You’re never done learning the basics.
And your pick and pack process is one of the most basic tasks for running a functional business.
Get it wrong, and you’ll lose money and customers.
Get it right, and you’ll streamline your order fulfillment and increase your profits.
We’ll show you the different ways you can design your pick and pack process and how to optimize it for long-term effectiveness.
But first, let’s define pick and pack.
What is a Pick and Pack Process?
Picking is the process of pulling inventory from the warehouse to be included in the customer order.
Packing is the process of gathering and packaging these items to prepare them for shipment to the customer.
The pick and pack process is a set of procedures and tools that your employees use to fulfill customer orders quickly and efficiently.
What are the Types of Pick and Pack Processes?
There are a few distinct types of pick and pack processes.
Here are 4 of them.
Discrete Order Picking
Discrete order picking is the process preferred most by small businesses.
Here’s an example of how it works:
- You receive 2 orders
- You pick and pack all the items for the first order
- Then you proceed to pick and pack all the items for the second order
- Rinse and repeat
You only ever complete the pick and pack process for one order at a time.
It’s used by small businesses very often because they usually have smaller product catalogs and order volumes and want to reduce mistakes as much as possible.
Instead of fulfilling one order at a time, batch picking is a process of gathering one batch of SKUs at a time.
If you have 5 orders, and 3 of them require Widget A, while 2 of them require Widget B, you would pick all the Widget As first, then pick the Widget Bs.
This helps save time and fulfill more orders quickly – making it ideal for SMB’s with larger product and order volumes.
Wave picking is a process that blends discrete and batch picking together.
Groups of similar orders are fulfilled during scheduled time frames, or waves.
The orders may have similar SKUs, similar shipping deadlines, or could simply be in close proximity to one another.
Zone picking consists of different employees assigned to different zones within your warehouse and only picking items located in their specific zone.
If an order comes through that requires items from Zone A and Zone B, the picker in Zone A will gather his items and pass on the order to the picker in zone B to complete the order.
This is ideal for large businesses with a high rate of inventory turnover.
Tips to Optimize Your Pick and Pack Process
Regardless of the type of pick and pack process you use, there are a few fundamental basics you should follow to optimize your system.
Here are 5 of them.
Design Your Warehouse for Efficiency
Designing your warehouse for efficient picking will dramatically cut down on the time it takes to gather items for orders.
Here are some design principles to keep in mind:
- Place top-selling items nearest the packing stations (since they’re going to be picked more often)
- Store items that are often packed together right next to each other
- Arrange the rest of your inventory from top-selling to least-selling
Keep Your Warehouse Well-Organized
Neatly organize every area in your warehouse to make the pick and pack process easy and fast.
Keep the floors clean and clear away any clutter to avoid accidents.
Make sure the supplies that your packers need are correctly organized around the workstation.
And ensure that when receiving inventory you put items in the same place every time for easy picking.
Program Your WMS for Easy Picking
Implement and program a warehouse management system (WMS) so that the items being picked are listed in the order the picker will find them. This is often used for discrete or wave picking processes.
Without this type of organization, pickers are forced to calculate the picking order in their heads, resulting in a lot of time wasted – a common occurrence if they’re stuck using an Excel inventory management system.
Double Check Each Order
Even with accurate software, you should have a real human double check your goods before they’re shipped.
The cost of return shipping, re-shipping the correct item, and potentially losing a customer will cost far more than spending a little extra time ensuring every item is correctly packed for every order.
Keep an Accurate Inventory Count
An optimized pick and pack process begins and ends with an accurate inventory system.
It’s hard to get an accurate inventory count using simple spreadsheets.
Instead, you should use barcodes or RFIDs on every piece of inventory and a perpetual inventory system instead of a periodic one for easy tracking and streamlined stocktaking.
Improving Your System Beyond the Pick and Pack Process
Your pick and pack process is only one essential part of running a productive warehouse.
There are many moving parts working together to keep your business operating efficiently.
The glue that holds it together is an inventory management system that tracks every item from the moment it arrives at your warehouse to the moment it’s shipped to your customer.
A powerful inventory management system will automate your ordering, integrate with your other business apps, and optimize your pick, pack, and ship process.
If that’s what you want in your business, we can help.