Let’s say you’re a mid-size eCommerce retailer that is outsourcing storage and shipping to a fulfillment center. When a customer places an order through your online store, the fulfillment center is notified – and that’s when the action begins! How does this work? Let’s take a look at what is involved in the pick and pack fulfillment process to find out.
The Pick and Pack Process
The process begins with picking, which involves fulfilling employees using a “picking list” to locate the item, or items if multiple quantities have been ordered, within the warehouse. Once the item or items have been picked, it’s time to pack!
Packing involves putting the item in an appropriately-sized box, along with any packing materials needed to mitigate shipping damage, such as bubble wrap or styrofoam peanuts. Depending on the nature of the product and the needs of customers, promotional materials or flyers may also be included in the packing process.
Next, the employee prints out a shipping label, places it on the box, and passes the package on to another worker or through a computerized system for a quality assurance (QA) check. During QA, the box is inspected for any noticeable damage or other issues and shipping labels are double-checked. If there’s a problem, the box is returned to the packer; if not, it’s shipped off to your customer and you’re notified (and provided with a tracking number) through an online portal.
It’s important to note that reputable fulfillment centers don’t leave choosing the correct box or packing materials up to their employees; instead, they will use a pick and pack warehouse management system. These systems provide instruction to employees regarding which size box to use and how much packing material is required. This helps ensure items consistently reach their final destination undamaged while offering the lowest possible shipping costs.
Pick and Pack Techniques
Most fulfillment centers work to streamline the pick and pack process to reduce costs, and then pass these savings on to their customers. There are four main techniques:
- Piece picking. The simplest of pack and pack techniques, this is when a fulfillment center employee handpicks single orders one-by-one when the order is received.
- Batch picking. Instead of picking items one at a time, the employee picks orders in batches, often fulfilling several orders at once.
- Zone picking. This involves assigning employees to different areas of the warehouse and only having them pick items located within their zone. If an order requires products located across multiple zones, they are passed along by hand, or, more commonly, on a conveyor belt.
- Wave picking. A batch picking and zone picking hybrid, this is when employees remain within their designated zone but pick more than one order at a time, improving organization, accuracy, speed, and efficiency.
Benefits of Pick and Pack Services
Now that we’ve answered the question “what is picking and packing,” and described the various pick and pack fulfillment techniques, it’s time to look at its benefits, and why pick and pack is so popular among fulfillment centers.
- Speed. Fulfillment center employees are trained for speed. They know what to look for when fulfilling an order and where to find it. They also understand how to pack items to avoid breakage or spoilage.
- Efficiency. This goes hand-in-hand with speed; pick and pack services are designed to get items shipped securely and quickly so they arrive on your customer’s doorstep as quickly as possible.
- Organization. A good fulfillment center is an organized one. By properly organizing items on shelves and pallets, and putting like-items or complementary items together, employees can quickly locate what they need without aimlessly searching by eye or computer. Good organization even cuts down on the distance workers have to walk to get to products!
- Accuracy. A well-organized pick and pack warehouse also helps employees to be more accurate, helping ensure that your customers are shipped the right item every time. This reduces costly returns and customer dissatisfaction.
- Productivity. A well-managed pick and pack system improves employee productivity, allowing them to ship more products more quickly.
- Greater Customer Satisfaction. When customers receive what they ordered and it arrives on time (or early) and in good condition, this improves customer satisfaction and helps to ensure future orders (and good online reviews).
Pick and Pack at the Fulfillment Lab
At The Fulfillment Lab, we use pick and pack services to offer you and your customers first-class service. While small pick and pack fees apply, we offset these costs with our strategically-located facilities.
With multiple locations (2 domestic and 12 international facilities), we are able to store inventory strategically to reduce shipping costs and increase the speed of delivery. We also use proprietary warehouse management software to ensure order accuracy and to offer you valuable metrics.
We are also big believers in fulfillment marketing. So, our employees don’t just pick, pack, and ship brown boxes; they can actually tailor packaging to your customer based on demographics and data analytics, delivering a more personalized, unique customer experience that won’t soon be forgotten.