Have you ever wondered how online orders reach customers from the warehouse? Order fulfillment is a complicated process involving a series of interconnected procedures related to receiving and shipping orders. And one of the most fundamental procedures in order fulfillment is pick & pack.
95% of the companies experience bottlenecks in their order fulfillment process. Out of these, 45% face problems in order picking and packing. The manual order picking in warehouses consumes a lot of time. Walking and manually picking orders accounts for more than 50% of the time associated with picking. On average, an order picker can pick 60 to 80 orders per hour as compared to 300 picks per hour when using sorters and conveyors.
Similarly, the pick and pack phenomenon also costs warehouses a lot of money. The average pick and pack fee for single item orders in the USA increased from 4.27 USD in 2021 to 4.33 USD in 2022 for B2B companies.The cost of warehouse management staff per year in 2022 is also estimated to be $52,800. Nearly 170,000 more workers were employed in distribution centers and warehouses in 2021 which is a 13.6% increase in the workforce as compared to the previous year.
Automation in pick and pack operations simplifies your supply chain and logistics by making fulfillment and distribution easier. With good inventory management and the right technology, you can quickly pick, pack, and ship orders. So, what is picking and packing, how does it work, and what are the methods involved in picking and packing orders? Here is your quick guide to the pick & pack fulfillment process in which you will learn:
- What is pick & pack?
- How do the pick, pack, and ship process work?
- What are pick and pack methods?
- How to improve and organize the pick & pack fulfillment process?
What Is Pick & Pack Fulfillment?
Pick and pack order fulfillment occurs in a warehouse when an order is placed from an eCommerce store. It refers to a process during which customer orders are sourced from inventory, processed, and prepared for delivery.
Picking is a process in which you find and retrieve the right quantities of each product from its location in the warehouse using a picking list. On the other hand, packing involves placing items into the boxes along with the documentation and appropriate packing materials before the package is labeled and shipped to the end-user.
How Does Pick, Pack, and Ship Work?
Many eCommerce stores get pick and pack services from a 3PL provider or manage their own order fulfillment. In both cases, the process is the same.
Let’s see how the picking, packing, and shipping processes work!
1. Order Receiving
The first step of the process is order receiving. The eCommerce sales channels are usually integrated with warehouse systems. Your warehouse fulfillment software creates a packing slip when an order is placed online.
2. Order Picking
The warehouse worker then uses that packing slip and picks the items from the warehouse shelves to fulfill the order. It is the core step of pick & pack service where your inventory storage strategies and pick pack methods play a vital role as they determine the efficiency of this step.
3. Order Packing
Once the picking is done, the order is sent to the packing station, where it is packed safely, sealed, and labeled for delivery.
4. Order Shipping
Here, the carriers sort the orders on the loading dock. After that, the orders are ready to be picked up by the carriers.
Order shipping might seem simple, but it has a complex science. It is necessary to have sufficient knowledge of efficient pick and pack methods to run your business smoothly, whether it is a million-dollar online store or a mom-and-pop eCommerce shop.
What Are Pick & Pack Methods?
Some of the basic pick and pack warehouse methods that many eCommerce businesses use for order fulfillment are enlisted below:
Piece picking involves taking the packing slip for a single order and moving around the warehouse to pick items off the shelves. Once you pick everything you need, the order is taken to the packing station. Piece picking is the simplest pick and pack method for small businesses.
Batch picking is suitable for businesses with a large number of orders that need to be organized into batches. Each batch contains items found in the same area of the warehouse. Batch picking gives pickers an efficient path through the warehouse. For example, if one item is needed in numerous orders, it is wise to pick those orders together to avoid walking back and forth in the warehouse.
Zone picking is another pick & pack method appropriate for larger fulfillment warehouses. In this technique, pickers stay in a warehouse zone and pick the items in their zone. After that, the order is passed onto the next zone, and as it moves through all the zones, it is sent to the packing station. However, for zone picking, you require warehouse management software that can assist you in zone picking.
Wave picking combines batch and zone picking where workers pick items within a zone for batch orders compared to a single order. After that, the batch is passed to the next zone for further picking.
How to Improve the Pick & Pack Fulfillment Process in a Warehouse?
Now that you are familiar with the basics of pick and pack, you must be wondering how to improve the order fulfillment process at your warehouse. Optimizing picking and packing methods is essential to streamlining your order fulfillment. Here are some valuable tips to optimize the pick packing process.
Invest in a Warehouse Management System (WMS)
A warehouse management system controls all the processes from when the product enters the warehouse to when it is shipped. Therefore, it is wise to invest in a warehouse management system like PackageX if you have a lot of inventory or excessively high sales volume.
Focus on Automating as Many Processes as You can
Automation is crucial in logistics, especially in a multistage process such as order fulfillment. You can increase accuracy and speed by automating your pick & pack processes. Also, with automation, you get access to important data and insights that you can use to track progress and make improvements.
Design Your Warehouse for Optimal Efficiency
Based on the size of the warehouse and how many orders you receive; much time can be wasted moving from one storage bin to another to fulfill each order.
Therefore, the most efficient way to optimize picking and packing is to design your warehouse for maximum efficiency. You can do it by:
- Placing top-selling products closer to your packing stations.
- Keep a stock of items typically sold together in neighboring storage zones.
- Organize your inventory from top-selling to low-selling.
Keep Your Inventory Updated
It is essential to keep your inventory updated and in stock if you want pickers to fill orders efficiently. Here an inventory management app can help you as it provides real-time tracking. It keeps tabs on current inventory and notifies you when stock is running low. Apart from updating inventory, you must also ensure that your inventory is accurately identified and stored.
Order fulfillment is not about having shelves of neatly stacked products; it goes beyond that. Without optimizing your pick & pack processes, you cannot ship orders to your customers with accuracy and speed. Therefore, you need to opt for best order packing practices and inventory storage strategies combined with technology to keep your warehouse operations streamlined.