Understanding Pick and Pack for Efficient Fulfillment Process
Successful order fulfillment is not just about neatly stacked products and on-time delivery of orders. The pick-and-pack methods also play a crucial role. Inventory management and the right pick and pack method help in shipping the orders accurately at the maximum speed.
The fundamental functions of warehousing involve receiving, storing, picking, packing, and shipping the orders. However, pick and pack are the fundamental concepts that form the foundation of the entire process.
In this blog, we shall discuss what pick and pack are. We will also talk about the pick and pack methods.
What is Pick and Pack?
Take a look at the definitions of pick and pack in the supply chain to get a deeper understanding of the terms:
The picking function begins after the buyer places an order. It involves the process of locating the items in the warehouse and picking their right quantities from each respective location in the warehouse.
Packing is the process of adequately packaging the ordered items/products along with bills or other documents. For example, putting a product in the bag first, then in a box, and finally, attaching a label to it.
A label carries crucial information like shipper name and address, customer name, address, and contact number, purchase order number, SKU number, tracking details, bar codes, etc. Once the product is packed and labeled, it is ready to ship.
Pick and Pack Methods
When you pick and pack your products, you use methods that you use in your life. You might use the ways to organize inventory the way you organize clothes in your closet. Put all shirts together and pants together. Or you can also put products that go together to make it easy to pack them. And that’s it! Gather the items when you receive an order and pack them to process the order further.
This way may work for you if your business is in its initial stage or smaller in size. But, as it will grow, you will require new and professional strategies. Adopting better pick and pack strategies can help reduce mistakes and returns and save money. Besides, with efficient operations, the customers will also be happier.
However, the pick and pack strategy that will work better for your business will depend on the products you sell and your business size. Also, you can change or adopt new strategies as your business will grow. Here are some strategies that you can employ:
A piece picking is a simple method where you take the packing slip and process a single order. You locate the product in the warehouse and pick it off the shelf for further processing. Once you have everything, you take the product to the packing station for its packaging. This method is ideal if the business is smaller in size and/or you receive only a few orders daily. In this case, it is the easiest and most effective method.
As the name suggests, batch picking is used when you have to organize orders into batches. A batch is allocated for items that are in the same area of the fulfillment center. The main goal of batch picking is to pick orders efficiently – pick all the SKUs together and in one go that are placed together. If one SKU is required for different orders, it only makes sense to gather them together rather than repeatedly going for each product. This will make the process efficient, faster, and save time.
This method can be used for smaller businesses, considering your pick and pack all orders at one time of the day. However, this method is only efficient if you don’t pick and pack an order each time you receive an order. You can also take the help of software to help you with the efficient batch picking process.
Zone picking is the technique used by most of the larger warehouses. Each zone is assigned a picker, and they pick the products when you receive an order from their zone. Then they pass the product to the picker in the next zone – this way, the product moves through all the zones to finally reach the packing station. This method employs coordination and requires skilled and experts to handle the process. Or you can also have warehouse management software to help you manage the picking process.
This method is a combination of batch picking and zone picking. Pickers pick the products in batches and pass them from one zone to another until they reach the packing station.
Best Practices for Order Picking
There are a few best practices for order picking to improve your overall warehousing operations.
- When you organize the SKUs in the warehouse, focus on the facility flow. The flow should be from receiving SKUs for storage to order picking and from sorting them to packing for shipping. Each area should be in logical order – next to each other to eliminate double back.
- No matter where you have stored your products – on shelves or racks, ensure that you have divided with totes or dividers. It will help in finding them faster. This is ideal for sorting and storing bulk SKUs that are smaller in size.
- Another best practice is to place SKUs in zones next to each other that generally go together. For example, you can place shampoos and conditioners closer. This will save time make the picking process efficient.
Best Practices for Order Packing
Several things require consideration when you pack the products:
- You can re-scan the products before packing them to ensure that you put the right product against each packing slip.
- Don’t do the guesswork in choosing the right size of the packaging. Have pre-decided boxes for each product, or you can simply use some software to calculate the right size of the box required for packaging.
- Don’t forget to use packaging inserts while packing the products, specifically if the products are fragile.
- Ensure that the right label with correct information is placed on each product.
It is crucial to have a proper pick and pack process to ensure that you have an efficient fulfillment process in place. You can use the strategies discussed above or also use technology to make the process easier and efficient.