A Quick Guide to Order Picking Methods & Productivity

Does your order picking productivity stack up against industry averages?

Order picking from rack

When you work on order picking strategies, knowing the metrics for picking rates may be helpful. Labor productivity is the key to any warehousing or order picking operation, since labor tends to be the largest single cost factor in these operations. It’s critical to understand production rates for processes that absorb labor hours, energy, money, and time.

Labor productivity metrics can vary based on specific operations in a warehouse or shipping facility, including receiving, put-away, replenishment, picking, and shipping (these factors often affect each other, which can further complicate things).  The labor rates presented here are based on a cross section of analysis projects performed by Carter & Burgess. They may not apply directly to your operation, but they are a good foundation for understanding how various technologies, processes, and how your operation might perform with a variety of picking methods.

Order Picking Methods and Labor Rates

Type of Picking


Unloading floor-stacked trailers; sort to pallets 120 cartons
Unload floor-stacked pallet onto takeaway conveyor 640 cartons
Put away a full pallet into a pallet rack storage position 32 pallets
Piece pick from carton flow rack into totes (paper pick tickets in use) 184 lines
Piece pick from carton flow rack (pick-to-light) 260 lines
Piece pick from horizontal carousels (pod of 3 approx.; light tree used) into totes 300 lines
Full case picking using forklift; picking from pallet rack floor level onto pallet 29 cases
Full case picking using man-up order picker truck and picking from all pallet rack levels onto pallets 134 cases
Full case picking from pallet flow rack onto takeaway powered conveyor (paper pick tickets) 525 cases
Full case picking from pallet flow rack onto takeaway powered conveyor (voice recognition) 600 lines
Full pallet picking using counterbalance truck from bulk floor storage 50 pallets
Full pallet picking using counterbalance truck from pallet rack 65 pallets

The Most Important Order Picking Metrics: Your Own

By employing your own metrics, and by using timely feedback from employees, you can often make significant improvements without large capital investment. Other factors, such as facility layout, individual employee productivity, and process improvements can also weigh heavily on actual results.

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Scott Stone is Cisco-Eagle's Vice President of Marketing with more than thirty years of experience in material handling, warehousing and industrial operations. His work is published in multiple industry journals an websites on a variety of warehousing topics. He writes about automation, warehousing, safety, manufacturing and other areas of concern for industrial operations and those who operate them.

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