Order Picking Carts: Everything You Need to Know

13 minute read

Order picking is the most resource intensive process in the warehouse.  Efficient and accurate picking leads to increased profits and customer service.  But how do you know which picking cart to choose for your fulfillment operation?  This guide will help!


What is an Order Picking Cart?

Order picking carts are important in warehouse and factory operations. These carts are used to move items from one place to another, improving the accuracy and efficiency of physical inventories and reducing loss due to incorrect counts.

Order picking carts also reduce the need for furniture and stationary workstations.

It can reduce work-related stress and fatigue, which promotes a better work environment and also improves employee morale. Happy employees are more productive and more likely to stay, reducing the company’s turnover rate and the cost associated with hiring, training new staff, and the transition process.



Types of Stock Picking Carts

Order picking carts are a vital part of every warehouse, distribution center, and 3PL. Choosing a cart is a matter of budget and personal preference, but for daily use, carts should be lightweight, sturdy, with comfortable handholds. Another point to consider is space for necessities such as ziplock bags for small parts, Sharpies, labels, a tablet or clipboard, and a barcode gun. Finally, consider the type and weight of the materials that the carts will have to handle. There are off the shelf or customizable carts for just about every need and type of product.

Let’s look at a few to see what’s on the market.




Security Carts

Either coated steel wire or welded steel, this assures safe transport of expensive or dangerous items that you don’t want just anyone to touch. The cart’s locking system can be a simple padlock or a more secure solution such as a fingerprint reader or chip reader.



Stock Picking Cart

Steel can be a good choice, but resin or steel wire can be a lighter load to push. These carts come in multiple formats and sizes, some with areas to hold a tablet and other items. There are some that even come with a ladder built into one end. Keep in mind that features increase weight!





Service Carts

Service carts by Rubbermaid are a standard in a number of food service facilities, but they also make great picking carts! Lightweight, with a number of different sizes and configurations, these carts work best with lighter items.



Utility Carts

These Rubbermaid carts are classic for a reason. They come in a number of configurations and can handle relatively heavy loads. However, the only come with three shelves at most but can be tricked out with bins and caddies.



Smart Carts

Voodoo Robotics makes a wireless, cloud-based Pick-to-Light system that can turn your existing picking carts into smart carts.  Forget everything you know about pick-to-light because this system can be used in ways that traditional pick-to-light cannot.


learn more



Truck or Platform Carts

These wood, resin, or steel bed carts are for the heavy stuff. Ideally, these are not for lifting heavy things onto. Using a portable hoist, lift, or gantry crane to load the truck is a better idea.



Pallet Trucks

Powered or unpowered, with it without lift, these are workhorses. Pre-palleted goods can be racked and stored then pulled to shipping very easily. However, make sure that you take the weight limits as gospel.



Electric Picking Cart Hybrid

Hybrid electric picking carts, like the Smart Rack 900, allow the picker to stand on a platform and drive a compact cart for efficient order fulfillment and replenishment in narrow aisle environments.



Pack Mule (Electric Towable Carts)

Electric towable carts, also called Pack Mules, have the added benefit of speed and expanded capacity.  Pack mules allow for flexible configurations, with multiple carts attached to the electric unit.




These are for the heaviest of heavy loads, and you will need a trained operator to use them. It’s an investment, that’s for sure, but when you are moving a lot of heavy pallets in receiving, shipping, storage, and picking, there’s no better choice.




How to Use a Batch Picking Cart

Batch picking or multi-order picking involves combining multiple orders into a single picklist so all items can be picked in a single pass through the warehouse. Batch picking boosts operator efficiency and productivity by reducing the walking time and maximizing pick quantities.

A multi-tiered picking cart, with totes or shipping boxes, can facilitate batch picking. Efficiency gains depend on the size of the inventory.  For example, a picker can fit many boxes of contact lenses on a pick cart, but only a few bags of dog food.

Batch picking is ideal for operations with a high concentration of SKU’s over a large area without a conveyor system.

Learn about batch picking with smart carts




Types of Non-Electric Batch Picking Carts

Batch picked orders are usually placed in order-specific totes or shipping boxes on the picking cart.  Choose larger totes for orders with larger items and orders with multiple items.  Small, or single-item orders can be placed into a cart with many smaller totes.

batch-picking-cart-with-totesTall cart with removable totes

batch-picking-cart-with-tilted-shelvesCart with tilted shelves


Cart with built-in totes


 Low cart with removable totes


Turn your existing carts into smart carts and boost your pick rate while  reducing errors!

Standard vs Industrial Picking Carts


Standard order picking carts are ideal for operations that need to constantly move small inventory items from location to location (i.e. batch picking). For warehouses that need to move heavier items, an industrial order picking cart is a good choice. Industrial carts are welded using 14 or 12-gauge steel shelves with thick angle posts. The heavy-duty design of these carts guarantees longevity and superior quality compared to standard order picking carts with lighter gauge and wheels.

