Order fulfillment is one of the most important parts of eCommerce. This is how your products get out the door and into the hands of your customers once they have ordered from your online store. This is one of the final steps for the order, right before it gets handed over to the shipping carrier. It's critical to get this step right because it can make or break customer satisfaction, which we know is an invaluable aspect of owning a business. Many eCommerce brands utilize fulfillment warehouses to house their products before they ship, but many of these warehouses also offer additional services to assist with getting those orders packed for your customers. Some of these services include a pick and pack fulfillment service, which can help to ensure that orders received are processed correctly, and in a timely manner.
With pick and pack fulfillment, your products are accurately and quickly packed up for your customers to save you time, money, and stress. You're running a business so finding a trusted partner who can handle all of your order fulfillment needs like pick and pack is important - your business' reputation depends on it. Let’s take a closer look at pick and pack warehouse services for your eCommerce business, some of the key benefits pick and pack offers, and how a third-party logistics provider can often help streamline your order fulfillment services.
What is Pick and Pack?
In fulfillment centers, there are different types of fulfillment strategies that are used to prepare orders. For small orders, shipped domestically or internationally, the most common type of fulfillment is called “pick and pack.”
Pick and pack fulfillment is a process that prepares and ships individual items for orders to a specific customer, including a technique that is, quite literally, picking and packing items. These items are stored in one warehouse location and are organized in a sensible way. Instead of prepping entire cases or pallets of goods, fulfillment workers pull items from the warehouse shelves in order to fill specific orders. These orders are much smaller in quantity and usually have one or two pieces from different SKUs. Those items are then packed into boxes or envelopes and shipped out to the customer. This process makes fulfillment easier and limits freight costs.
Pick and pack workers are accustomed to working quickly while also ensuring accuracy. They can manage many tasks at once and are ready to tackle the pick and pack process, even during the busiest of seasons. This means that your orders won’t sit around for days or weeks before being prepared for your customers. Once an order comes in, pick and pack workers are ready to get it picked, packed, and shipped directly to your customer.
What Happens in Warehouse Pick and Pack?
Pick and pack can help the fulfillment warehouses process their orders faster and move onto the next order in a streamlined process, so your order fulfillment process can move like a well-oiled machine. Pick and pack workers have the skills and training to make sure everything moves quickly, but every step is also completed correctly, so your orders are accurate and on time.
When it's time to pick and pack an order, there are four main steps that the fulfillment employees go through.
These four steps are:
- Inventory receiving: The eCommerce platform first receives the order. For most businesses, this integrates with the warehouse management system (WMS).
- Order picking: After the order has been received by the warehouse management system, a worker takes that packing slip and picks the items for the order from the shelves. A warehouse management system and proper storage protocols are key to efficiency and accuracy with this step. There are different picking methods that can be performed during this step, and we will be taking a look at these methods later on.
- Order packing: After the items have been picked, they are sent to the packing station where an employee secures the products and packing materials, seals the package, and labels it in the appropriate size and shape box or envelope to prepare for the next stage: shipping.
- Order shipping: If there are multiple shipping options available at checkout on the eCommerce platform, the orders are then sorted by carrier. Shipping carriers each have their own assigned area of the warehouse to wait for pickup. The loading dock remains organized so they are ready for pickup by the carrier or carriers at the end of the day.
By following each of these steps, workers accurately pick and pack the order so it can be safely transported to its destination for your customer.
Types of Pick and Pack
Referring back to step two of the pick and pack process, there are a few different methods that can be used for picking an order at a fulfillment center. The most common strategies help solve the challenges and maximize the benefits of pick and pack operations and order fulfillment. These strategies include:
- Piece picking: This is often where many people begin with pick and pack services. This is a straightforward pack method, where a worker gets an order and picks items off the shelf one by one until the order is complete. It works well in small warehouses but can become inefficient compared to other pack strategies in larger warehouses.
- Batch picking: This method is more efficient because it expedites the order fulfillment process. In batch picking, a worker picks items for individual orders but works on filling more than one order at a time.
- Zone picking: When a warehouse is divided into zones, order pickers are assigned to a specific zone or area to pick items. An order is received and goes to the first zone, where that zone’s worker picks items before passing the box to the next zone for those items until the order is fulfilled. This works well for orders with many items. Zone picking can be done manually or passed from zone to zone on a conveyor belt or with AI. This can be an efficient method for larger warehouses.
