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What is Pick and Pack Logistics and How to Integrate It with Your WMS

Posted: June 27, 2019 by Ly Phan

What is Pick and Pack Logistics and How to Integrate It with Your WMS

For e-commerce businesses, delivering products quickly and efficiently to customers is a critical step to success. As a result, many stores rely heavily on warehouses and fulfillment centers to handle the logistics and get the items shipped. One of the most common methods is to pick and pack logistics, which is a process that enables workers to easily find and pack the items orders.

In a nutshell, pick and pack logistics is the process warehouses follow immediately after an order is placed. The term can be split into two parts:

  1. Pick: Once the order is confirmed, the product needs to be located and “‘picked” from the shelves. 
  2. Pack: The items in the order are gathered and placed into packages, ready for delivery.

As you can see, “pick and pack” is a straightforward, self-explanatory term that explains the first two steps of the order fulfillment process. Though it may be simple in theory, it’s a challenge for warehouses to get the basics right - first time and every time.

 

Why is Pick and Pack So Essential

Pick and pack is at the core of the order fulfillment process.

For e-commerce businesses and fulfillment centers, a smooth and efficient order management process is critical. One of the particular challenges for retailers is the fact that customers tend to make different orders and that no two shopping lists are the same. Such a scenario would typically be seen in online grocery stores where shoppers have a wide variety of items and combinations to choose from.

The pick and pack process is designed to enable businesses to deal with this challenge efficiently. The aim is to give workers easy access to items and be able to organize packaging quickly, thereby speeding up delivery times and reducing costs. Taken together as a whole package, with the right strategy, pick and pack can increase the profit margins of an e-commerce business.

 

Top Challenges

When it comes to putting it into practice, there are several challenges with pick and pack:

1. Stock is not where it should be

There are a number of reasons why this may be the case - one could be simply the stock has sold out and failed to be restocked. Another potential cause is someone has misplaced the item and put it in the wrong location. Any system which involves people inputting the data and information is vulnerable to human error. 

These errors can lead to wasted time, delayed fulfillment, and poor customer service. It’s essential to get this part of the supply chain right in order to maintain the high standards shoppers have come to expect. Falling short will lead to lost business and revenue.

 

2. Picking and packing the wrong items

Another way to lose customers is by picking the wrong items. While it may seem like a rare issue, the reality is 23% of consumers who return products do so because they received the incorrect items. With fulfillment centers routinely handling thousands of orders per day, it’s inevitable human errors will creep in.

Therefore, it’s worth considering technology such as inventory management software to organize the process and eliminate the chance of human error.

 

3. Lack of organization

One of the more common issues in warehouses is the lack of organization. Collaboration is important for any business, and it’s critical for order fulfillment. For example, to ensure workers pick and pack the right products, they need to have the right information to hand - not only what items to pick but also the quantity and sizes.

Getting the small details right requires real-time visibility throughout the supply chain, where updated information is easily accessible to the stakeholders who need it. It takes a solid organization to devise and implement the processes to enable this to happen.

While these challenges do exist, it’s important to understand the value of pick and pack companies in e-commerce. This form of order fulfillment has firmly established itself as one of the most efficient and widely used methods in a multi-trillion dollar industry.

 

How to Maximize Pick and Pack Logistics

Online shoppers are increasingly expecting others to do the picking and packing for them

The key part of a successful fulfillment operation is to start with the warehouse. By taking a look at your current operations and analyzing performance, you will be able to identify what your business needs, which neatly leads onto strategy.

 

1. Pick the right strategy

Pick and pack is a broad term that incorporates different forms of logistics. Here are a few examples:

  1. Piece picking: The most common strategy for smaller warehouses and companies starting out is to fulfill each order as they come in. It is the simplest method, and it suits small-scale businesses. However, as companies grow, it becomes increasingly inefficient.
  2. Batch picking: This is similar to piece picking, but the difference is individual orders are fulfilled in batches rather than as they come in. 
  3. Wave picking: The most effective method for larger organizations and warehouses is wave picking, splitting teams into zones. Those workers are then required to only pick items within their designated areas and put onto a conveyor belt to be packed at a later stage. 

Each of these strategies can be effective for your warehouse. However, if you are keen to grow your business consider which of these strategies would allow you to serve a high number of orders. While piece picking could prove the way forward as you start, workers can quickly become overwhelmed with orders - leading to unsatisfied customers and loss of clients.

 

2. Consider warehouse design

One of the overlooked elements of a successful pick and pack strategy is warehouse design and layout. In e-commerce, speed is of the essence and deciding where the products should be located is an important part of the process. For instance, if you have particularly popular products, then they should be as close as possible to the packaging and shipping area. 

Additionally, the categorization of items is key to efficient picking and packing. Consider your customer shopping behavior and place products that are often ordered together in the same area of the warehouse. Each of these small steps reduces the risk of errors and delay while maximizing the productivity of workers. 

 

3. Use a WMS to automate your processes

A common factor throughout the post is the potential for human error. Paper-based systems are time-consuming and prone to inaccuracy, which can lead to reduced profits and missed opportunities.

Using software-based pick and pack warehouse services solutions, you can cut order fulfillment times while improving accuracy and customer satisfaction. The software brings together the benefits of accessibility, analytics and real-time visibility which enables companies to drive up performance.

Users of WMS, such as Frozen Gourmet - a groceries distributor based in California, reported several benefits, including:

  1. Integrated purchasing and shipping into inventory management
  2. Greater real-time visibility which led to opportunities to cut costs
  3. Reduced stock outs and more control over inventory levels

In terms of pick and pack itself, having an automated system in place means workers can have greater confidence in the process. The real-time visibility, for example, is essential for stakeholders who need to have the right information to hand, right away. These factors combined to generate double-digit growth for the firm.

 

4. Take a collaborative approach

The key to a successful pick and pack operation is to take a collaborative approach. Having the best technology and strategy would be wasted if your teams are not utilizing them to its full potential. Therefore, it’s critical to take the time and resources to train workers in their respective fields.

 

WMS Can Integrate Pick and Pack Into the Supply Chain

The initial question was “how we can integrate pick and pack into WMS,” yet we discovered how software can integrate pick and pack into the wider supply chain. In doing so, it makes order fulfillment more efficient with higher rates of accuracy and faster delivery times. The value of real-time visibility, warehouse design, and teamwork cannot be underestimated. 

And it’s WMS that can bring all those ingredients together, into a seamless and automated supply chain.

 

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