Four ways of organizing order-pickers in a warehouse

A fast-pick area in a warehouse is generally an aisle stocked with product that is the “fastest-moving”. Workers move down the line picking items for each customer order and then walk back to work on a subsequent order. What is the best way to coordinate them?

The simulations below illustrate the four most common ways of organizing order-pickers on a fast-pick line. The goal is generally to maximize throughput. We have simplified the order-picking by assuming that the work is always spread evenly along the aisle. This is highly unrealistic but it allows us to focus on the challenge posed by the fact that different workers work at different speeds.

In the simulations green works at twice the speed of blue and red works at three times that speed. Such a spread in speeds is quite realistic, especially during busy periods, when new or temporary workers are hired.

In the simulations you can click on any worker and drag them to a new position to change their sequence. For zone-picking you can also click on the boundary between zones and drag it left or right to re-allocate work. For bucket brigades, any click sends workers to random new positions.

Independent workers, passing allowed

Independent workers, no passing


Bucket brigades

Here are some discussion questions to consider for each of the ways of organizing production.