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What is Picking and Packing? A Comprehensive Guide for Warehouses

Lengthy order processing, loss or damage of goods, delayed shipments… All these consequences often result from an inefficient picking and packing process. These are the two most labor-intensive warehouse processes. According to statistics, order pick accounts for about 55% of the total labor volume in the warehouse, while pack accounts for another 20%.

If you have only one warehouse and a small level of inventory, these operations can be relatively easy to manage. However, as your business grows and the number of orders increases, difficulties arise with the accuracy and speed of pick and pack. In our article, we will explain what is picking and packing, and provide a solution to increase their efficiency.

  1. What Is Picking and Packing?
  2. What Methods of Picking and Packing Are Used in the Warehouse?
  3. What Does Picking and Packing Mean for Warehouse Productivity?
  4. How to Increase the Efficiency of Picking and Packing?
  5. A Reliable Warehouse Management System Is the Key Strategy for Efficient Pick and Pack
  6. Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Picking and Packing?

Picking and packing are indeed the two most critical stages of the logistics process in any warehouse. Why are they so vital? Besides requiring labor resources, these processes demand a significant amount of time and financial investment. According to the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC), approximately 63% of all warehouse operational expenses are attributed solely to order picking. It’s evident that errors at this stage can result in significant financial losses for a company.

The picking and packing process entails selecting the necessary items from their storage locations, verifying their quantity and quality, packaging them, and transferring them for loading. For a better understanding, let’s break down the process from within. It consists of the following stages:

Stage 1. Receiving and processing the order from the customer.

Stage 2. Creating a list of SKUs included in the order and routes for understanding the sequence of item retrieval.

Stage 3. Selecting the required SKUs from their storage locations.

Stage 4. Moving the selected items to the packing area.

Stage 5. Preparing the items for packing.

Stage 6. Packing the items into appropriate packaging considering their characteristics and shipping requirements.

Stage 7. Labeling the packaged goods with information about the order, delivery address, and other necessary data.

Stage 8. Preparing the order for shipment by palletizing or other means.

What Methods of Picking and Packing Are Used in the Warehouse?

Before each warehouse, the question arises of choosing the appropriate method of picking and packing. There are several methods, each with its own characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages. We have described 4 of the most popular pick and pack methods. When choosing, consider the size of the warehouse space, inventory volumes, characteristics of the goods, available equipment, and level of automation.

Picking individual orders

If you’re dealing with individual items and a small volume of orders, you can start with single order picking. This method involves sequentially selecting items for one order. The picker goes to the storage location of the item, retrieves it, and then moves on to the next item. This process continues until the order is fully assembled. Its advantage is that the picker focuses on one order from start to finish, reducing the likelihood of shipping errors. However, in terms of speed, this method is not particularly efficient.

Batch picking

This method involves assembling items simultaneously for multiple orders. It allows the picker to fulfill several orders in one trip, reducing travel time and increasing productivity. However, batch picking requires careful planning and process organization to avoid confusion with items and errors during packing.

Zone picking

Zone picking involves dividing the warehouse into different zones, each assigned to a specific warehouse worker. When an order arrives at the warehouse, it is allocated among the pickers according to their zone responsibilities. Each picker gathers all items for the order from their designated zone, passing it from zone to zone until it is fully assembled.

This method is highly efficient because pickers are familiar with their assigned zone and can navigate it quickly. Additionally, the risk of errors is reduced. Pickers become experts in their zone and can accurately identify the required items.

Wave picking

Orders are picked in waves, combining both zone and batch picking methods. A picker selects identical items from multiple orders within a specific zone. These items are then passed on for further picking in the next zone.

What Does Picking and Packing Mean for Warehouse Productivity?

The proper execution of the pick and pack process is crucial for the efficient operation of the warehouse and ensuring a high level of customer service. If the process is well-organized, contains clear instructions, and manages inventory correctly, it can impact overall efficiency, including:

Order fulfillment speed: Accurate and swift item picking accelerates the picking and packing process. If a picker can quickly locate and gather all necessary items, it significantly reduces the time required to prepare the order for shipment.

