April 20th, 2023
Warehouse Picking and Packing Fulfilment Process: The Ultimate Guide
Table of Contents
Pick and Pack Tips for Next-Level Warehouse Management
In years gone by, warehouse picking and packing focused on maximising efficiency and minimising errors, often through the manual labour of a skilled supply chain crew.
Today? Warehousing is an entirely different ballgame.
With globalisation and increased competition, the focus has shifted to fulfilling customer expectations of fast delivery and accuracy which, in turn, calls for using technological adjustments such as automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence.
In other words, the process of warehouse picking and packing needs to be optimised in order to keep up with the rising cost that comes with the process while at the same time fulfilling the process in the least amount of time possible.
In this guide, we’ll take you through effective tips and strategies that can help you optimise warehouse picking and processing at every stage. It ultimately aims to assist everyone within your organisation from warehouse operative through to logistics and procurement managers, covering some of the basics right through the the more technical elements of warehouse operations.
Ready to learn how to optimise your pick and pack operations and improve operational efficiency throughout your organisation? Let’s get started!
What is Warehouse Picking and Packing?
Picking and packing is the process of selecting customers’ orders as indicated in the inventory and the orders placed and preparing them for shipping from a warehouse.
This process is at the epicentre of customer satisfaction, selling goods, and making profits. That’s why, if you own a warehouse, you need to keep an extra eye on the process to ensure errors have been minimised and efficiency maximised.
And this guide gives you a leg up on the whole exercise. Let’s look at the process in more detail.
The process of picking and packing in the warehouse cannot be completed without mentioning when the warehouse receives the order. This is the first and perhaps most important part of the whole process – it involves receiving the order information, which is in turn transferred to the team responsible for picking and packing the ordered goods.
The second stage is picking, in which you find and retrieve the right quantities of each product (in the customer order) from its location in the warehouse using a picking list and preparing it for packing. There is a need to put emphasis on this process and back it up with quality and counter-checking to ensure the goods picked are of the right volume as ordered. Products like merchandise trolleys make the picking process more effective and efficient.
The third process involves packing, which involves placing items into the package with the right shipping containers/materials along with the documentation and appropriate packing materials before the package is labelled and shipped to the customer.
Key hardware such as our very own plastic pallet collars can play a key role at this stage of packaging. They are ideal for making sure products and materials are secure when in transit, virtually eliminating the potential for product damage/crushing.
The last process involves dispatching or shipping the said goods from the warehouse to the customer.
The Warehouse Picking Process
A dedicated team is usually on hand to oversee warehouse operations in most UK warehouse environments. Naturally, the size and scope of each team will vary by industry, scale and complexity, but the general picking process can be summarised as follows:
- The orders come in through the warehouse Order Management System
- The customer orders (pick tickets) are then prioritised based on the client type and delivery date.
- The pick tickets are reviewed for any special requirements that need extra attention.
- The pick tickets are then passed to the picking team
- A warehouse picker will use one of the merchandising trolleys to pick items around the warehouse
- The picked items are scanned and moved to the packing process
The Warehouse Packing Process
This process may include various steps conducted by different warehouse operatives in a diverse range of roles, but in most cases, packing includes the following:
- Packing order in the correct packaging (depending on the type of product)
- Scanning and removing it from the inventory log
- Placing the order in a shipping container and attaching a shipping label
- Sorting the order (based on the delivery vehicle or shipping location)
- Taking the packaged products to the loading area for pick-up/shipping
- Shipping carriers pick up their pallets at the shipping or packing dispatch dock.
The Importance of Picking and Packing in a Warehouse
Let’s take a look at some of the main benefits of incorporating pick and pack warehouse duties into the order fulfilment process.
Exceeding customers’ expectations
One of the major benefits of the right pick and pack strategy is improved customer service and satisfaction levels.
Logistics firms can easily control the movement of inventory and expedite order fulfilment to ensure speedy delivery of customers’ orders.
The right pick and pack strategy ensures on-time shipments, and this can be used to build a loyal customer base.
The right pick and pack approach is efficient and saves time for supply chain managers. It speeds up order fulfilment and critical inventory management activities, enabling goods to be inventoried, stored, picked, and packed in one location.
Since all order fulfilment activities are performed under one roof, this shortens the tedious process in which products are assembled from various storage facilities and sent to another location for packing and labelling.
Improving Cost Effectiveness
Pick and pack is cost-effective when properly optimised. Through reduced average order processing time, the process maximises asset utilisation and minimises operational and/or shipping costs and delivery times.
A warehouse management system can help streamline the process by collating and managing operational and inventory data as well as packaging information.
A fulfilment management system helps simplify some of the advanced methods at play here and enables your team to efficiently manage the storage and fulfilment of orders.
This brings us to the next section, picking and packing methods. Remember, the benefits we’ve discussed above are informed by the following process.
Picking and Packing Methods
The picking and packing methods depend on the size of the business and the products in question; you may change the methods as your business grows. Let’s take a look at some of the methods used by large eCommerce and logistics companies.
Piece picking entails packing a slip for a single order. In other words, it involves picking, packing, and shipping an ordered item one at a time. This method is time-consuming and, hence, not applicable to large businesses.
