Waveless Order Fulfillment

Last updated

Waveless Order Fulfillment [1] [2] is a methodology used in distribution centers for fulfilling orders, or order picking. Waveless picking is a form of "batch picking" where items for multiple orders are collected, or picked, together at the same time to be divided into separate orders at a later time in the process. The collection of items is called a "batch." [3] Historically, the terms wave picking and batch picking have been synonymous as wave picking is a means of achieving batch picking.

Wave picking is used to support management and workers via a warehouse management system (WMS) in several ways, to support the planning and organizing of the daily flow of work of a warehouse or distribution center. Wave picking is an application of short-interval-scheduling. Managers, using a WMS, may assign groups of orders into short intervals called "waves", to initially simulate the flow for the day, consistent with the order departure plan and available labor. When the plan is satisfactory, it is accepted. The WMS will then release the waves to the warehouse sequentially throughout the day, to allow managers to coordinate the several parallel and sequential activities required to complete the daily work plan. One of the objectives of wave picking is to minimize the variation of workload in each work function by wave. The wave planning data includes the workload by order or function, providing management the information to calculate staff requirements to guide the assignment of staff by function, with the reasonable expectation that the work in each function, within each wave. Waves are often constructed to last between 1 and 4 hours, with resulting 8 to 2 waves in a shift.

Batch picking, both wave and waveless, reduces the travel or motion associated with fulfilling orders in a distribution center. Motion is “non-productive” and one of the 7 wastes [4] identfied in lean processing. [5] Batch picking provides great advantages when individual orders are of just a few units and where items are located over great areas as would be found in modern eCommerce operations. In such circumstances, the required work, effort and time is reduced by having a travel path where pickers collect items from the required locations in a "batch". However, the efficiency gained by picking the batch is reduced by the effort to separate the gathered items into orders. This profile is common in direct-to-consumer e-commerce operations. Some operations may use an automated storage and retrieval system that allows material to be delivered to complete orders; however, these operations also often benefit from batching items for multiple orders. [6]

E-commerce is the activity of buying or selling of products on online services or over the Internet. Electronic commerce draws on technologies such as mobile commerce, electronic funds transfer, supply chain management, Internet marketing, online transaction processing, electronic data interchange (EDI), inventory management systems, and automated data collection systems.

Automated storage and retrieval system Robotic warehouse for physical objects

An automated storage and retrieval system consists of a variety of computer-controlled systems for automatically placing and retrieving loads from defined storage locations. Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) are typically used in applications where:

Batch Creation

The distinction in wave and waveless fulfillment is the means in which the batch is created. [7] In both cases, the batch represents a collection of items required for a set of orders. In a wave-based system, a collection of orders for a batch is determined, also known as selected. Next, the individual items required for the set of orders are identified and included in the batch. The size of the batch is limited to ensure that the batch may be sorted. When including the order items in the batch, the collection of items may be grouped into multiple task lists. Each task list is optimized to minimize the required travel to collect the items. [8] The entire batch is called a wave and the wave is complete when all the required items have been obtained. [9]

In both a wave and a waveless operation, the size of the batch is limited by the ability of the downstream sorting process to separate out the items. Items arriving at the sorting process may come in an undefined sequence, and the sorting system must then be able to hold an early arriving item until the latest required item arrives for the order. If newly arriving items do not have a place to be held while awaiting the later arriving items, they must be set aside until a consolidation space becomes available.

In a waveless system the "batch" of orders is ever evolving; new orders may be added to the batch as existing orders have been completed. [10] This is called a revolving batch where the batch size is dynamically specified by the warehouse execution system. [1] With this continuous flow of items through the revolving batch, as one order is completed another order is added to the process. With wave picking order completion is bunched up at the end of the wave while with waveless picking order completion occurs continuously.

