Effective supply chain management is vital for any business, big or small. Without the help of proven, efficient supply chain management strategies and practices, your company may suffer from poor workflows, high costs, unreliable order fulfillment, and major losses.
One of the most vital parts of the order fulfillment process is the pick and pack stage. If the pick and pack stage is not optimized, then a number of issues may arise. This includes order delays, order inaccuracies, delivery of damaged goods, and more.
So, to guarantee the success of your business operations, optimizing the pick and pack process is vital. This is easier said than done, and there is no single ‘right’ way to do it. Business owners must consider different strategies and methods, and determine which one suits their needs best.
What is pick and pack?
Pick and pack is a three-stage part of the supply chain management process. The process is pretty much exactly what the name suggests. Pick and pack involves the following:
- Receiving an order: Your warehouse system is connected to your online store sales page. So when a customer places an order, the warehouse system is notified and generates a packing slip.
- Picking the order: This part is done manually. A warehouse worker will take the generated slip and find the items listed from the warehouse. Different warehouses employ various inventory strategies to help ease this process by making it easier to find the items
- Packing the order: The order is now sent to a packing station, where it is packed using necessary equipment and the required documentation is placed alongside it. It is now ready for the delivery stage.
How does pick and pack work?
Pick and pack fulfillment can be done in many ways, depending on the warehouse. Here are the different methods of picking and packing.
This pick and pack strategy is most commonly employed by small businesses. It involves taking the packing slip of one individual order at a time as they come in for the pick and pack process.
In batch picking, different items from various orders are grouped together because of a common similarity. For example, if they are located close to each other in the warehouse. This method is used when there are many small orders to fulfill at one time and to do so, a pick and pack software is required. By grouping items together in this way, you save time for your order pickers. This is because they now only have to go to a designated place in the warehouse once to pick up an item that is required for several orders. Pack workers can then redistribute said items to the specific order during the packing process.
This method is most commonly used in fulfillment warehouses. With zone picking, workers are assigned a specific zone in the warehouse where they set up camp. When an order comes through, workers located in a zone with one or more listed goods will pick the individual items. They will then pass the order to the next zone, and the process continues until the order is complete and is ready to be sent to the packing station. This process requires far more coordination than batch picking and requires more efficient management of pack operations.
Wave picking is a combination of both batch and zone picking. The pickers in the warehouse are assigned to zones, but they receive orders in batches instead of one at a time. It is the most time-efficient method of the four for large businesses, but requires a fair deal of organization and a comprehensive understanding of pick and pack services.
What are the Challenges to the Pick and Pack Process?
As with any part of the supply chain, the pick and pack process may face certain challenges. Below are some challenges that may come up.
Inaccurate inventory counts
An inaccurate inventory count can make it difficult to manage the pick and pack process. This is because an inaccurate count can lead to further problems such as scheduling errors. With an incorrect count, the inventory stock is incorrectly recorded, and shortages may occur when the orders are meant to be picked, causing order delays.
Inefficient warehouse layouts
An inefficient storage layout may negatively affect your turn-around time (TAT). TAT is the overall time it takes to pick orders and pack a customer’s order. If you have an unorganized warehouse, it is difficult to efficiently find the desired items as orders start to come in. This inevitably leads to delays.
Missing Product Information (or lack of integrations)
Inventory data is an essential factor when it comes to the pick and pack process. For example, in the picking process, inaccurate recording of the average number of lines per order or improper listings of complementary goods may cause problems to arise. This leads to order inaccuracies or order delays. Similarly, in the packing process, if factors such as the weight or fragility of the items are not recorded, then problems in the delivery process arise – such as customers receiving damaged goods.
How to Optimize the Pick and Pack Process
Here are some methods to help increase the efficiency of your pick and pack process:
Design Your Warehouse for Efficiency
There are ways to organize your warehouse facility that minimize your turnaround time. By performing an ABC analysis, which categorizes your inventory into 3 parts, based on factors such as sales, the most popular items can be made easier to access, quickly. Also, you can place items that are usually ordered together in the same place. This will be beneficial for your warehouse in long term, as it will not only increase the efficiency of the pick and pack process, but reduces operational costs too.
Keep Your Warehouse Well-Organized
A tidy work environment can make all the difference. This is especially true for warehouses. Make sure your warehouse is free of as much clutter as possible to avoid accidents or problems in maneuvering around the premises. Also, keep the packing station organized, with any and all supplies needed to pack different items for shipping.
Program Your WMS for Easy Picking
Your Warehouse Management System, or WHS, makes for easy picking, by listing the items of an order in terms of where they are located. This will reduce the time it takes to find a complete order, and is less manual work for a picker.
Double Check Each Order
Although technology is becoming increasingly efficient, you should still have a person assigned to double-check orders after they are picked, packed, and made ready for shipment. This will reduce the chances of mistakes occurring and corresponding needs for reshipment. Reshipment is pricey and decreases revenue, so the likelihood of it should be minimized.
Keep an Accurate Inventory Count
Having a detailed inventory organization system can make all the difference to your pick and pack process. For large companies especially, spreadsheets are not the best choice. They can get messy and complicated.
For accuracy, opt for barcodes and RFIDs. A perpetual inventory management system will also help – as it’s technology-enabled. A perpetual system keeps a record of stocked and sold items as they change, and continuously updates your accounting system when sales are made or new stocks are bought.
Start using ShipHero pick and pack warehouse fulfillment services
Warehouse fulfillment can be tricky to optimize. The goal for any business is to minimize labor costs, optimize quality control and order accuracy, and maximize customer satisfaction. E-commerce fulfillment can be difficult though, especially if you lack the right resources. This is where warehouse fulfillment companies can really help retailers grow their businesses.
ShipHero is a data-driven warehouse management system that optimizes workflows and even handles order fulfillment for you. Here’s how ShipHero helps optimize your business operations and logistics.
ShipHero provides users with a distributed inventory, which means that your inventory is divided up and stored at different storage facilities. This means that when a customer places an order in a specific area, the order is fulfilled and shipped from the nearest location, reducing delivery times and costs simultaneously.
ShipHero’s warehouse management platform optimizes order management through technology. The advanced software integrates effortlessly with your business systems and provides you with multiple customization options. Users can create custom workflows to cater to their business’s specific needs, and set automation rules to make the processes more efficient. When an order is placed, ShipHero’s system automatically assigns them to the nearest warehouse.
Done for you fulfillment
ShipHero has evolved into more than just a warehouse management system – we also offer efficient order fulfillment, just for you. For as little as $5.58, ShipHero will pick, pack and ship your orders. ShipHero’s order fulfillment is also especially reliable, thanks to our distributed inventory and network of fulfillment centers across the country. When orders are placed, the WMS has them routed to the nearest location, minimizing transit times, costs, and the possibility of order delays.
Bulk shipping discounts
ShipHero’s warehouse management solution comes with built-in shipping multicarrier shipping options and automated label generation and shipping quoting. The advanced software determines the cheapest shipping option for individual orders, making sure you always have the most cost-effective option.
Getting your pick and pack processes right can be tricky, but it’s well worth the time and effort. After all, the success of any ecommerce business comes down to happy customers, and efficient picking and packing are necessary to achieve this. Late orders, high shipping fees, and order inaccuracies won’t keep your customers coming back for more.
Effective warehouse management and the best pick and pack strategies can help improve your workflow and optimize the order fulfillment process, but this isn’t always enough. Sometimes, you need a third-party with a team of experts to handle the logistics while you focus on growing your business. This is where a warehouse management solution like ShipHero can help you out.