The order-picking way time is the sum of the time required for picking a single order or batch; measured from the starting point of picking via the picking locations to the delivery point – depending on the picking method, including the way back to the starting point. Based on this data, it is possible to determine the so-called picking performance as a key figure. It summarizes the total travel times of all order items.

If one looks at the travel time in picking in detail, further individual factors that are not obviously associated with the pure distance travelled become apparent. Thus, the processing of individual commissions includes, in addition to the travel time, the following time shares: Base time, transition time and dead time.

Sections of the picking route

The actual picking route is split into the following sections

  • Basic route
  • Lane path
  • Lane change route

The basic path contains two sections of the route. The first one consists of the path from the starting point to the first lane. The second one starts when the order picker is back at the first lane at the end of the tour and ends as soon as the order picker has reached the point of order placement from there.

The lane path is the path that is taken within each lane.

The lane change path, like the basic path, contains two parts of the route. On the one hand, it consists of the path that is taken to get from one lane to the next. On the other hand, from the return path to the first lane when the picking round is completed and all storage locations belonging to the order items have been reached.

Picking performance and the picking rate

The work performance of an order picker can be measured in different ways. In the following part, the picking performance, as well as the picking performance, will be discussed.

  • Picking performance: If the travel time of an order picker is considered over an entire work day, this is called picking performance. It is calculated on the basis of the number of items processed by the order picker (pos/h related to day/8h). A distinction is made between: Units picks per day (packaging, bundles for shelf access), containers per day or positions per day.
  • Pick performance: It is represented by the number of picks of an order picker per hour. The daily average is calculated by dividing the number of picks by total working time in hours (units/h).

Note: The two performance indicators, overall picking performance and individual picking performance depend on the order structure, picking type and storage location.

The management of a warehouse or distribution center in general strives for the shortest picking time possible. In the course of time, this key figure is constantly adapted to new requirements through specific measures.

Optimization measures for a short picking travel time

  • Picking errors can be avoided by a clear and structured warehouse layout.
  • The picking points must always be easily accessible (quick to reach). Test runs of the planned picking rounds are always highly recommended.
  • Fast and slow-moving products must be placed in a sensible position by the storage bin management based on their withdrawal frequency.
  • As a rule, the picking route time should result from batch picking. Order-oriented, serial picking, for example, is more useful in small warehouses.
  • The use of order picking vehicles is useful for long distances in the warehouse.
  • The use of flow racks (replenishment) is also sensible, as this minimises unnecessary dead times.

Note: The picking cycle time can also be optimized by assortment streamlining, inventory reduction and the correct placement of slow-moving products. In addition, a well-designed warehouse topology means that employees complete their picking rounds faster.


The picking route time is the largest part of the actual picking time and includes the time shares base route, picking route and lane change. The picking travel time can be split into two possible performance measures: Overall picking performance and individual picking performance.

If you are interested in topics related to picking, then please also read the articles Inventory Management and Two-Step Picking.

Image rights: Tasma3197 / CC BY-SA 3.0

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