to satisfy a customer’s requirement, accuracy is paramount for the retailer, and finishing that last pick of the day on time is important to the picker, as Manchester United are live on the TV tonight and they “gotta get outa there” on time!

Once a Picker

I remember a time when as children we all wanted to be a picker…

At school in a sports lesson the two football captains were always chosen by the teacher - the ‘Senior Picker’ – usually those who could actually kick a ball rather than their opponent. The selected captains would then pick their teams alternately selecting from the rest of us. The sporty ones first, the ‘OK’s’ next, and last the less sporty to make up numbers. Being a cricketer, I was one of those who were likely to be left on the bench – a bit of a result rather than having to kick an inflated sheep’s bladder around in the rain. I eventually ended up as captain of the cricket first team. Finally my chance to be a picker, but alas no, a committee would do this task. Oh *##//**!!

The next example of picking would present itself at the sweet shop on the way home at 4.30pm on a Friday evening – treat night, where my sister and I were allowed 2 pence worth of sweets. That’s about €0.03 for those who don’t understand old English. A contest ensued, so with skill and due diligence my objective was to end up with more content and a bigger bag than my sister; where she went for quality, I went for quantity. There’s a lesson there somewhere I think! The decision was made on the products available at the sweet shop with absolutely no competition for the retailer at all.

Always a Picker

Now let’s move forward fifty years and take another look…

Today we are able to do our picking on a tablet or laptop from the comfort of our own homes. The competition element is no longer the size of the bag you can fill, but the selection of retailers you can buy from. Since we are able to buy the same products from so many different retailers, we now introduce more criteria; price and delivery. We tend to go for quickest and cheapest but once the order is placed and we’re ready to rock, we rarely consider ‘how will it get here?’

Behind The Scenes

The placing of an order triggers a strict sequence of events to ensure that your delivery arrives as ordered. The retailer will accept the order by sending you an acknowledgement, whilst in parallel checking the location of available stock and issuing a pick instruction.
An operator will be allocated the pick as part of a larger pick round, who is then likely to walk miles to the pick location somewhere in the depths of a warehouse and then even further to deliver it to a pack bench. Another operator packages the order and sends it for couriering to its final destination.

An Alternative Scenario

Or it might happen like this… The order is issued to a system which automatically checks the stock and delivers a storage tote holding your item to a Goods-to-Person pick station, where your item is picked, packed and “hey presto” we are ready to go.

Why not take the time to take a look what really happens.

Going back to the regular Friday afternoon sweet shop visit, I remember only being able to pick my sweets at 4.30pm by walking from school, via the shop back home. Now, today as an old man I imagine school kids today ordering sugar hits on a tablet, in advance, and they will be waiting Friday afternoon at home, with someone else doing the walking – result!

While I rest in old age having spent a lifetime picking, I have an infinite supply of treats being delivered ‘just in time’ for treat night. A few things have changed over the years, some for the better, but I must confess it is Champagne that is delivered for treat night these days!