The pick and pack process is a crucial part of your company’s order fulfillment strategy. It refers to the process of pulling ordered items from your inventory and preparing and packaging them for shipment to the customer.
According to a report from Statista, the pick and pack process accounts for 40% of a business’s total operating costs, while 70% of total labor time is spent just on picking items for customer orders. Because of the costs and inefficiencies surrounding the pick and pack process, warehouse managers often look for ways to optimize their system.
Here are some of the ways you can use to optimize your pick and pack process so you can improve order rates, streamline operations, and boost overall customer satisfaction:
- Invest In A Warehouse Management Software
A warehouse management software (WMS) allows growing businesses to efficiently manage their warehouse’s day-to-day operations and keep an eye on their stock locations, inventory levels, shipping, and returns. A WMS offers a powerful solution for business owners and warehouse managers who aim to maximize productivity and profitability, improve accuracy and reduce human error, and boost speed and throughput.
Here are some of the other key benefits of investing in a WMS:
- Determine the best use of warehouse space by assessing material characteristics and the nature of warehouse tasks
- Reduce inefficiencies such as suboptimal inventory placement, excessive material movement, and time-consuming retrieval processes
- Ensure accurate, real-time inventory levels
- Ensure you’re assigning the right tasks to the right workers
- Easily track inventory materials through lot/batch or serial numbering systems
A WMS can be a hefty investment, especially for small business owners. However, a WMS offers significant savings when it comes to time, productivity, and complete inventory control.
An automated pick and pack system can also get quite expensive, but it can help your workers use their time more productively. According to an article from People Vox, pickers spend 60% of their time moving items from one place to another. An automated picking system—which is an automatic conveyor that brings the item to the picker—can significantly reduce the picking time so more orders get processed with the same amount of manpower.
- Explore Different Picking Strategies
Here are some of the picking strategies commonly used by businesses today:
- Batch picking: This involves collecting one batch of items with the same stock keeping unit (SKU) in a single trip.
- Zone picking: Also known as parallel picking, this involves assigning workers to designated areas or zones. These workers only pick items placed or stored in their area.
- Wave picking: Also referred to as cluster picking, this entails fulfilling similar orders within a designated time frame or schedule.
The methods above can help reduce the amount of time that your pickers spend walking from one storage area or bin to another. Although all three of them can help speed up your operations, the right one for your business still depends on your specific picking needs and the types of products that you regularly deal with.
- Redesign Your Warehouse For Efficiency
Reorganizing or redesigning your warehouse’s layout to promote efficiency will significantly cut down the time that your workers spend on picking and packing. Here are some design principles that you can implement:
- Arrange items from top-sellers to least popular, and place the former close to the packing stations.
- If there are items that are often purchased or packed together, store them close to each other.
- Clear clutter right away to prevent accidents.
- Packing supplies such as envelopes or boxes should be readily available at the packing station.
- If you’re implementing the zone picking strategy, allocate a consolidation area where items can be sorted and packed into individual orders.
Ideally, when you’re designing the spaces in your warehouse, your goal is cut down the steps involved in the entire pick and pack process. Don’t let your workers waste their time traveling from one end of your warehouse to another by properly designating and arranging your picking, packing, and storage areas. Each functional area must logically lead to the next.
- Set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Set benchmarks and KPIs so you know whether your optimization efforts are actually helping your business. KPIs will also help you measure your progress against your long-term objectives, identify areas for improvement, and adjust your strategies when one of them isn’t working.
Here are some of the top KPIs to consider when you’re optimizing the pick and pack process:
- Labor costs
- Accuracy of picks and inventory
- Throughput, or the number of picks and orders completed in a specified time frame
- Capacity and footprint utilization
Implementing any of the strategies above will help you improve your workers’ productivity, reduce order errors, and ensure customer satisfaction. Just make sure to customize your workflow to address your unique business needs, supply chain, and product types.