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What are picking and packing? Check out 5 optimization tips in 2022

Mariluz Sampalo

Mariluz Sampalo

May 19, 2022

picker doing the picking in an ecommerce warehouse

Inside this article

  • iconWhat are picking and packing?
  • iconPicking and packing processes
  • iconPicking and packing best practices
  • iconThe impact of picking and packing on costs
  • iconPicking FAQ
  • iconConclusion
  • Picking and packing are essential steps in the processing of orders. The complexity and cost needed to pick and pack products is one of the highest in eCommerce logistics due also to the time it requires. Do you want to find out how to improve your picking and packing process in warehouse facilities?

    Learn what they are and how you can optimize picking and packing as part of your warehouse operations with 5 strategies to reduce errors and increase profits.

    What are picking and packing?

    According to logistics expert Professor René de Koster, “measured in time and money —order picking is, without doubt, the most costly activity in a typical warehouse. It is also the activity that plays the biggest role in customer satisfaction with the warehouse— and in the final analysis the entire supply chain.”

    What is picking?

    We call picking the collection of products to pack and ship to the customer.

    What is packing?

    Packing is the process of placing the products in the packaging for shipment. Generally speaking, the labeling process is included in the packing stage.

    Picking and packing processes

    The picking and packing process in the warehouse works as follows: The online store receives an order, the store creates a picking list with all the items that the warehouse workers need to pick and pack to be shipped to the customers.

    Although it may seem simple, many errors can occur in an eCommerce picking and packing stage, and time can be spent very inefficiently.

    For instance, agents could be going through the warehouse multiple times to pick up items that aren’t close to each other, they could pick up the wrong color or size of a product or pack the items without thinking of volumetric weight or the fragility of products, resulting in returns that can harm the brand’s image.

    employee does the picking of products in a large warehouse

    To avoid some of these issues, many companies choose to design their warehouse layout with the optimization of picking and packing processes in mind.

    1. Planning

    Prior to the picking and packing stage, the warehouse agent needs to create a picking list with all the product information and an efficient picking route to speed up the process in the warehouse to pick and pack the products more efficiently.

    2. Distribution

    Warehouse agents will be distributed across different corridors and warehouse areas for item collection.

    3. Product collection

    Product collection, also known as picking, is the stage of the order processing when the warehouse agent uses the picking list and maybe even special machinery such as a cart, picking baskets or a ladder, to collect the products in the warehouse.

    4. Verification

    Before you pack the items, these need to be verified before preparing the parcel for the shipping stage. For this, it can be useful to create SKUs.

    Tip: Use custom packaging as an opportunity to classify the items and accelerate the picking and packing process in the warehouse.

    Picking and packing best practices

    There are many strategies that can be used to pick and pack items more efficiently:

    1. Plan picking routes and organize items strategically

    Carefully plan where products are located in the warehouse and design shorter routes for eCommerce picking and packing. Take into account the current and future order flow, the dimensions of your warehouse, seasonality, the nature of the goods and the restocking frequency to create a product placement system that ensures faster order picking.

    2. Implement a warehouse management system

    These software solutions are databases used to centralize all information related to the warehouse. Their goal is to streamline processes by, for example, providing an updated copy of the picking route and picking list on a mobile device.

    This reduces the time needed for picking and packing while keeping all workers connected for better management of resources.

    3. Invest in infrastructure

    Shelving, stacker cranes, vehicles, and radiofrequency devices —investing in this type of machinery will make a big difference in terms of your picking speed and efficiency. The machinery can also be used in other logistics tasks, such as restocking or inventory counting.

    Employee transports products in a large warehouse after its packing

    4. Choose a picking and packing method according to your business and warehouse

    Depending on the size of your business and your warehouse layout, you can carry out picking and packing in warehouse facilities differently.

    For instance, you can individually pick and pack products for each order (isolated order picking and packing). This is a common method for small online shops.

    If your business has a greater volume of orders, you can do batch picking and packing or wave picking and packing. In these cases, multiple orders will be processed at the same time, either because the items are nearby in the warehouse or because the orders consist of the same product/s.

    When you work with different warehouses or a large warehouse, you can use a “picking and packing by areas” approach. In this method, the warehouse staff will be distributed across different areas to speed up the process.

    5. Use Outvio’s pick and pack software features to speed up the process

    By integrating Outvio into your eCommerce store, your picking and packing process in the warehouse will be faster and more efficient. With Outvio, you’ll be able to have more traceability during the entire process, reducing not only the time needed to pick and pack products but also the number of errors caused by a human mistake.

    Using Outvio, you can separate multi-product orders from those with a single product, obtain picking lists automatically and use a product scanner to prevent mistakes during picking and packing.

    Outvio doesn’t only help big online stores with their picking tasks. It also works as a hub for shipping, tracking, returns, customer communication and emailing, among many other features. Find out how Outvio can optimize all of your post-checkout activities.

    voice picking is a method that uses digital resources to do the picking in the warehouse

    The impact of picking and packing on costs

    Inefficient picking and packing processes account for more than 63% of logistics costs. This figure can only grow as the online store grows, resulting in more orders and, therefore, more opportunities for mistakes.

    Minimizing errors when employees pick and pack products should be the priority if you want to reduce costs and time spent on these tasks. It will also mean that customer support receives fewer claims related to wrong orders, improving the perception customers have of your brand. 

    Picking FAQ

    How to reduce picking and packing errors?

    With a software system that offers features to pick and pack products efficiently, regardless of the size of the online store and the number of orders processed every day. Outvio includes pick and pack software solutions to help online stores pick and pack, fulfillment of orders and other logistics processes with higher efficiency and less costs. 

    What is the difference between picking and packing?

    Picking is the process of collecting products while packing is the process of placing the items in the shipping box or envelope for shipping.

    What does picking and packing involve?

    Picking and packing consist of all those activities that occur since the order is received. It consists of the collection of items, its verification and the preparation of the parcel with products, packaging and labels. The packing stage finishes when the order is ready to be sent. 

    What does pending picking mean?

    Pending picking is the notification sent by software to show that some products haven’t been picked up but are part of the order.

    What is a picker?

    Pickers are responsible for collecting items in the warehouse prior to their packing and shipping. Generally speaking, the picker also works as a packer, placing the products in their package for their delivery.

    What is voice picking?

    Voice picking is the process of collecting items through a voice system that guides the operator through the warehouse.

    What is radiofrequency picking?

    Radiofrequency picking is a picking process based on radiofrequency terminals that are placed in the warehouse. These terminals can be scanned by pickers and packers to attain all the necessary information for proper product collection.

    Conclusion

    Picking and packing are processes closely related to product rotation and seasonality, which means that they should be updated and optimized on a weekly or monthly basis.

    Invest in infrastructure —both physical and digital— and start implementing our strategies to see an immediate improvement in the number of errors and costs generated during picking and packing.

    Although the initial investment may seem high, the ROI for optimized picking and packing is one of the highest in all logistics processes.