Top-Pick-&-Pack-methods

By:

Jeremy Barth

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Organizing your warehouse for optimum performance can be a difficult, stressful, and daunting task through and through. However, this is for good reason, as thousands of customers and potential customers depend on your products and depend on you shipping them out in a quick and orderly fashion. 

A poor warehouse organization system can only hurt a business and prevent them from shipping their orders out as fast as possible. Let’s go over the pick and pack methodologies that exist for organizing a warehouse space.  

What Does Pick & Pack Mean?

Pick and pack is a warehousing term that refers to a method(s) of gathering customer orders and preparing them for shipment. Multiple methods can be applied to any one warehouse. In this article, we will discuss this method in full detail from the benefits of the method to the industries this system is best for. 

There are four main principles behind all the pick and pack methods discussed in this article. 

Customer orders

The first step in the process is the customer places an order. Your backend system then notifies your warehouse that the items in said order need to be picked. 

Picker Picks

Once the order is received, the warehouse analyst then goes out and picks the correct items in the order. The items are then taken to the packing area where they are properly packaged into boxes, then labeled and readied for shipment. 

Packer Packs

At the packing station, orders are placed into boxes and shipping labels are printed in preparation for shipment. 

Order Shipped

Your order is paired with your chosen freight company and shipped off to the customer. 

This process may seem simple on the surface. However, it is one thing to read about the pick and pack method and an entirely different experience actually putting it into practice. 

Common Order Picking Systems Used With Pick & Pack

We have identified at least five different commonly used pick & pack methods used by many small and large brands. Each method has its own unique applications and benefits depending on your current needs as a company. So, what are some of the most common pick and pack methods used today? 

  1. Piece Picking or Broken Case Picking is the simplest and most straightforward picking method out of all methods listed here. You are picking and shipping one order at a time. 

Piece picking is commonly used for small startups that are just starting out in the warehousing process. This method works at first, but as the company grows, most find themselves needing to change to one of the other four processes listed below. 

  1. Batch Picking or Multi-Order Picking Method is next up. Just like the name implies, this method involves picking multiple orders at once. To make this easier you usually see a worker push around a pick cart with multiple bins where orders can be easily sorted and tracked for later packing. (see image below)

This system is perfect for businesses that are experiencing high amounts of traffic daily. Once the cart completes all of its assigned orders, the cart heads over to the packing table to prep the order for shipment. 

  1. Zone Picking or Pick & Pass Method is the next step in optimizing warehouse picking. In this method, your warehouse is divided into different zones. For example, you could divide your warehouse into Zone A, Zone B, Zone C, etc. Each zone is assigned a picker who works exclusively in their zone. 

As orders come in, pickers then grab all the items for their orders from within their zones. 

But what if an order has items in multiple zones? This is where the “pass” part of the “Pick & Pass” Method comes into play. For orders that require items from multiple zones, the bins with those orders are passed to a picker in the next zone(s). 

Companies can set up automated conveyor systems to pass and sort bins from one zone to another. This process can be done manually if necessary.  

If completed correctly, zone picking can significantly boost productivity. 

  1. A step up from zone picking is the Wave Picking or Cluster Picking Method. This method is simply a combination of zone picking & batch picking. Using an optimized picking cart, each picker picks multiple orders from within their zones. Orders that require items from other zones are then passed to the appropriate zone. 

  1. Lastly, we have the Swift-Pick Method. This method is a top rated for the pick & pack system and not commonly mentioned by other companies. We will go over the basic principles behind this method, but be aware that this process can be adapted to suit your individual needs.

First, your warehouse is organized from high volume to low volume. High volume inventory is placed up front where it’s most accessible and the low volume items are placed near the back (because they aren't ordered as much). 

In a separate area of your warehouse, small, high-density flow racks are placed in small picking zones that contain +/-200 of the most popular SKUs around the picker in a “U” shape. These items are regularly restocked as the racks run out of inventory. 

This method ensures that your fastest moving items are all easily accessible to your pickers which dramatically reduces picking time since pickers no longer have to search large areas for individual items. 

If any items are ordered from the low volume areas, these orders are simply passed (like in zone & wave picking) to that respective zone. 

Check out the digital rendering below for a detailed graphic of how the Swift pick method is set up. Notice how the pickers aren't positioned between the rows or pallet racking, but in their own swift pick cells (in purple). 

3 individual Flow Racks in purple positioned around pickers. All items are easily accessible. The traditional pallet racks are placed to the left of the swift pick cells and on the right is a conveyor line. 