- Wave picking: This method combines batch picking and zone picking. Workers pick items from their zones but are picking in batches for multiple orders at a time.
Does Pick and Pack Include Shipping?
The final step of the pick and pack process is order shipping. With this step, the fulfillment center ensures the order is ready to be shipped and is prepared for the carriers. The order should go to the designated area for that carrier in the loading dock so it can prepare to ship directly to the customer. It’s important to understand each step so that the order can make it from the computer system to the warehouse floor for picking and packing, and finally out the door to the customer.
4 Key Benefits of Pick and Pack
When a retailer selects pick and pack services for their fulfillment needs, they are seeking out an easy, efficient, and effective solution for getting items to their customers. When a company offers a wide variety of products, they are more likely to reach a broader audience of consumers. However, the logistics of managing the orders and numerous SKUs of products can become increasingly challenging. This is why many eCommerce stores utilize pick and pack services from a reliable fulfillment center
There are many benefits that an eCommerce retailer can find when outsourcing certain needs to a fulfillment center. Aside from reducing the amount of time or the number of workers the business needs to have for order fulfillment, it can simplify life and business in a few key ways that help eCommerce stores focus on the parts of their business that mean the most to them. Here are four of the key benefits that pick and pack services bring to retailers.
They make it easy. Pick and pack makes it easy for your business to offer more products for your customers. This could be additional variations of existing products or perhaps completely new products. Outsourcing or using pick and pack makes order fulfillment easy. Pick and pack workers are well trained to handle busy times (like holidays or other seasonal events), so they can process orders and move through the four steps efficiently, regardless of how many orders are coming through the door.
Increase customer satisfaction. When skilled pick and pack workers are employed, orders are filled quickly and correctly. This process makes sure that orders are filled with products in good condition, packaged carefully, and shipped on time. Getting the right orders to the right places is what order fulfillment is all about. This makes customers happy, increasing the odds that you will get them to come back and purchase from you again in the future.
It’s cost-effective. Pick and pack has several different methods designed to process orders, both large and small, in warehouses of all sizes. Pick and pack means you will not be storing items on your own, sending them back and forth for packaging. You can cut out many additional costs, from warehouse leases to transportation fees.
It streamlines order fulfillment. Because of the way pick and pack works, it's a precise and streamlined process, ensuring that orders are filled quickly and efficiently. Fulfillment centers utilizing pick and pack services are set up to make it easy for employees to safely pick and quickly pack items for shipment so that costs are kept low for businesses and customers can be kept happy.
For a further deep-dive into finding the right 3PL for your business, visit our Guide for Fulfillment. We’ve created a comprehensive eBook that covers the 5 main components to consider when choosing a 3PL.
Challenges with the Pick and Pack Process
Order fulfillment can be complex and challenging for small businesses and eCommerce shops. You need to have warehouse space and adequate staff to fill an order, and sometimes those factors can be too much for small or mid-sized businesses to handle on their own. There are challenges and risks to filling orders without the proper training, equipment, and processes. The most common order fulfillment errors include:
- Wrong packaging: Using incorrect packaging (such as the wrong size or shape of box or envelope) can result in damaged goods or unhappy customers.
- Incorrect order picking: Without technology or streamlined processes, order pickers can select the wrong item, the wrong size, or the wrong color.
- Missed items: Order packing slips are important to ensure that the full order is filled, but also having a pick and pack system in place to make sure an item isn’t missed in the packing process.
- Lack of resources: Resources can include employees, facilities, and technology, and when you are lacking in resources for your business it can be challenging to effectively fill orders.
Solve Pick and Pack Challenges with a 3PL Partner
So, now what? When you work with a 3PL partner for order fulfillment services, you can solve several challenges that pick and pack solve, which is exactly what we want to help you achieve. We have the skills and the teams necessary to make order fulfillment a breeze, conducting the pick and pack process in an efficient way for your business.
By working with Rakuten Super Logistics, you can trust that your pick and pack order fulfillment is done quickly and accurately, so your customers are happy and keep coming back for more.
Contact us today to learn more about our pick and pack services, and how we can solve your fulfillment challenges. Our skilled representatives are looking forward to offering you personalized feedback and quotes. Connect with us today!