As an e-commerce retailer, picking and packing orders are a fact of life. Picking and packing are simple at first but can get complicated as sales increase. Did you know there are ways to increase the speed and efficiency of the order fulfillment process to make picking and packing easier?
These are four ways of the most popular picking methods:
1. Piece Picking
Ideal for small businesses, the piece picking method is the most straightforward. When an order comes in, a staff member heads to the warehouse or storage facility and plucks the SKUs from the shelf. The order is prepared for shipment and boxed, then a shipping label is created, and out the door, it goes — a single order at a time.
There is nothing complicated about this technique. Many small business owners handle packaging and shipping themselves this way. While its simplicity is appealing, this method doesn’t work well for companies with high sales volume. Fulfilling orders one by one is inefficient when there are many orders to fulfill.
2. Batch Picking
In this method, a warehouse staff member picks all the SKUs to fulfill multiple orders in batches, then sends them to the prepping station for shipment. The staff member goes all over the warehouse to pick items in bulk, completing several orders at the same time. This method works for businesses of all sizes, the goal being to improve productivity and streamline tasks in bulk. This method has some limitations. This picking technique isn’t suitable for large or heavy items, nor orders with a lot of SKUs. Complex warehouses would also make this method less efficient.
3. Zone Picking
Large-scale retailers tend to have more complex warehouse layouts. The piece picking and batch picking methods would not make sense in this case. Zone picking is a far more efficient way to pick and pack orders.
Warehouse staff is assigned to different zones within the warehouse. As orders come in, the picker looks at the packing slip and picks all the SKUs located within their zone. The order slip is then passed along to the picker in the next zone, who also picks all the SKUs located within their zone. The items are then sent to the shipping station to be prepared for shipment.
This method emphasizes efficiency above all else. It works like an assembly line, with each staff member focusing on the SKUs in their respective zones. Coordination between departments is critical to ensure orders are fulfilled correctly.
4. Zone-Wave Picking
In this method, warehouse staff locates all the SKUs in batches within their assigned zone. The packing slip is passed along to a staff member in the next zone who again picks the items located within the assigned zone. To make this process even more efficient, similar SKUs are commonly stored nearby one another. The process continues until the entire order is picked. From there, the products move along to the packing station next to where they are prepared for shipment and sent to the customer.
Wave picking comes Into play since the pickers perform these tasks on a fixed schedule, picking SKUs in waves. Scheduling orders to be picked at certain times helps coordinate shipping and packing activities with more precision. There may be multiple picking windows per shift. This method works for businesses of all sizes, but large-scale operations benefit most from its efficiency.
Which method is right for your e-commerce business?
The best method varies from business to business. The warehouse size, order volume, the quantity of SKUs, and even the weight and size of the products you sell all factor into this. It also comes down to personal preference. After all, it’s your business. If increasing speed and efficiency are essential and you must fulfill many orders, the last three methods are your best bet.