Pick and pack describes all the activities involved in pulling items from their individual locations in a warehouse or order fulfillment facility and packaging them in compliance with customers’ requirements and specifications.
The last process before shipment or last-mile delivery, pick and pack fulfillment is a critical supply chain function. How it is handled can significantly impact customer satisfaction levels.
With the advent of consumerization and the growing number of online shoppers and e-commerce outlets, logistics operators can optimize the pick and pack process to differentiate their services and gain more customers. This is particularly true in the world of e-commerce. According to Convey, 98.1% of online shoppers say that delivery impacts their brand loyalty, and 83.5% of consumers say they’re less likely to buy from a brand again following a single negative delivery experience.
Consumers expect deliveries within 24 to 48 hours after placing an order. Although the COVID-19 pandemic put a significant strain on global supply chains and resulted in widespread delivery delays, companies like Amazon aim to return to the status-quo, and consumer expectations will follow suit.
Logistics operators that offer same- or next-day shipping almost always have strategies in place for ensuring a smooth, seamless pick and pack process. These strategies include choosing the right picking method (or a mix of picking methods) and deploying warehouse automation technology.
Your choice of picking methods can make or break your pick and pack operations and impact customer satisfaction. Since the latter is critical to maintaining/increasing brand awareness and ensuring a healthy bottom line, it’s essential for warehouse managers and other stakeholders to critically analyze several factors before deciding on a picking method. These factors include:
- Customer service requirements
- Physical product characteristics
- Facility size and layout
- Level of automation
- Type of infrastructure and technology in place
- Specialized procedures
- Operational maturity
- Available resources and workforce
After reviewing the above factors, supply chain managers can then make an informed decision and choose one or more of the picking methods below:
- Discrete order picking
- Batch picking
- Cluster picking
- Zone picking
- Wave picking
- Multi-batch picking
- Zone-batch-wave picking
Let’s explore some of the benefits of using the pick and process to streamline order fulfillment.
1. Exceeding customers’ expectations
One of the major benefits of the right pick and pack strategy is improved customer service and satisfaction levels. Logistics firms can easily control the movement of inventory and expedite order fulfillment to ensure speedy delivery of customers’ orders.
With 73.6% of shoppers saying that delivery contributes significantly to the overall shopping experience, logistics companies should pull out all stops to ensure that orders are picked, packed and ready for shipment as quickly as possible. In fact, the top 20% of merchants have on-time shipment rates of 99.8%.
The right pick and pack strategy will ensure on-time shipments — and this can be used to build a loyal customer base and engender competitive differentiation.
2. Boosting efficiency
The right pick and pack approach is efficient and saves time. It speeds up order fulfillment activities and enables goods to be inventoried, stored, picked and packed in one location. Since all order fulfillment activities are performed under one roof, this shortens the tedious process in which products are assembled from various storage facilities and sent to another location for packing and labeling.
3. Improving cost-effectiveness
Done right, pick and pack is cost-effective. It maximizes asset utilization and minimizes operational costs. A warehouse management system can help streamline the process by collating and managing operational and inventory data as well as packaging information. A fulfillment management system helps to optimize the storage and fulfillment of orders, boosting throughput.
Logistics operators can achieve greater cost-efficiency by leveraging collaborative robots. Collaborative mobile robots like Chuck by 6 River Systems are optimized by a fulfillment management system. They guide associates through each task to boost efficiency and tap into machine learning and AI to optimize pick routes in real-time, which reduces unnecessary walking. As a result, they help to reduce physical strain on warehouse associates and enable them to get more done in less time. Warehouses and fulfillment centers that implement collaborative mobile robots can realize a 2-3x increase in productivity over manual picking carts.
Collaborative robots also enable companies to adapt to changes in demand. For example, 6 River Systems offers fleet rentals for their collaborative robots. The solution can be scaled up and selectively deployed in facilities to fulfill customers’ orders during peak demand periods and returned when demand returns to baseline.
Pick and pack provides logistics operators with total control over the order fulfillment process. With such control, you can streamline the entire process and ensure that orders are fulfilled accurately, cost-efficiently and in the shortest possible time.