Picking and subsequent packing of goods are two sides of the same coin. With a smaller number of orders, an e-shop can handle them individually, but with a larger logistical load, a business needs its own tactics to streamline order processing.
The key is speed, as it is one of the main factors that sets an e-commerce business apart from the competition. Customer repeat purchases in an online store are based on delivery speed, starting with quick picking and packaging of products.
However, employees are performance-limited, with an average picker sorting approximately 60 to 80 products per hour, while a packer resolves 15-20 orders in an hour. This process can be streamlined in various ways.
The most significant is automation, though it may not be a realistic solution for everyone. Another method could be adjusting the workflow, motivating employees, or simplifying certain tasks.
How does picking and packing work in warehouses? What methods are used in logistics? We delve into these topics in this article.
Picking without chaos
The main goal of every picker is to find and allocate goods to orders as quickly as possible. However, the entire process can be complicated and slowed down by a poorly configured system.
About half of the picking time is associated with walking and manually selecting products for orders. It becomes even slower if, for example, the picker is disoriented in the warehouse or spends more time searching for a product than necessary, or if there’s a lack of a control system, resulting in unnecessary errors.
A significant improvement is to set up the warehouse information system to facilitate the picker’s work. It can precisely and efficiently guide them to the product, prompt multiple scans of the selected product, eliminate errors, and allow the handling of multiple orders simultaneously.
Thanks to a quality warehouse information system, businesses can consider alternative picking methods:
- Piece picking – In this option, orders are processed one by one. The picker is responsible for an order, navigates the warehouse, and when it’s complete, moves it for packing. This method is mainly used in smaller e-shops with good orientation and fewer orders. Otherwise, it may cause unnecessary delays and late delivery.
- Batch picking – If an e-commerce business has enough orders, it can adopt this method. An employee takes multiple orders, and if they need more pieces of a particular product, they pick them all at once. After completing the picking, the products are sorted for individual orders, typically through the information system and scanning. While this option streamlines the process, a less effective system may lead to errors due to inattention.
- Zone picking – This method is often used in larger fulfillment companies handling e-commerce logistics. In this case, the picker works in a specific warehouse zone. When an order arrives, the worker receives an alert based on the product’s position in the warehouse. The products are prepared and sent for sorting. Orders are completed with the help of the warehouse information system and sent for packing.
- Wave picking – This method combines batch and zone picking. A worker in a zone picks batches for multiple orders. After completion, the products are sent to another zone, where additional items for the orders are added.
These picking methods increase efficiency, speeding up order processing and making the employees’ work easier. However, the process can be significantly improved.
The solution is automation, which is increasingly being integrated into the warehouses of e-commerce businesses or large fulfillment centers. This could involve automated AI sorters, conveyors, storage and retrieval systems, among many other tools.
On the other hand, it involves substantial investments, which may not be worthwhile for smaller or medium-sized e-shops. In such cases, the process can be streamlined through suitable picking methods, proper training of employees, or outsourcing logistics to third-party fulfillment centers.
Seasonal peaks test every packing process
Parcel packaging is a relatively straightforward part of the logistics process, but factors can significantly slow it down. Errors in packaging, such as packaging multiple parcels simultaneously or inadequate content control, can occur.
One of the initial steps to streamline packaging is linking the packaging process to the information system and subsequent mandatory verification of products inserted into the parcel. Additionally, a suitable packaging system needs to be set up for employees.
This can be achieved by monitoring the packaging speed and individual steps of the process, identifying areas for improvement. Moreover, employees themselves can often provide insights into how their work can be enhanced, making their feedback valuable.
Streamlining packaging isn’t just about speed but also financial efficiency. In this case, attention must be paid to the consumption of packaging materials, box selection, and the like.
Efficient use of materials can be achieved through employee training and implementing a precise procedure for selecting materials for individual orders. However, even after system setup, continuous improvement is essential.
On the other hand, the maximum efficiency from a time and material utilization perspective is achieved through the introduction of machine packaging. This can inspect the parcel content, scan their size, and use only the necessary amount of material in a very short time.
Automated packaging can significantly increase packaging efficiency, with just one machine capable of packaging over a thousand parcels in an hour. This eliminates delays during seasonal peaks, positively impacting satisfied customers.
Pick & Pack at Fulfillment by FHB Group
E-commerce clients turn to company services to expand into new markets and find comprehensive logistics solutions. With approximately 15 years of market experience, processes are set up to guarantee delivery within 24 to 48 hours and eliminate packaging errors.
For product storage, a chaotic storage system is utilized, supported by a proprietary warehouse information system. This allows efficient handling of orders.
Pickers use both zone and batch picking, enabling the processing of large order volumes flawlessly throughout the day. Multiple control stages, during picking and packaging, ensure accuracy.
Packaging occurs in two ways: manually and using machines. Manual packaging focuses on fragile products and branded packaging, with an emphasis on efficient material use.
However, the majority of products are directed towards machine packaging, which involves multiple packaging lines, including some of the fastest packing machines globally. Within an hour, they can pack thousands of parcels and, through product scanning, use only the necessary amount of material.
Investments at Fulfillment by FHB Group continue with the aim of improving services and regularly enhancing individual steps of the fulfillment process. Clients can thus focus more on their business without dedicating unnecessary time and money to logistics.