Pick and pack fulfillment sounds so easy – pick, pack, and ship orders. With a precursory glance, many companies think this process is simplistic and incredibly easy to execute.
Nothing can be further from the truth.
Successful order fulfillment involves more than shelves of neatly stacked products in a warehouse. There is a science to achieving the most efficient pick and pack – a method to the madness so to speak.
There are six basic steps to warehouse management:
To efficiently execute the above steps, an advanced fulfillment company with multiple locations, like AMS Fulfillment, often has a warehouse layout that considers each step of the process, especially the pick-and-pack function of order fulfillment. An optimized warehouse layout provides the strong foundation needed to ensure accurate inbound receiving, put away, pick, pack, ship, and returns management.
Most warehouses generally use one of three layouts – The U-shaped, I-shaped, or L-shaped. Once a standard layout is selected, a 3PL will be able to deploy the layout to all existing and future facilities – ensuring the same high pick and pack accuracy across all facilities.
A good warehouse layout leads to good inventory management. Technology such as a warehouse management system like WAMS ensures the order fulfillment algorithm is focused on producing the best pick and pack method for maximum speed and accuracy.
Pick and pack services are defined as warehouse work that involves picking the correct product and quantity and properly packing them for shipping.
At AMS, the standard pick and pack process has four primary steps.
There are four common warehouse pick and pack methods. When you outsource your order fulfillment to AMS, there is a lot of space and tons of SKUs in each facility. Having an organized, consistent warehouse layout will facilitate the pick and pack process. AMS uses the wave-picking method, however, we have the flexibility to use other methods if necessary.
Piece picking is the most straightforward picking method. In piece picking, workers pick orders as they are received, one at a time. The worker collects all products for the order and brings them to the packing station. This method is not ideal for large warehouse facilities, as it is inefficient and leads to worker fatigue.
However, we understand that customer satisfaction is imperative to your brand. If your customer is demanding an order or replacement order ASAP, AMS may employ the piece pick. Our technology allows for flexibility. We understand your customer’s satisfaction is essential to your success and as your partner, AMS will do what we can to ensure your orders are fulfilled promptly.
Another pick pack method is the batch pick. This is when an order fulfillment 3PL has enough orders to organize into batches. These batch orders are all located in the same general vicinity of the warehouse.
The primary objective of batch picking is to give pickers an efficient path in the warehouse. For example, if there are several orders for one SKU, it makes sense to organize and pick those orders together. Thereby, organizing orders into batches will streamline the picker’s path, saving time, and more importantly reducing worker fatigue.
The batch pick pack method is ideal for high volume / high turn products or orders that have few SKUS and the items are small. At AMS Fulfillment, we have the flexibility to use the batch pick and pack method. If our clients have a sale or close-out special, we can utilize this pick-pack method, which can increase order picking.
The zone pick pack method is one of the optimal strategies for larger warehouses. It requires the warehouse to be laid out in zones or areas. Pickers are assigned and trained in their zone. Zones are often organized by client and product similarity.
Zone picking has several advantages including warehouse efficiency, pick pack flexibility, improved warehouse picker knowledge, and increased picking speed.
Although zone picking requires complex coordination, an advanced warehouse management system like WAMS can manage zone picking.
Wave picking is one of the most common pick-pack strategies for a 3PL. It is a combination of batch and zone-picking methods. Picking is scheduled to occur based on several factors including high-priority orders with stringent carrier pick-up times, time of day, like items, and worker schedules.
With wave pick and pack, AMS’ WAMS will organize orders into zones and workers will pick a wave at certain times. When those orders are picked, the worker then brings them to the packing station.
One major benefit of wave picking is reduced worker fatigue and reduced travel time. Since the wave will take the picker through a zone of the warehouse, they remain in a central location. As they complete the wave, they receive another wave that may take them in the opposite direction within the same zone – essentially retracing their steps. This allows for employee expertise and order accuracy.
Successful inventory management is crucial to your business. Inventory that gets sold is revenue, while inventory that sits in the warehouse keeps your funds tied up.
A 3PL provides you with an inventory management system in real-time, so you have 100% visibility of your inventory. This allows you to remain in control of your products and business.
While you remain in control, how does AMS manage inventory across hundreds of brands and hundreds of thousands of SKUs? And how does your 3PL’s inventory management impact the pick-an-pack process?
AMS’ WAMS both tracks and manages all warehouse activities, including:
There are two main schools of thought on the best way to manage inventory – the random Chaotic strategy and the ABC strategy.
It may sound counterintuitive, but when it comes to the best pick and pack methods, the chaotic inventory management strategy is ideal – and AMS is an expert in chaotic inventory management.
ABC inventory management is structured and does not allow for flexibility. If you equate the ABC storage strategy to a library, everything is organized by the Dewey Decimal Classification Chart.
While this is highly organized, it may not be the best strategy for inventory management. It’s guaranteed that more people will visit the Literature section than the Comparative Linguistics section of the library. So in theory, it should be located in the front, closer to the checkout area.
In a warehouse, an optimized pick-pack strategy would have the most popular products located closer to the packing station, thereby reducing the time involved in fulfilling orders.
