Pick-by-Scan – applications, functions and alternatives

Pick-by-Scan is one of the best-known picking systems. The solution using mobile MDE scanners and barcodes promises fast and efficient picking processes. The ever more complex tasks in logistics make this urgently necessary – can pick-by-scan help? We will take a look at the advantages, the disadvantages and take a look at possible alternatives for this picking solution.

Cover Pick-by-Scan: Applications, functions, alternatives

How does pick-by-scan work in logistics?

Pick-by-scan describes paperless picking using a scanner or MDE device. The system is simple but effective: First, the product, the storage location and the quantity to be picked are displayed on the handheld’s digital display. The picker goes to the storage location and picks the item in the right quantity. He then scans the barcode attached either to the product or to the compartment which is then processed by the device. As a rule, the mobile handhelds, whether barcode scanners or MDE devices, are connected to the WMS or ERP system via the local network. In this way, processed orders are reported back to the backend in real time. 

Advantages of pick-by-scan

Compared to conventional methods such as pick-by-paper, pick-by-scan has many advantages for order picking. On the one hand, numerous manual processes such as reading, checking off and matching the pick list are eliminated. At the same time, the connection via Wifi creates a feedback loop that prevents picking errors and makes subsequent inventory reconciliation obsolete. The employee is methodically guided through the warehouse without losing important time managing the pick list. The elimination of the list minimizes the susceptibility to errors and saves resources.

Disadvantages of pick-by-scan

Despite its many advantages, pick-by-scan is not perfect. The biggest disadvantage of pick-by-scan is the high initial investment and the implementation costs for new equipment as well as high personnel costs when onboarding new employees. Another significant disadvantage concerns the pickers themselves: The scanning device must be operated manually throughout the entire picking process. Therefore, unlike other picking methods, pickers cannot work hands-free. Also, the constant operation and cognitive load this creates can lower the employee’s concentration, which can increase errors.

Alternatives to pick-by-scan

Although pick-by-scan is clearly superior to conventional systems such as pick-by-paper, there are other picking methods such as pick-by-light or pick-by-voice that perform better in comparison. However, these processes also have certain weaknesses:

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Pick-by-light comes with enormous investment costs and maintenance efforts can be significantly greater than that for other picking methods. If the warehouse is to be expanded or adapted at a later stage, this usually leads to follow-up costs for the pick-by-light system.


Due to the continuous interaction with the software, employees tire more quickly and avoidable errors occur more frequently. Pick accuracy is supposed to be maintained by check digits to verify the storage location and item. In practice, however, warehouse employees often quickly learn these by heart to save time, making the system lose its accuracy. Additional security measures often come at the expense of the time that pick-by-voice is supposed to gain.


Picking with pick-by-vision combines the advantages of the other picking methods and is significantly more intuitive. Particularly regarding ergonomics, productivity and picking quality, picking with smart glasses has the upper hand. The smart glasses shows the picker all the information he needs and guides him through the warehouse with assisted reality. The warehouse environment and the projection on the screen can be perceived simultaneously. In contrast to pick-by-scan, the employee has both hands free while working. The integrated microphones also allow voice-guided control of more complex processes such as quantity corrections. This allows the user to save even more time during picking. The warehouse worker can always verify the executed commands on the display of the smart glasses.

Vision Guide – finding the best picking method

Our Vision Guide for logistics contains a detailed comparison of all order picking methods available on the market. It also includes a checklist with the most important criteria that you need to bear in mind when choosing new order picking systems. Download our free Vision Guide now!

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