What is order picking? Order Picker job description

Order picking is one of the roles essential for a smooth running of every warehouse. You probably already know about the people in transport department who receive incoming cargo, the handballers who move products from containers onto appropriate pallets and forklift drivers who distribute the pallets to the right sectors of the warehouse. Well, order pickers reverse this process and are required when something needs to be taken out of the shelving.

The main job of order picker is, in very simple terms, to find products in the warehouse and bring them back to the loading area. Sounds easy, right? The whole process of order picking ins bit more complicated though.

Lets begin with the fact that there are two main types or ‘picking’ – picking with list and voice picking. The first one is fairly traditional, you get sheet of paper with several dozen to several hundred listed products and their locations and off you go to collect all of them. The second one is more advanced and some people find it more convenient and faster, it’s where you get a headphone with a receiver and have each order spoken directly. Voice order picking is faster, but the list allows for better arrangement of products on a pallet.

Photo by Maartmeester

Depending on the company you work for and the size of warehouse you’ll be either using a manual pump-truck or driving a one- or two-meter electric truck. Needless to say, electric trucks are much better because you don’t have to drag half-a-ton of products with you across the whole warehouse just to get back to the loading area. Don’t worry if you can’t drive one yet – they are extremely easy to use and you will most likely receive the training on your first day.

Experienced order pickers have the habit of asking for ‘the picking norm’ before accepting any new job. Every order picker after the initial period of employment is expected to show a level of efficiency in picking and delivering products. Without the norm some people would wander around the warehouse the whole day – or even better, I have personally seen people who took breaks while picking for… a short nap. The norm itself is a number of products delivered either hourly or daily.

Photo by Wallygrom

Unfortunately some warehouses with a wide variety of products will count both a packet of cookies and a wooden wardrobe as single products which could become a little unfair.
The problem is, while picking norm has been introduced in order to encourage people to work harder, it’s sometimes used by abusive employers to force very high pace of work. During the first couple of days you’ll figure out what the norm is and whether it’s reasonable or not. Keep in mind that failure in keeping the norm will get you one or two warnings and after that – your fired.

On the positive side of things, many warehouses offer bonuses for order pickers who work above the norm. This could be up to about 20-30% of your base monthly wages. Order picking is also known for the incredible amounts of overtime available. To sum it up – order picking is the job to earn good money through going above the norm and doing overtime, but it’s stressful and fast paced.