Warehouse Execution Systems (WES) are computerized systems used in distribution operations (Logistics) and are functionally equivalent to a manufacturing execution system or MES. Distribution operations are a form of a manufacturing operation that receive, store and track inbound material and then select and combine (assemble) various materials to form a finished product, order, or shipment.

Related Research Articles

Supply-chain management management of the flow of goods and services, involves the movement and storage of raw materials, of work-in-process inventory, and of finished goods from point of origin to point of consumption

In commerce, supply-chain management (SCM), the management of the flow of goods and services, involves the movement and storage of raw materials, of work-in-process inventory, and of finished goods from point of origin to point of consumption. Interconnected or interlinked networks, channels and node businesses combine in the provision of products and services required by end customers in a supply chain. Supply-chain management has been defined as the "design, planning, execution, control, and monitoring of supply-chain activities with the objective of creating net value, building a competitive infrastructure, leveraging worldwide logistics, synchronizing supply with demand and measuring performance globally." SCM practice draws heavily from the areas of industrial engineering, systems engineering, operations management, logistics, procurement, information technology, and marketing and strives for an integrated approach. Marketing channels play an important role in supply-chain management. Current research in supply-chain management is concerned with topics related to sustainability and risk management, among others. Some suggest that the “people dimension” of SCM, ethical issues, internal integration, transparency/visibility, and human capital/talent management are topics that have, so far, been underrepresented on the research agenda.

Logistics management of the flow of resources

Logistics is generally the detailed organization and implementation of a complex operation. In a general business sense, logistics is the management of the flow of things between the point of origin and the point of consumption in order to meet requirements of customers or corporations. The resources managed in logistics may include tangible goods such as materials, equipment, and supplies, as well as food and other consumable items. The logistics of physical items usually involves the integration of information flow, materials handling, production, packaging, inventory, transportation, warehousing, and often security.

Logistics automation

Logistics automation is the application of computer software and/or automated machinery to improve the efficiency of logistics operations. Typically this refers to operations within a warehouse or distribution center, with broader tasks undertaken by supply chain management systems and enterprise resource planning systems.

Distribution center

A distribution center for a set of products is a warehouse or other specialized building, often with refrigeration or air conditioning, which is stocked with products (goods) to be redistributed to retailers, to wholesalers, or directly to consumers. A distribution center is a principal part, the order processing element, of the entire order fulfillment process. Distribution centers are usually thought of as being demand driven. A distribution center can also be called a warehouse, a DC, a fulfillment center, a cross-dock facility, a bulk break center, and a package handling center. The name by which the distribution center is known is commonly based on the purpose of the operation. For example, a "retail distribution center" normally distributes goods to retail stores, an "order fulfillment center" commonly distributes goods directly to consumers, and a cross-dock facility stores little or no product but distributes goods to other destinations.

A warehouse management system (WMS) is a software application, designed to support and optimize warehouse functionality and distribution center management. These systems facilitate management in their daily planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling the utilization of available resources, to move and store materials into, within, and out of a warehouse, while supporting staff in the performance of material movement and storage in and around a warehouse.

Service Merchandise American retailer

Service Merchandise was a retailer chain of catalog showrooms carrying fine jewelry, toys, sporting goods, and electronics that existed for 68 years.

Push–pull strategy

The business terms push and pull originated in logistics and supply chain management, but are also widely used in marketing, and is also a term widely used in the hotel distribution business. Walmart is an example of a company that uses the push vs. pull strategy.

Order fulfillment

Order fulfillment is in the most general sense the complete process from point of sales inquiry to delivery of a product to the customer. Sometimes order fulfillment is used to describe the more narrow act of distribution or the logistics function, however, in the broader sense it refers to the way firms respond to customer orders.

Fulfillment house and fulfillment center are modern terms for a packing warehouse. The terms were coined in the middle of the 1990s, and "fulfilment centre" is usually used about an in-house packing warehouse, while "fulfilment house" tends to be used about companies that specialise in warehousing and packing for others.