Batch picking is applicable when there are multiple orders that need to be put together in a batch. Each batch of orders is for items that are in the same area of the warehouse. This method makes the picking process more effective and efficient since the clumsy business of walking back and forth to the warehouse is minimised.
Pick and pack software can help you batch orders for efficient picking. Batch Picking is ideal for businesses starting to experience high volumes of orders.
Zone picking is a good technique for larger fulfilment warehouses. Each Picker is assigned a particular zone of order picking in the warehouse. Upon completing picking up the ordered item from the first zone, the packing slip is passed through all the pickers’ zones and eventually taken to the packing station.
Zone picking requires complex coordination in the fulfilment process. A SaaS-based warehouse management logistics software can be incorporated to help manage the zone picking process.
Wave picking is a combination of batch and zone picking. Workers pick items within a zone for a batch of orders rather than a single order. Then they pass the batch to the next zone for picking.
No matter your picking and packing method, it has been reported that some logistics companies continue to face challenges in the whole process. Let’s take a look at some of them in the next section.
Warehouse Picking and Packing Challenges
Here are some common challenges that make the pick and pack process inefficient and costly:
An inaccurate inventory record can lead to incorrect scheduling and a longer lead time. If the stock records are not updated, or inventory data is entered incorrectly, it can lead to confusion regarding the amount of stock available in the order fulfilment process.
If an ordered item is out of stock and takes longer to ship, it lowers customer satisfaction, encourages buyers to look at competitors’ products, and negatively affects a brand’s reputation.
- Various Factors that Increase Turn-Around Time
The turn-around time (TAT) for the pick and pack process refers to the time taken to pick, consolidate, and pack the ordered items.
TAT can increase due to reasons such as incorrect product placement, inefficient picking methods, unorganised warehouses, etc. An increased TAT can result in a lower pick and pack throughput rate, i.e., the number of units picked and packed per standard working hour. This delays order fulfilment and ultimately leads to reduced customer satisfaction.
- Missing on Incomplete Product Information
Lack of accurate, detailed product information can lead to an inefficient pick and pack process, as data is essential for performing this process effectively. Some of the crucial data that you should track include:
- Total number of stock units by product category
- Items sold together frequently
- The average number of lines per order & units per order
- Product groups, such as hazardous, temperature, and high-value groups
- Dimensions and weight of a product, among others
For the picking process:
Misinformation on details such as the average number of lines per order and items sold together can lead to the selection of an inefficient picking method. This, in turn, can lead to an increased pick and pack lead time and inefficiency in order fulfilment.
For the packing process:
Missing details such as the fragility and weight of a product can lead to insecure packaging. Customers end up receiving a damaged product, reducing customer satisfaction.
Of course, challenges are inevitable in any industrial process – but you don’t have to face the same ones just because everyone else in the industry is facing them. Let’s take a look at some of the best practices you can follow to overcome them and do more business than your competitors.
Warehouse Pick and Pack Best Practices and Optimisation
To improve and optimise your warehouse picking and packing process, consider the following best practices.
Utilising Mobile Technology To Improve Inventory Accuracy
Warehouse inventory can be maintained accurately by utilising mobile technologies such as barcodes and RFID scanners. Manual data entry is prone to human error, so scanning barcodes or RFID tags gives you an almost error-free way of entering data into the system.
Setting up a wireless network properly as well as mobile scanners allows the stock count to be updated in real-time as soon as cargo is scanned and picked. This allows the warehouse to always have an up-to-date count of inventory so that the scheduling of orders is as accurate as possible. This also allows warehouse managers to have real-time visibility, which can help them make effective business decisions.
Design Your Warehouse for Optimal Efficiency
An optimal warehouse design helps reduce the lead time of the pick and pack process, improves efficiency, and decreases operational costs.
Therefore, the most efficient way to optimise picking and packing is to design your warehouse for maximum efficiency. You can do it by:
- Placing top-selling products closer to your packing stations.
- Keep a stock of items typically sold together in neighbouring storage zones.
- Organise your inventory from top-selling to low-selling.
After performing this exercise, items can be located easily, picked, and packed, leading to a more optimised turn-around time.
Adopting Business Intelligence to Utilise Data
To improve the efficiency of warehouse processes such as pick and pack, warehouses should always track their data.
This can be achieved by adopting Business Intelligence, as this technology collects, analyses, and presents product data in an easy-to-understand manner. Warehouse managers can then utilise this data to make informed business decisions and optimise the pick and pack process.
How RollPallet UK Can Assist in Your Picking and Packing Efforts
Optimising the pick and pack process can help warehouse managers streamline operations, achieve a higher perfect order rate, and improve customer satisfaction.
It’s time to consider going for automation, robots, and artificial intelligence to make sure you’ve streamlined your warehouse pick and pack processes and other overall procedures and tools that can increase productivity.
With cutting edge technology at our disposal to produce the tools that’ll help you get the job done with ease and efficiency, we’re on hand to help your team save both time and money. Some of these tools include trolleys, roll cage containers, and stillages – core staples of our offering here at RollPallet UK.
Now that you understand why and how to fulfill your pick and pack process, it’s time to get to the next level – contact our sales team today and we’ll gladly assist you and provide your business with the expert advice you need to make the right decision for your specific warehouse, supply chain and inventory management requirements.