There are many types of equipment and machinery that help make warehouses run more smoothly and efficiently. A useful one to help with organization and archival purposes is an order picker. This article will discuss what an order picker is and what can be used.
What is an order picker and what is it used for?
As the name suggests, an order picker is a piece of equipment that helps operators pick and deliver materials needed for fulfilling orders. Order pickers are similar to forklift trucks, but instead of forks, it has a platform that allows operators to move up to reach and retrieve necessary cases or single items off racks.
How do order pickers work?
Order pickers are often electrically powered through the use of rechargeable batteries. Similar to forklifts, order pickers are typically controlled and steered by trained operators. However, in narrow aisles, they can also be guided electronically or mechanically with wires or rails. Regardless of how it is guided, operators usually control the movement of the platform. They raise the platform to the rack or shelving, retrieve individual items, place them on the machine’s carrying deck, and transport them to where they need to go.
Order picker features
Generally speaking, all order pickers have a similar function – allowing operators to pick or retrieve items from shelving and racks. However, order pickers have different features that make them ideal in certain settings. These include height, weight, guidance, and accessories.
Height and weight
Order pickers can reach racks anywhere from nine feet to 35 feet and carry weights typically around 3,000 pounds or under but can range anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 pounds. The specifications for each type of order picker vary depending on manufacturers, but they often come in three varieties: low-level, mid(medium)-level, and high-level.
Low-level order pickers are designed to reach items at ground level or lower heights. The platform of this type of order picker typically raises anywhere from three to ten feet. The rack heights for this machine can sometimes be reached by workers without additional machinery; however, a low-level order picker can help reduce worker fatigue and speed up retrieval. These are ideal for various settings but are limited to use in areas with lower racks.
Mid-level or medium order pickers allow operators to retrieve items from higher heights, typically 15 feet to 25 feet. They work well in a variety of warehouse setups. However, they are ideal in areas with narrow aisles.
High-level order pickers allow for operators to reach racks of higher heights. This typically ranges anywhere from 25 to 35 feet. Like other levels of order picker, high-level machines work in various warehouse settings but are ideal for even narrower aisles.
Order Picker Guidance
As mentioned above, order pickers can be guided manually or mechanically. In most cases, low-level and mid-level pickers are guided and driven manually by operators. High-level pickers, however, are often wire-guided or rail-guided. This means that there are rails or wires embedded on the warehouse floor or across the shelves to guide the direction of the picker. This is mainly used for high-level pickers because narrow aisles do not leave much space between the machine and the shelving. With a guidance system, pickers can operate in aisles as narrow as 54 inches and with as little as a few inches of clearance on either side. Guidance systems can also reduce collisions with shelving and damage to shelving and products.
In addition to height and guidance, additional accessories can be added to order pickers to fit the function and safety needs of the warehouse. These include, but are not limited to:
- Moveable mast or fork attached to the front
- Item cart/space attached to the front
- Automatic steering
- Load-facing operator controls
- Additional platforms
- Auto-locking pallet clamp
- Work area lights mounted overhead
- An adjustable fan mounted overhead
Why use an order picker?
One of the main reasons for using an order picker is efficiency. Without an order picker, workers would need to pull an entire pallet down to get one or two items. Doing this continuously is time-consuming and inefficient. If warehouse settings require workers to take one thing off the rack more frequently, an order picker would be better than a traditional forklift. Additionally, as mentioned above, order pickers allow operators to remove items in narrow spaces with minimal clearance easily. This can provide more flexibility and variety in where the order picker can be used.
Things to consider when selecting an order picker
Although most order pickers provide the same basic functions, not all machines are made equally and will work efficiently in all settings. Here are some things to consider when choosing an order picker:
- Inventory needs. Order pickers are ideal for being used in settings where warehouse workers are retrieving one or two items at a time. If workers or more often moving larger items, such as large pallets or crates, then other machines such as a forklift, pallet truck, or reach truck may be better.
- Height and weight needs. The type of order picker you choose depends on the height and weight needs of the warehouse. For example, if shelving units do not exceed 25 feet, a mid-level order picker would work best. Regarding weight, most pickers have a weight capacity of 3000 pounds, so that picker choice may depend more on inventory and height needs. However, not all order pickers are created equally, so it is important to check machine specifications beforehand.
- Warehouse space. Order pickers, especially high-level ones, work well in narrow aisles. Therefore, if warehouse spaces are narrow, order pickers may be the better option. This, too, however, varies based on inventory needs.
- Safety features. Safety is one of the most important things to consider when choosing any warehouse machine or equipment. Employers need to ensure that workers operate an order picker safely. First, employers need to make sure that all workers are adequately trained to use the order picker and proper workplace safety. Second, employers should consider additions such as floor mats to improve grips, automatic steering control, safety guards, adjustable safety harness or rope, railings, gates, and more to make the machine safer.