Some advantages of the chaotic strategy include:
In reality, the chaotic method is not truly chaotic. The best pick and pack method works better when the warehouse is organized by the chaos strategy.
AMS’ crucial item for success is our robust inventory management system (WAMS). The software maps the warehouse and all products, enabling it to produce the optimal pick and pack path.
Now that your products have been picked, they are brought to the pack station.
Packing stations are often where “the magic happens.” This is where products are scanned for accuracy and prepped for shipping.
Having an efficient packing station goes a long way to ensure speed and consumer satisfaction. Packing stations are often designed with products in mind. If a 3PL specializes in flat-pack products (like socks), having a compact station stocked with polybags is essential to a quick process.
But what if you have branded packaging?
The “consumer unboxing experience” is important to many brands – ensuring the same experience for every order, every time.
Having dedicated packing stations with trained packers is imperative in this scenario. This can be a lengthier packing process as often tissue paper, marketing inserts, or even stickers are needed. Properly trained packers will know the process and be able to repeat it every time.
In addition to specialized packing methods, other considerations need to be accounted for:
While the chaotic inventory management strategy is good for the picking process, using an ABC strategy is ideal for the warehouse packing area.
Having packing fulfillment materials located based on use frequency will increase the speed of this step. Packing material should be ranked in an ABC order, with A being the most frequently used material and stored nearest to the packer.
Warehouse automation has transformed many facilities in recent years. Everything from warehouse management systems to automated baggers has streamlined the pick and pack operations.
AMS Fulfillment uses automation to optimize pick and pack fulfillment such as Put Walls. Put Walls are a series of dedicated shelving that increases the order consolidation process efficiency. It is a paperless process that increases order accuracy and reduces worker fatigue and walking distance.
Extremely efficient and flexible, the Put Wall shelving can be configured in various ways to handle small and large items. Put zones also can be increased or decreased as needed. During peak season, pick and pack stations are busy – with a Put Wall, a 3PL could have a condensed pick and pack system that is staffed by fewer employees, yet still processes thousands of orders an hour.
Put Walls rely on RF scanners to ensure accuracy and a simple green or red light notifies the packer when orders are accurate and completed. On the other side of the wall, the packer is notified when the order is completed and starts the packing process.
Put Walls can handle a large volume of orders simultaneously, and when combined with other automation, they are extremely efficient and accurate.
Other AMS automation includes auto baggers. Our auto baggers generate the shipping label, and once the product(s) are put in the polybag, it fills and seals the polybag. Pack efficiency often exceeds 45 bags per minute.
AMS has strategically placed the Put Walls and auto baggers together. As picked orders are completed in the Put Wall, the packer scans them, and the auto bagger does its magic.
This combination is an example of how AMS can accommodate and adapt to our client’s needs.
Outsourcing to a 3PL can be brand-changing – but only if the 3PL can be flexible and scale to your business needs.
There is no doubt that the pick and pack process can be one of the more time-consuming processes of order fulfillment. And when it comes to order fulfillment, time is of the essence. In today’s world, consumers demand faster fulfillment and shipping times.
Advanced and reputable order fulfillment companies use a combination of automation, technology, and good old-fashioned planning to ensure that the pick and pack fulfillment is done quickly and accurately.
AMS has the experience and technology to ensure that our warehouses’ picking and packing process can accommodate your seasonality, sales, and new product launches.
Pick and pack order fulfillment is not exciting. It goes on in the background, it’s not visible to the consumer and often not to the brand. It just happens!
The “simplicity” in the pick and pack process is exactly that – it seems simple, but it is complex and often misunderstood. But the consumer should never know that – and when you outsource to an experienced pick and pack fulfillment company like AMS, you shouldn’t have to worry about it!
When it comes to order fulfillment and the pick and pack process, AMS knows what’s important – timeliness, accuracy, and transparency. We specialize in high volume, high SKU count B2B and B2C order fulfillment. At the core of our success is an accurate pick and pack strategy.
Choosing the right fulfillment partner for your pick and pack needs can take some time, but it is time well invested. Here is a list of features to consider:
These questions are not exhaustive, but they will give you a good start to determining your pick and pack needs.
AMS Fulfillment is dedicated to your success. We aim to help you take your business to extraordinary. To learn more about how our pick and pack fulfillment services can boost your business, Contact Us today!
A pick and pack fee is the cost associated with picking inventory from our warehouse and packing it for shipment.
Warehouses with inventory stored, ready to be picked, and packed when orders are placed.
Pick packing is done by a warehouse worker who goes through the warehouse or fulfillment center to pick a product and hand it off to a packer at the packing station.
Accurate inventory management is essential to the pick-pack process. The warehouse has to know where a product is located so it can be picked and packed quickly, usually the same day the order is received.
Outsourcing your pick and pack fulfillment to an experienced fulfillment provider like AMS Fulfillment can boost your company’s efficiency and accuracy. It can speed up the order fulfillment process. Outsourcing also allows a company to focus on its growth while leaving the pick and packing to an experienced partner.
Another benefit is improving cost-effectiveness. By maximizing space and streamlining the order fulfillment process, you can boost your throughput and improve customer satisfaction.