Here is the swift pick method in action at a large natural supplement company. Notice how the picker is actively using batch picking within his zone, effectively fulfilling up to 45 orders at once!

Warehouse worker using the paperless WarehouseOS to pick orders within the swift pick cell.

When paired with a picking software like the one in the pictures (WarehouseOS™), you can dramatically reduce picking times since the software tracks everything easily. This effectively allows you to pick and pack at the same time dramatically reducing costs and time.  

Who is the Pick & Pack Method Ideal For?

Typically, this method works best in industries that sell business to consumers (B to C). We have compiled a list of companies that could easily apply this methodology to their own operation. 

E-comerce -  The e-commerce industry has been growing at an astounding rate. Total e-commerce sales globally rose from 15% to 21% over the course of two years - from 2019 to 2021. As of April 2022, it sits at 22%. With the trending growth of online sales, it looks like the e-commerce industry has solidified its foothold for consumers. 

Apparel - Currently, the expected CAGR (2022-2026) of the apparel industry is 5.48%. This year it is expected to surpass $1.7 Trillion. With the significant growth in this industry, methods such as the pick and pack methods are necessary to optimize warehouse processes and fulfill thousands of orders a day.  

Automotive - It is estimated that the average car has around 30,000 parts. Many parts come standard across all brands, makes, and models, but others do not. Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, Subaru, Ford, etc. all have proprietary unique parts and many automotive companies need a way to pick and pack and ship those parts. Pick and pack works perfectly for this industry. 

Health & Beauty - With a global CAGR of about 4.75%, this industry is a powerhouse when it comes to shipping products. In 2020, health and beauty had a market share of $483 Billion and it is expected to grow past $716 Billion in 2022. Many items in the beauty industry are small and easy to store, pick, and ship out, making it a perfect candidate for the pick and pack methods. 

Furniture & Home Decor - With a significant market share of about $616.6 Billion in 2019 and a CAGR of 3.9%, it is expected that this market will reach $838.6 Billion by 2027.  If  companies are striving to compete in this industry, they need to get their backend organized to meet consumer demand. 

Consumer Packaged Goods - One of the largest markets in this list, consumer packaged goods has a solid CAGR of 3% and is expected to grow from approximately $1.9 trillion in 2020 to $2.38 trillion by 2027. 

Supplements - From dietary supplements to nutritional supplements, this industry is ideal for pick & pack methods. Most supplement orders are small, making it easy to pack and ship. In 2020, the nutrition supplements market had a market share of $78.7 Billion and has grown to 87.9 Billion in 2021. The CAGR is at 5.5%

There are too many industries to list in this article, so If you didn't see your industry in the list above, don’t worry. Pick and pack might still be a good fit for your industry. Reach out and one of our experts can help answer any questions you might have. 

Pick & Pack Benefits

Faster Ship Times

An optimized organizational picking structure/system in place reduces the time needed to find the items in an order. Faster pick & pack times means shorter lead times.

Lower Costs per Package

In the warehousing industry, time is money. Many workers are paid by the hour, so the faster your workers can accurately pick, pack, and ship, the less you spend on getting your orders out. The right system in place has been shown to reduce costs per package by half!

Fewer Mistakes 

An organized warehouse makes the life of a picker far easier. Order accuracy increases as a result. 

Happy Workers

A complicated warehouse without a streamlined organizational structure, such as the structures for pick & pack, can result in workers tiering out quickly. A simple to understand, streamlined process makes your worker's jobs easier. This results in faster picking and happy workers.

Happy Customers

Quick, accurate shipments precisely as pictured online are what customers want. The correct pick & pack system helps you get there. 

Who Works Pick & Pack Jobs?

These employees are known by many different names, but they all essentially do the same job, with slight variations based on your needs. Job titles to post out are the following:

  1. Pick and/or Pack specialist
  2. Warehouse Associate
  3. Fulfillment Associate
  4. Material Handler
  5. Operations Associate

Any variations of these five titles is also common to see when posting for jobs in this category. 

Summary

Pick and Pack is an incredibly versatile method and is the perfect solution for various industries. Faster shipping times, lower costs, and fewer shipping mistakes results in better service provided for your customers.

Many industries listed in this article are growing at a steady pace, with market share in the hundreds of billions of dollars. If companies, small and large, want to continue to capture that added value being added to their industry, they need to stay on top of the latest warehousing trends to provide the most value to their customers. 

WarehouseOS can help. If you would like to discuss the best organizational structure for your facility, reach out to us today for a free consultation.

WRITTEN BY:

Jeremy Barth
TRUSTED BY LEADING BRANDS

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