Picking and packing is a vital element of e-commerce order fulfilment services that intends to enhance the shipping and delivery of a product.

The method is typically used in the retail industry, where instead of shipping large pallets of goods, businesses use employees to individually pick merchandise from their location within the warehouse and then pack them into the appropriate packaging with the relevant order invoice for shipment.

Picking and packing not only allows customer orders to be more customisable but if done efficiently can be both cost and time-effective as well. Are you still wondering what the pick and pack process involves and how it could benefit your business?

Read on; we’ve got all the answers for you here.

What is involved during the picking and packing process?

Picking and packing requires a high level of organisation, attention to detail, speed and precision, so it is essential to ensure that whoever is fulfilling the order handles the goods responsibly during the process. The customers’ order should always be picked accurately and packed in a neat arrangement as this will bring about a good or bad impression of your business.

Inventory Management

Even though the method of picking and packing occurs at a specific moment, the process itself starts well before the customer has placed their order. For example, to be able to pick the product from the warehouse, it must be stocked and shelved logically to ensure it can be accessed quickly and efficiently, so it is vital to streamline warehouse inventory.

Proper inventory management will enhance the speed at which the merchandise can be picked, packed, loaded and shipped, which will increase customer satisfaction. There are several ways in which a business could organise their warehouse to optimise layout and space such as maintaining warehouse cleanliness, implementing a labelling system, having a separate warehouse dedicated solely to picking or using aisle signs and slotting methods.

For example, if your business sells shoes, you could organise your warehouse by gender and type. So, all ladies shoes would be in one section, then to narrow it down further, you could use aisle signs to depict the type of shoe within that section, e.g. ladies heeled boots and then slot that style in alphabetical order.

Pick and Pack Fulfilment

The act of picking and packing refers to picking stock from a storage location and packing the item into its required packaging to be shipped after receiving an order placed in an online store. It can even be used to describe the procedure of assembling goods to be packed and shipped to its next location (another store, or warehouse).

Whether the business is using a fulfilment company or self-fulfilling the order, picking and packing will require the worker to print shipping labels and invoices, inspect the picked item to ensure it is not damaged or faulty. The order-picker can then manage the stock’s movement from the warehouse to the customer and ensure it is tracked through the system correctly.

Also, depending on the size of the requested product and order, the business should have many packaging options available. Customers may order single-units or in large bulks, so having different options makes it appear less like a third-party has packaged the product. Preventing delays or missing items as multiple orders are arranged in one giant package or box.

E-commerce companies responsible for their customers’ order fulfilment often streamline their picking and packing operation with picking methods to ensure they are making the best possible use of their time.

Types of Picking and Packing Methods in a Warehouse

There is a range of different picking methods utilised by order fulfilment hubs, which depending on the size and type of your business may work for you. Take a look at these different methods which may improve the quality and productivity of your supply chain.

Discrete Order Picking

The simplest method of picking and probably the most common. It requires an individual to pick a single order, one at a time as and when they receive it. However, though this method is uncomplicated and easy to employ it is not time efficient and so would be best suited to smaller warehouses.

Batch Picking

As the name suggests, this requires the order fulfiller to pick multiple orders at one time. While it still requires workers to choose items for an individual mandate, it is more efficient than discrete order picking as it reduces travelling time, especially if the orders required share the same or similar SKUs.

This method is often employed in warehouses with larger e-commerce activity. However, unless the order-picker has access to automated picking services such as a conveyor belt or a forklift, this method can be ineffective if the customer orders are physically large or heavy.

Zone Picking

This method requires the warehouse to be divided into several zones, of which order-pickers are then explicitly assigned. Order-pickers are then responsible for picking and packing SKUs within these designated zones. If there is an order with multiple items, employees in each zone will pass packages to one another until the final product has been packed.

This method is more efficient than both discrete order picking and batch picking but only allows for one scheduling period per shift. Meaning that if the worker finishes their turn and there is no-one on shift after them, orders are placed into the queue until the following change.

Wave Picking

This is another commonly used method in order fulfilment warehouses. It is similar to discrete order picking in the sense that one order is being pulled at a time by the order-picker, but unlike discrete order picking, wave picking has a scheduling window.

This method helps to increase time efficiency and maximise productivity within the pick and pack company by scheduling picking at the most appropriate times of the day.

There are other methods used in warehouses which have also proved to be successful, such as multi-batch picking, or zone-batch-wave picking, but those mentioned above are the most commonly used.

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How Can Pick & Pack Benefit Your Business?

Picking and packing services can benefit your business by reducing labour costs, protect your stock and creating speedy delivery which will not only increase customer satisfaction but positively boost the awareness of your brand. An adequate supply chain is vital in building good customer relationships and picking and packing services will help you achieve this by meeting your customers’ demands.

Increases Diversity of Products

Rather than have a ‘middle man’, pick and pack companies can offer a broader range of their online products to their customers by being able to manage and control their storage.

Manual picking and packing allow for a more flexible system and by being able to offer a wider variety of products to your customers, not only will this increase your brand’s visibility but also its chances of becoming “the website of choice.”

Increase Customer Satisfaction

Modern-day consumers expect excellent service and speedy delivery, which can put a lot of pressure on e-commerce businesses when fulfilling orders. Warehouse picking and packing ensures that your stock is stored safely and allows your employees to identify faults or discrepancies before the order is shipped, which prevents the customer from receiving a defective product.

Also, as the pick and pack process is carried out in one place, items can be shipped quickly and accurately, which will have a tremendous long-term effect on customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Reduce Cost to Your Business

An efficiently run pick and pack fulfilment service are also cost-effective. You could do this by using an order management system which will maintain and analyse item and packaging information to help reduce costs and prevent packing being wasted as well as the time needed to complete an order.

Picking and packing also reduce cost by eliminating the “middle man” as it doesn’t require a business to store its products remotely and send them elsewhere to be shipped.

Streamline Operations

Picking and packing allow you to streamline your order fulfilment services which is a critical piece of your customer satisfaction activity. By having complete control of the pick and pack process, you can implement and decide on the most effective operational procedures for your warehouse to ensure accuracy, care and delivery times are being met in the shortest possible time.

This can range from factors such as the picking process to the layout of your warehouse and the packaging you use, which are all critical to successful order fulfilment. Aside from this, streamlining your activity will also save you money and improve staff satisfaction by providing organisation and structure to their working environment.

Ultimately, it’s essential to understand the needs and demands of your e-commerce business as the right pick and pack method will depend on the operation of your business. Analyse your supply chain to see how it can become most productive as nothing will kill company profitability than an inefficient pick and pack process.

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