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 and 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 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 2023 is also estimated to be $55,057.
Automation in pick and pack operations simplifies supply chain and logistics by making fulfillment and distribution easier. With good inventory management and the right technology, businesses can quickly pick, pack, and ship orders. So, what is pick and pack, how does it work, and what are the methods involved in picking and packing orders? Here is a comprehensive guide to the pick and pack fulfillment process.
What is Pick and 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 finding and retrieving 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 boxes along with 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. A 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 and pack service where 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 the business smoothly, whether it is a million-dollar online store or a mom-and-pop ecommerce shop.
What Are Pick and Pack Methods?
Some of the basic pick and pack warehouse methods that many ecommerce businesses use for order fulfillment are enlisted below:
There are four different ways to perform picking operations in a warehouse, including:
Piece Picking: Piece picking involves taking the packing slip for a single order and moving around the warehouse to pick items off the shelves. Once everything is picked, the order is taken to the packing station. Piece picking is the simplest pick and pack method for small businesses.
Batch Picking: 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: Zone picking is another pick and pack method appropriate for large 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, warehouse management software is required that can assist in zone picking.
Wave 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.
Efficient and strategic packing is a critical component of order fulfillment in ecommerce. Proper packing strategies ensure the safe delivery of products and contribute to cost savings, customer satisfaction, and brand recognition. Three key packing strategies include:
Cartonization: Cartonization is the art of selecting the optimal packaging size for each order. By utilizing the right-sized packaging, businesses can minimize excess space, reduce shipping costs, and protect products during transit. Advanced algorithms and software solutions are available that analyze order dimensions and recommend the most appropriate box size for each shipment, streamlining pick and pack operations.
Kitting: Kitting is a significant part of the pick and pack process, which involves bundling multiple products into a single package. This strategy offers several benefits, including increased customer value perception, reduced individual packaging, and enhanced cross-selling opportunities. By combining complementary items, businesses can create attractive product bundles that encourage larger purchases and improve customer experience.
Branded Packaging: Branded packaging adds a touch of personality to each shipment. It allows businesses to reinforce their brand identity, create a memorable unboxing experience, and leave a lasting impression on customers. Customized boxes, tissue papers, stickers, or thank-you cards bearing the company's logo and colors can significantly enhance brand recognition and build customer loyalty.
Benefits of Pick and Pack Fulfillment
The benefits of pick and pack fulfillment are numerous and can significantly impact the efficiency and success of a business. Here are some key advantages:
Pick and pack fulfillment allows businesses to streamline operations and optimize resources, resulting in cost savings. It eliminates the need to collect items from different storage facilities and send them elsewhere for packing and labeling, reducing costs.
Flexibility and scalability:
It offers flexibility to accommodate fluctuating order volumes allowing businesses to scale their operations up or down based on demand, enabling efficient handling of small and large orders. This adaptability is particularly valuable during peak seasons or promotional periods.
Improved order accuracy:
With dedicated staff members responsible for picking and packing individual orders, the chances of errors and mix-ups are significantly reduced. This improves order accuracy, minimizing shipping mistakes, incorrect items, or missing components.
How to Improve the Pick and Pack Fulfillment Process in a Warehouse?
After becoming familiar with the basics of pick and pack, businesses need to learn how to improve the order fulfillment process at their warehouses. Optimizing picking and packing methods is essential to streamlining order fulfillment. Here are some valuable tips to optimize the pick packing process.
Invest in a Warehouse Management System (WMS)
A warehouse management system (WMS) controls all the processes from when the product enters the warehouse to when it is shipped. Therefore, investing in a warehouse management system like PackageX is wise if businesses 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. Businesses can increase accuracy and speed by automating their pick and pack processes. Also, with automation, they get access to important data and insights that can be used to track progress and make improvements.
Design Warehouse for Optimal Efficiency
Based on the warehouse size and number of orders received, 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 the warehouse for maximum efficiency by:
- Placing top-selling products closer to the packing stations.
- Keeping a stock of items typically sold together in neighboring storage zones.
- Organizing the inventory from top-selling to low-selling.
Keep Your Inventory Updated
Keeping the inventory updated and in stock is essential if businesses want pickers to fill orders efficiently. Here an inventory management app can help as it provides real-time tracking. It keeps tabs on current inventory and notifies when stock runs low. Besides updating inventory, businesses must ensure that inventory is accurately identified and stored.
Pick and Pack FAQs
What are the benefits of outsourcing pick and pack services to a third-party provider?
Outsourcing pick and pack services to a third-party provider, such as a fulfillment center or 3PL, offers various advantages. These include access to specialized expertise, infrastructure, and technology, which can improve efficiency and accuracy while allowing businesses to focus on core operations. It also provides scalability, cost savings, and the ability to leverage the provider's established network and shipping capabilities.
What technology is used in pick and pack fulfillment?
Various technologies are employed in pick and pack fulfillment, including warehouse management systems (WMS), barcode scanning devices, order management software, and automated sorting systems. These technologies help streamline operations, improve accuracy, and provide real-time visibility into inventory and order status.
Can pick and pack services handle international shipping?
Yes, pick and pack services can handle international shipping. Experienced providers are familiar with international shipping requirements, customs documentation, and compliance with local regulations. They can assist businesses in ensuring proper packaging, labeling, and documentation for smooth international order fulfillment.
What is a pick and pack fee?
A pick and pack fee is imposed for the services involved in selecting items from inventory (picking) and packaging them (packing) for customer orders. It covers labor, materials, and operational expenses associated with the fulfillment process. Fees may vary based on factors like order complexity or size.
Order fulfillment is not about having shelves of neatly stacked products; it goes beyond that. Without optimizing the pick and pack processes, businesses cannot accurately and quickly ship orders to their customers. Therefore, they must opt for best order packing practices, inventory storage strategies, and technology to streamline their warehouse operations.