A manufacturing supermarket is, for a factory process, what a retail supermarket is for the customer. The customers draw products from the 'shelves' as needed and this can be detected by the supplier who then initiates a replenishment of that item. It was the observation that this 'way of working' could be transferred from retail to manufacturing that is one of the cornerstones of the Toyota Production System (TPS).

A warehouse control system (WCS) is a software application that directs the real-time activities within warehouses and distribution centers (DC). As the “traffic cop” for the warehouse/distribution center, the WCS is responsible for keeping everything running smoothly, maximizing the efficiency of the material handling subsystems and often, the activities of the warehouse associates themselves. It provides a uniform interface to a broad range of material handling equipment such as AS/RS, carousels, conveyor systems, sorters, palletizers, etc. The primary functions of a WCS include:

Order processing is the process or work-flow associated with the picking, packing and delivery of the packed items to a shipping carrier. Order processing is a key element of order fulfillment. Order processing operations or facilities are commonly called "distribution centers".

Amazon Robotics, formerly Kiva Systems, is a Massachusetts-based company that manufactures mobile robotic fulfillment systems. It is a subsidiary company of Amazon.com and its automated storage and retrieval systems were previously used by companies including: The Gap, Walgreens, Staples, Gilt Groupe, Office Depot, Crate & Barrel, and Saks 5th Avenue. After those contracts ran out, Amazon did not renew them and Kiva's assets now work only for Amazon's warehouses.

Merge-in-transit (MIT) is a distribution method in which several shipments from suppliers originating at different locations are consolidated into one final customer delivery. This removes the need for distribution warehouses in the supply chain, allowing customers to receive complete deliveries for their orders. Under a merge-in-transit system, merge points replace distribution warehouse. In today's global market, merge-in-transit is progressively being used in telecommunications and electronic industries. These industries are usually dynamic and flexible, in which products have been developed and changed rapidly.

Third-party logistics in logistics and supply chain management is an organization's use of third-party businesses to outsource elements of its distribution, warehousing, and fulfillment services.

Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery

Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery, or SPUD.ca, is an online grocery service operating in British Columbia and Alberta that predominantly focuses on selling organic groceries. The company was founded as Small Potatoes Urban Delivery in 1997.

Omnichannel Order Fulfillment is a material handling fulfillment strategy and process that treats inventory as fully available to all channels from one location. While the internal fulfillment process may diverge to optimize the operations, the outbound process only diverges at the point of pack out and shipping.


  1. 1 2 Michel, Roberto (1 July 2016). "The catch in going waveless". Modern Materials Handling. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  2. "5 Tips for Moving Beyond the Traditional Warehouse Management System". Supply Chain Brain. RIS News. 27 October 2016. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  3. "What is batch picking?". Business Dictionary. Business Dictionary. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  4. "The 7 Wastes of Lean". KaiNexus. KaiNexus. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  5. "WHAT IS LEAN?". Lean Enterprise Institute. Lean Enterprise Institute. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  6. Quackenbush, Jeff (18 July 2017). "WineDirect opening big high-tech Napa Valley fulfillment center". North Bay Business Journal. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  7. "The Waveless Warehouse: Why Wave Picking Might Not Be the Best for Your Distribution Center". Supply Chain 247. Supply Chain 247. 22 March 2017. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  8. Holste, Cliff (20 September 2017). "Sorting It Out: Customized Order Fulfillment Requirements Drives Adoption of Automation Technology". Supply Chain Digest. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  9. Gallien, Jeremie; Weber, Theophane (26 May 2010). "To Wave or Not to Wave? Order Release Policies for Warehouses with an Automated Sorter" (PDF). Manufacturing & Service Operations Management. 12 (4): 642–662. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  10. Michel, Roberto (1 January 2015). "Supply Chain Software: Waving bottleneck issues goodbye". Modern Materials Handling. Retrieved 21 September 2017.