Accuracy and precision: Proper pick and pack reduce the likelihood of errors and damages during delivery. This helps avoid returns and complaints, ultimately saving the company time and resources.

Customer satisfaction: Swift and accurate order fulfillment leads to enhanced customer satisfaction. Clients value timely delivery and quality packaging, which can encourage repeat purchases and positive recommendations.

Efficient resource utilization: Optimizing pick and pack processes helps reduce warehouse costs. This involves cutting down on labor time and expenses, as well as optimizing the use of warehouse space and packaging materials.

If picking is not managed properly, employees may struggle to locate items, leading to increased processing time and potential delays in order fulfillment. This can result in customer dissatisfaction and missed sales opportunities.

Similarly, if orderpacking is inaccurate or unreliable, it can lead to product damage or incorrect shipment, resulting in returns and additional expenses for the company. Inefficient pick and pack processes can also increase labor costs as more time and resources are required to rectify errors or address customer complaints.

How to Increase the Efficiency of Picking and Packing?

As you’ve already understood, inefficient or inaccurate picking and packing lead to delays, customer complaints, and increased expenses. Therefore, if you want to reduce operational costs and increase profit, it’s crucial to develop effective strategies for optimizing this process.

Plan routes for warehouse workers

Organizing efficient order picking is the first step in improving accuracy and speed. It all starts with planning the optimal movement routes throughout the warehouse for the pickers.

Let’s conduct an analysis of the current routes. We’ll identify bottlenecks, unnecessary movements, and other factors that may slow down the picking and packing process. Additionally, we’ll review the layout of items in the warehouse to minimize the distances that pickers need to travel. High-demand items should be placed closer to the packing area.

Optimizing routes will allow you to minimize the time and effort spent on order picking. This, in turn, will increase productivity and reduce costs.

Ensure an adequate stock level

Having sufficient stock on hand allows you to avoid situations where the pick and pack process may be halted due to the absence of necessary items. This reduces the likelihood of order fulfillment delays and enables the processing of a larger volume of orders without interruptions.

Organize proper storage of goods

To speed up picking and packing, it’s crucial to distribute stored goods in a way that warehouse workers can quickly locate and retrieve them. The larger your warehouse, the more effort you’ll need to efficiently organize it. Depending on the size of the facility, characteristics of the goods, and inventory volumes, storage methods will vary:

1. Chaotic method: With this approach, goods are stored without a clear order or organization. They are placed in the warehouse wherever space is available. This method maximizes the efficient use of available space but requires a more thorough system of identification and locating items.

2. Volume-based inventory storage: With this method, inventory is distributed throughout the warehouse based on demand. Items in high demand are placed closer to the packing area to ensure convenient access and speed up picking and packing processes. Conversely, items with lower sales volumes are stored in less accessible or remote areas of the warehouse to free up space for high-demand items.

3. Class-Based inventory storage: Goods are categorized into classes based on their characteristics, such as turnover rate, cost, or size. Each class is allocated a specific location in the warehouse according to its importance or need for access. This method allows for optimizing space utilization and ensuring quick access to the most important items.

4. Mobile shelf-based order pick systems: This method involves using mobile shelves or racks, allowing for the most efficient use of available space. Shelves can be moved or positioned closer together based on current storage needs. This method is particularly effective for storing items with high density or large dimensions.

Utilize barcode scanners

Barcode scanners enable the automation of picking and packing processes, thereby reducing the likelihood of errors. When scanning barcodes, the risk of mistakes or typos is minimized. Your warehouse staff won’t have to memorize complex item codes or manually input product data. This eliminates the possibility of pick and pack the wrong item.

Moreover, using barcodes allows for the optimization of routes for pickers. Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) utilize product barcodes to create efficient paths for pickers. Products located on adjacent shelves are grouped together, reducing the time spent moving around the warehouse.

