Streamline Shipping With Pick, Pack, and Ship
No one wants to wait months for their package to arrive, and you want to ship as many products as possible to maximize profits. Both you and your customers benefit from an efficient, streamlined order fulfillment process. That’s why it’s important to follow pick, pack, and ship best practices.
If you’re not familiar with the pick-pack-ship process, it’s simply the three-step procedure that occurs after a customer orders from an eCommerce platform. The retailer finds the item in their warehouse inventory (pick), packs it for shipment (pack), and sends it to the customer (ship).
The definition seems simple enough, but there’s a lot that goes into each step. So, we created this beginner’s guide to thepick, pack, and ship process to help you get more familiar with best practices.
Once a customer orders an item from your store, your warehouse workers need to find what your customer purchased. This process is tougher when you’re working with a large inventory. So, many warehouses use a warehouse management software (WMS) tool to help them find items fast.
Effective picking techniques are crucial in saving time, money, and labor. On average, order picking accounts for 55% of a warehouse worker’s labor time. By decreasing the amount of time a worker spends picking every single order, you can decrease that 55% and give them more time for other duties.
Whether you use a WMS or not, you should follow these tips to streamline the “pick” stage. Help your “pickers” by giving them:
- Handheld barcode scanners that help them pinpoint the exact product.
- A detailed map of the warehouse that shows where you store different item types (e.g. shoes are in this section, pants in another section, etc.)
- Strategically organized items, for example, put your most popular items in an easy-to-find location.
- Picking routes that decrease the amount of time workers spend wandering your warehouse. You can mark them on the warehouse map.
- Easy access to a sufficient number of pallets or containers so pickers can retrieve more items in less time.
- Picking strategies that boost productivity in each scenario.
Now, let’s dig a bit deeper into picking strategies. Choosing the wrong strategy for an order is one of the most common culprits behind warehouse inefficiency. Consider how to use the following strategies.
Piece picking is the most common and straightforward method. It’s when your picker travels to the item’s location, pulls it off the shelf, and carries it out. Similar to how you might find something at the grocery store. This works for small orders, but it can be inefficient for larger batches.
Discrete picking is a lot like piece picking. A piece picker picks one item at a time and may work on multiple orders. Whereas, a discrete picker picks one item for one order at a time. This is time-consuming but very accurate. It’s good for high-value items that need perfect accuracy.
Batch picking reduces the amount of time your picker spends locating items. Batch pickers collect items for multiple orders at the same time. It’s a good choice for items located near the back of your warehouse. Batch pickers typically use hand carts or pallets to carry items.
Also known as cluster picking, wave picking occurs when pickers are scheduled to collect orders in intervals. These intervals are your “waves.” Typically, pickers collect items for 3-12 orders per interval. It’s good for suppliers that get several high volume orders per day.
Zone picking is also referred to as the “pick and pass” method. It’s when you divide your warehouse into specific zones and assign pickers to each zone. You can train your pickers to become specialists in their assigned zone. This helps reduce time spent locating items.
Part-to-Picker is the fastest picking method. It’s when a machine automatically brings the item to the worker. Usually, pickers stay near the packing station so they can quickly deliver items. However, these machines are expensive to implement.
If required, combine the strategies listed above. For example, zone-batch picking assigns the picker to a specific zone and instructs them to batch pick all orders from that zone. Zone-batch-wave picking does the same in scheduled intervals.
You can combine any picking methods—just make sure it’s clear to your pickers how you want them to pick.
After locating everything on your picking list, you must pack these items before shipping. Often, employees at your warehouse pick and pack the items for you. So, remember to provide them with sufficient packing materials too.
Both processes can occur at the warehouse, but pickers and packers aren’t usually the same people. Once the picker locates the items, they forward them to the packing station. Like picking strategies, it’s important to choose the right packaging for each order, from corrugated boxes to plastic boxes.
You should also include a packing slip with each order. Packing slips help packers understand what needs to be packed, and customers use them to check that what they ordered is there. Packing slips must include:
- Customer address and contact info: Your shipping label will include this information, but you should also include it on your packing slip as backup.
- List of items and the quantity of each item: Customers like cross-referencing their orders with your slips.
- Any out-of-stock items that were ordered but not fulfilled: Always notify the customer ahead of time in this situation. However, it’s a good practice to have it in writing on the packing slip too.
- Each item’s SKU or UPC number: This is what you use to track inventory and reference the specific item if there are any issues.
- Slip or PO number: This helps you and your customer verify that the right order went to the right person.
You may also add a personalized message to your slip. This is not a must-have, but it helps build brand loyalty. Packing slips may also be used by your pickers to fulfill orders.
At this point, it may be tempting to think the work is over. The biggest thing you must remember is to calculate the cost of shipping before you send out your package.
Calculating in advance prevents you and the customer from seeing any surprise charges. For example, some countries have duty fees that you need to plan around. Other factors that increase shipping costs are:
- Dimensional size
- Priority shipping
- Value of content
- Shipping zone (for example, see FedEx’s shipping zones)
Use Inventory Management Software for Faster Pick and Pack Shipping
You can’t fully utilize the pick, pack, and ship method without the right inventory management techniques. At The Fulfillment Lab, we take care of all of that for you—from kit assembly, to picking, packing, and shipping. All with a guaranteed 3-day delivery.
This includes raw materials, finished goods, and warehousing. Pick and pack shipping will make order fulfillment more efficient, but it can only do so much without proper inventory management.
Simplify your shipping even further when you connect your fulfillment services to your eCommerce platform with the power of The Fulfillment Lab’s software.
Improve supply chain management by seamlessly managing orders, tracking inventory, customizing packages, and making last-minute edits.
Contact us to make your pick-pack-ship procedure even more efficient.
Featured Image Credit: Pexels