You can find a wide range of industrial order picking carts in different sizes and configurations. Shelf sizes range from 18″ by 24″ to 36″ by 72″ and load capacities range from 600 to 7000 pounds. Industrial order picking carts are an important part of any facility. Aside from offering transportation solutions, these carts also improve worker efficiency and productivity.

batch-picking-cart-with-totes (1)

Standard Pick Cart


Industrial Picking Cart

New vs Used Picking Carts

Although our first instinct is usually to purchase a new equipment, you can find a good deal on pre-owned picking carts.  Warehouses and distribution centers come and go, resulting in a steady supply of used picking carts.  Used carts are usually in good working order and have sometimes repainted, giving them and almost new feel. Used picking carts often sell for less than half the original price.

Supply chain retailers often sell used inventory along with new while surplus shops sell only used equipment. Heavy-duty, industrial carts tend to outlast their less-sturdy counterparts and are easier to find used.  Company X might pay the same price for five standard picking carts as Company Y pays for five used industrial picking carts.

Consider the pro’s and cons of purchasing a used picking cart:

  • Less expensive
  • Afford higher-quality equipment
  • Reduce waste
  •  Limited or no warranty
  • May not last as long
  • Limited selection


How Much do Picking Carts Cost?

The cost of warehouse picking carts differs based on its size, shelf quantity, and load capacity. Like anything, you get what you pay for.

A simple wire stock picking cart from Wayfair or Amazon might set you back one hundred and fifty to two-hundred dollars while a more robust, industrial picking cart could cost between five and seven hundred dollars.

Purchasing a used cart might allow you to purchase sturdier, longer lasting carts for the same money.

Learn how to use wireless pick-to-light on your current carts.




How Technology is Changing Warehouse Picking Carts

Technology has affected every aspect of society – including the often-archaic equipment used in materials handling and supply chain industries.  Picking carts are no exception.  Now you can easily find picking carts equipped with platforms for barcode scanners, tablets, and laptops.  Perhaps the biggest change is the integration of Pick-to-Light systems with picking carts, allowing for more efficient order fulfillment methodologies, like batch picking to be combined with a boost in pick-rate and reduced errors.

Let’s examine two types of Pick-to-Light systems and how they work with batch picking carts.


Traditional Pick-to-Light

Traditional pick-to-light has been around for 35 years and has changed very little.  This is the light-directed picking technology that most professionals are familiar with and excels in high-speed picking lines.  


As picking carts gain popularity, warehouse professionals traditional pick-to-light manufactures have created heavy industrial picking carts that are hard-wired with their pick lights.  These carts are expensive and require heavy battery packs, leading to: 

  • Carts that are heavy and difficult to maneuver
  • Batteries need to be recharged regularly
  • Limited selection of picking carts
  • More expensive picking carts required


Modern Pick-to-Light

Voodoo Robotics has reimagined order fulfillment and leveraged the latest technology to create a modern pick-to-light system called a Cloud Display Device.  A simple URL, like what you use in your web browser, causes the device to light up with two lines of custom text.   Devices run on two long-lasting (up to a year or more) AA batteries and can be mounted almost anywhere – racks, carts, totes, forklifts, etc.  These devices can be used in all sorts of ways – including pick-to-light and put-to-light!

So, forget everything you know about pick-to-light.  Forget red and green light bars, forget battery-powered carts, forget limited applications, forget large capital expenses.

Now you can:

  • Put Pick-to-Light on ANY cart!
  • Without battery-packs, carts are lighter and easier to maneuver.
  • No need to swap batteries or charge carts.
  • Afford to batch pick with greater accuracy and reduced errors.
  • Use smart picking carts!


Turn Your Carts into Smart Carts!


Forget the old pick-to-light technology!  It’s 2018.  We can’t solve today’s challenges with yesterday’s technology.

All warehouses, distribution centers, and 3PLs are dealing with shrinking margins, the proliferation of SKUs and expectations for fast shipping.

Voodoo Robotics reinvented order fulfillment and created the next-generation of Pick-to-Light, flexible enough to be used in new ways:

  • Batch picking
  • Put-wall
  • Order sortation
  • Manufacturing and kitting
  • Will-call areas
  • Will-call areas
  • Special instructions
  • Cloud-based signage
  • Returns processing
  • Popup and temporary warehouses 

Picking carts optimize batch picking by reducing the pickers total travel distance while increasing his/her accuracy and picking rates.  Batch picked orders are often taken to put-walls for order sortation, packing, and shipping.


Learn how to use wireless pick-to-light on your current carts.




Two Ways to Use Smart Carts

Single Lighted System (Put-to-Light):

  1. The order picker is directed to a stock location.
  2. (Optional) The picker scans a barcode at that location.
  3. The picker picks an item from the location.
  4. The Cloud Display Device on the cart illuminates to show which tote the item should be placed in.



Double Lighted System (Pick-to-Light and Put-to-Light):

  1. Picker pushes the picking cart down the aisle.
  2. Cloud Display Device associated with a pick-list illuminate, indicating what should be picked.
  3. The picker picks an item from inventory.
  4. After each pick, the put-light on the cart illuminates to show the tote the item should be placed in.

Learn more about Cloud Display Devices and how you can use them on your current order picking carts!


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