Properly package items

When shipping orders, it’s crucial for them to arrive at their destination in the same condition as they left the warehouse. This eliminates the possibility of returns or replacements due to damaged goods. To safeguard against unnecessary expenses, adhere to specific rules for order packing:

Choose the right packaging: When selecting packaging materials, consider the characteristics, shape, and size of the items, as well as the transportation conditions. For example, fragile items are best suited for cardboard boxes with additional inserts made of Styrofoam or air cushions. For items with sharp corners and edges, choose packaging materials with reinforced corner protection. Select packaging that best suits the needs and characteristics of the items being packed. It’s also important to choose materials that provide sufficient cargo protection without adding unnecessary weight and volume to the packaging.

Use protective materials: Additional protective materials such as bubble wrap, Styrofoam inserts, corrugated cardboard sheets, and fillers help prevent damage to items during transportation. Reinforce fragile parts of the goods as well as areas most susceptible to damage. This provides additional protection during the movement and handling of the cargo.

Choose the right tape: Select tape with sufficient strength and adhesive properties that match the type and weight of the items being packaged. Thicker tape with strong adhesive is required for heavier loads.

Apply tape correctly: Apply the tape securely along the entire length of the packaging, ensuring it covers all corners and seams. Ensure it adheres tightly to the surface of the packaging and leaves no gaps through which moisture or dust could enter.

Label your packaging: It’s important to properly label packaged items with information about the order, delivery address, and other necessary details. Clear and accurate labeling helps avoid errors during shipment and simplifies the process of tracking goods at all stages of their movement within and outside the warehouse.

Train and incentivize warehouse staff

Improving the efficiency of picking and packing requires ensuring that employees receive proper training and are informed about all aspects of the process. They should be proficient in using warehouse equipment. Correct usage will accelerate pick and pack, as well as reduce the risk of injuries and product damage.

Employees should also be familiar with occupational safety rules and requirements for safe handling of goods and warehouse equipment. This helps prevent accidents, enhances overall safety levels in the warehouse, and ensures uninterrupted execution of picking and packing tasks.

Equally important is to incentivize employees. One effective method of motivation is to introduce bonus systems for achieving specific goals or high performance indicators. For instance, bonuses can be awarded for meeting quotas on the number of orders picked. This approach encourages employees to work more actively and efficiently.

A Reliable Warehouse Management System Is the Key Strategy for Efficient Pick and Pack

A warehouse management system (WMS) like Ysell.pro enables you to optimize the picking and packing processes. Firstly, it enhances warehouse operations organization by automating many routine tasks: inventory counting, compiling picking lists and packing slips, determining optimal assembly routes, and generating shipping documentation. This helps reduce the time spent on picking and packing, minimize errors, and improve order accuracy.

Additionally, WMS generates detailed reports providing valuable analytical insights into warehouse performance, inventory turnover, utilization of warehouse resources, and other key metrics. This allows you to make informed decisions regarding optimization of picking and packing processes, as well as identify potential bottlenecks and areas for improving efficiency.

WMS Ysell.pro is a valuable tool for warehouses aiming to enhance efficiency, accuracy, and speed in order fulfillment while ensuring a high level of customer service.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between picking and packing?

Picking is the process of selecting items from the warehouse according to an order and verifying their quality and quantity. Packing, or order packing, is the process of placing items into suitable packaging for safe transportation.

2. What does picking and packing involve?

Picking and packing involve selecting items from their storage locations according to an order, checking their quantity and quality, packaging, labeling, and preparing for shipment.

3. What method of picking and packing would be most suitable for my warehouse?

The choice of picking and packing method depends on the size of the warehouse, the volume of stored goods, the number of employees, and the availability of warehouse equipment. For small warehouses, single order picking may be more suitable, while for warehouses with high order volumes, picking multiple orders simultaneously might be more efficient.

4. How to evaluate the efficiency of picking and packing?

The efficiency of pick and pack operations can be evaluated based on metrics such as process duration, error rate, cost per order fulfilled, and productivity.


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