Picking List: How to Create and Optimize It

Picking is a crucial step of order processing. You can’t pick items in your warehouse without a pick list. If you make mistakes on your pick list, you’ll likely send customers the wrong products. 

Taking too long to generate pick lists also means delaying customer orders.

Here, you’ll learn all about picking lists and how to optimize them. Read on to improve your picking list creation today!

What is a Pick List?

A pick list is a document your warehouse staff uses during the order fulfillment process. It contains the essential information needed to locate the ordered items in your warehouse or fulfillment center. 

Pick lists are important because you can’t rely on memory when picking customer orders. Messy pick lists might lead to your warehouse workers taking the wrong items to the packers, which leads to returns and dissatisfied customers.

The 2 Types of Pick Lists

Pick lists recap your customer’s cart, so they should contain all the items they ordered. Pick lists can consist of one type or multiple types of items. Items are usually listed in your warehouse with a stock-keeping unit (SKU). 

There are two types of picking lists used by warehouse workers:

Physical Pick Lists

Physical pick lists are old-school paper lists. This is usually found at very simple warehouses that don’t use any warehouse automation software or digital technology.

Digital Pick Lists

Digital pick lists are used on devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops. This is the most common type of picking list available due to its convenience. Warehouse managers can create order details automatically and send them to each picker. 

Digital lists can also include the product’s details, so warehouse pickers don’t accidentally retrieve the wrong item.

What Information Goes in a Pick List?

The information that goes in a pick list details the customer order to help warehouse pickers. Here are four important pieces of order information that must be in a pick list: 

Order Number

Order reference numbers are usually auto-generated by the system for each pick list. Order numbers give you transparency and visibility if issues arise with the order. For instance, if the customer receives the wrong item, you can see which warehouse worker picked the order and ask them about the problem.

Product Details

The two most important product details in a pick list are its SKU and location.

A SKU is unique and identifies each product specifically. This prevents any mixups that may happen when products are similar to each other.

Location is also essential because product picking needs to be accurate. Your pick list should have detailed location information down to the storage level, aisle, shelf and bin. Meanwhile, your warehouse floor should have clearly visible signage that complements the location information given in a pick list.

Product details might also include barcodes, labels and photos to help the picker identify the right item. Your pick list also needs to list how many units of an item are in a customer order.

Date and Time of the Order

Many eCommerce businesses promise to deliver goods within a certain time frame. Order date and time ensure you prioritize urgent orders so they arrive at the customers’ doors on time.

Customer Information

Pickers don’t need to see customer information – this part of the pick list is for the packers and shippers. Packers need the customer’s name and shipping address to validate order details and create a packing slip. Meanwhile, shipment carriers need them to ensure correct delivery.

How Can I Streamline My Picking and Packing Processes?

You can streamline your picking and packing process by following these steps and best practices:

1. Limit the Number of Movements and Points of Contact

The more warehouse operators roam around the space, the less efficient. Organize your warehouse location to ensure as few points of contact as possible, maximizing productivity. 

Consider creating zones and clusters for items often bought together so people don’t have to make long trips around the warehouse. Implementing sections and categories in your warehouse also helps prevent accidents and errors.

2. Analyze the Efficiency of the Picking Method

There are many kinds of picking methods your warehouse can use. Some examples include batch picking, zone picking and wave picking.

Different picking methods fit different types of warehouses. Consider your order volume, warehouse layout and other factors to choose the right method for you. The right method will let you save time in the picking process.

3. Assess Automated Solutions

You have many options to automate picking and packing operations. One of the more popular ways is to implement a warehouse management system (WMS) to monitor staff performance and give you real-time visibility into the entire process. You can also consider using warehouse robots or conveyor belts to minimize staff travel time.

4. Don’t Forget About the Packaging

Packaging is an often overlooked part of streamlining the picking and packing process. Getting the right-sized boxes and appropriate packing materials is essential. It helps your packing crew prepare items for shipping faster, resulting in items getting to customers sooner.

How do you get the right-sized boxes? You can do it with cartonization. Cartonization is a procedure where you measure your products’ dimensions and determine the best box sizes for them. This means you already know what kind of boxes to use on which products, saving you time and money when shopping for new packing materials.

Pick Lists in a Warehouse Management System

Creating picking lists through your warehouse management system gives you a lot of benefits. Your WMS can generate pick lists automatically when a customer submits an order. This way, you don’t have to manually create a picking list, saving you time. 

Your WMS records stock movement data in real-time to improve inventory management. This means employees don’t have to do manual stock checks after every order to determine inventory levels. It can also designate temporary containers pickers can deposit items in before sending them to packers.

WMS records can later be reviewed to determine which items are popular with customers. This way, you can increase supplies of popular products in case of higher customer demand.

Take a look at what a picking list in our ShipHero software looks like!

Key Takeaways

A picking list helps your warehouse staff retrieve items ordered by customers. It details product codes, location in the warehouse and quantity to ensure packers receive the correct items. It also helps to minimize mis-picks and provides pickers with an easy-to-read tool as they work throughout the day.

Picking List FAQs

What is a picking list?

A picking list is a document that contains details for a customer’s order. It helps warehouse staff pick the correct items for the packing team to prepare for shipping.

What is a pick list used for?

A pick list is used for locating the right items in the warehouse to fulfill customer orders.

How does order picking impact profitability?

Order picking impacts profitability by ensuring order accuracy. Well-made picking lists reduce the chances of customers receiving the wrong orders. In turn, that leads to lower returns, lower costs and higher customer satisfaction.

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