Picking and Packing 101: Boosting Warehouse Efficiency

Pick and Pack

In the realm of warehouse operations, few processes are as critical—and as scrutinized—as picking and packing. These activities are at the heart of fulfilling customer orders efficiently and accurately, impacting everything from labour costs to customer satisfaction. For supply chain professionals and warehouse managers, mastering the intricacies of picking and packing can significantly improve warehouse productivity and operational efficiency. This blog post dives deep into what picking and packing entail, their importance, key strategies for optimization, common challenges, and future trends.

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    What is Picking and Packing?

    Manager and supervisor at warehouse. Logistics center


    Picking refers to the process of collecting products from various locations within a warehouse to fulfil customer orders. The goal is to accurately and quickly pick the right items in the right amounts. There are different ways to do this, such as picking one order at a time or picking multiple orders together to save time and be more efficient.


    Packing is the subsequent step where picked items are securely packaged and made ready for shipment. This stage involves selecting appropriate packaging materials, labelling packages, and ensuring that items are packed to prevent damage during transit. Effective packing minimizes shipping costs and enhances customer satisfaction by protecting items.

    The Importance of Efficient Picking and Packing.


    Efficient picking and packing processes are vital for several reasons:

    1. Cost Reduction: Labor constitutes a significant portion of warehousing costs. Streamlining picking and packing processes can significantly reduce labour expenses.
    2. Order Accuracy: Accurate picking and packing ensure that customers receive the correct items, reducing return rates and enhancing customer satisfaction.
    3. Faster Fulfillment: Efficient processes lead to quicker order fulfilment, allowing businesses to meet customer expectations and improve delivery times.
    4. Space Utilization: Optimizing these processes can improve warehouse space utilization, making operations more efficient and reducing the need for additional storage space.

    Improving Your Picking and Packing Processes.

    In many a warehousing operation, the picking and packing processes follow each other. First, the items are picked; then they are packed. However since the majority of your costs for your warehousing operation are assigned to staffing, you may want to consider better ways of using your workforce so that you can save money.

    In many cases, picking then packing may not always present the best way of doing things. A number of our customers are having great success with what we like to call pick/pack picking, which is sometimes called cluster picking or carton picking.

    Are You Picking Twice?

    Say you have 20 orders to be picked and packed. With discrete picking and batch picking, you would create a consolidated picking list and then individually pick or batch pick the items. You take the items to a packing desk.

    All the goods will all be jumbled up and you will effectively have to pick them all over again. You will need to sort them so that you can pack them into the right orders.

    Pick Once by Combining Picking and Packing.

    A good warehouse management system (WMS) will have cartonisation functionality allowing pick/pack picking. It’s more effective to cartonise orders as less distance needs to be travelled in the warehouse for picking. Cartonisation functionality identifies each order’s best box, envelope, or packaging size. It can be further enhanced by using a set of standard-sized boxes or envelopes for packing.

    By combining cartonisation with pick/pack picking, you only need to handle the goods once. You set up your trolley before you pick. It can be pre-loaded with the right packaging, each of which is pre-labelled with the recipient’s details. Then, as you pick, you pack that order straight into its correct packaging.

    You only need to handle the goods once, saving time and effort. It also reduces moving time around the warehouse as you are only at each bin location once before moving on to another one. It is much more efficient than the discrete and batch picking methods where you are first picking all the orders, then re-sorting them, and finally packing them all.

    The Benefits of Refining Your Picking and Packing Processes.

    While pick/pack picking is not automatically right for all operations, there are advantages to the method that may suit your own operations.

    • Handling the Goods Just Once: A WMS includes carrier integration so that the right packaging can be pre-labeled with delivery addresses and carrier information. All of this is done in advance and the orders are picked and packed straight into the packaging. If you use multiple carriers, then the packed orders can be further sorted at this stage into separate bags or containers.
    • Handling Larger Order Volumes with Drop Shipping: With the rise in drop shipping comes an increase in the volume of orders. When you have more orders to get through – and possibly it’s a case of extra, small orders – it may be better for you to pick and pack each order. We have many customers that drop ship for retailers and they are seeing increased efficiency by using pick/pack picking, despite having larger volumes of orders to get through.
    • Optimizing Your Workforce: Pick/pack picking allows you to redeploy staff. You can reduce the numbers needed at the packing stage and redeploy them to the picking (which incorporates the packing). One client of ours, a company with a high volume of small, but valuable, orders has moved eight packers over to picking and has increased its order throughput by 30%.
    • Faster Despatch: The increases in speed mean that you can dispatch your orders more quickly. If goods are packed as soon as they are picked, they can be sent out straight away for delivery, rather than waiting for all the orders to be picked and then packed. Getting your goods out of the warehouse door more quickly can mean earlier delivery for some customers if you can meet your carriers’ collection cut-off times and deadlines.

    Key Optimisation Strategies.


    Use of Technology (RFID, WMS).

    Technological advancements have revolutionized warehouse operations. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) are pivotal in optimizing picking and packing processes.

    • RFID: RFID tags enable real-time tracking of items, enhancing accuracy and speed in the picking process. They eliminate manual scanning, reducing human error and increasing efficiency.
    • WMS: A robust WMS like Korber facilitates efficient management of warehouse operations, including picking and packing. It offers functionalities such as cartonization, which identifies the best packaging for each order, reducing handling time and improving accuracy.

    Zone Picking vs. Wave Picking.

    Different picking methods can be employed based on warehouse layout and order volume:

    • Zone Picking: In this method, the warehouse is divided into different zones, and pickers are assigned to specific zones. Each picker is responsible for picking items within their zone, which are then consolidated and packed. This method reduces travel time and increases efficiency.
    • Wave Picking: Wave picking involves grouping orders into waves based on certain criteria, such as delivery schedules or shipping destinations. Pickers work on a wave of orders simultaneously, enhancing productivity and reducing congestion within the warehouse.

    Best Practices for Packing Stations.

    Efficient packing stations are crucial for smooth operations:

    • Ergonomic Design: Design packing stations to minimize movement and reduce strain on workers. Place frequently used materials within easy reach.
    • Standardized Processes: Implement standardized packing procedures to ensure consistency and accuracy.
    • Quality Control: Incorporate quality control checks to verify that items are packed correctly and securely.

    Overcoming Common Challenges with Ease.

    Challenge: High Labor Costs

    • Solution: Implement automated solutions such as conveyor belts and automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) to reduce reliance on manual labour.

    Challenge: Order Accuracy

    • Solution: Utilize barcode scanning and RFID technologies to ensure accurate order picking and packing.

    Challenge: Space Constraints

    • Solution: Optimize warehouse layout and use vertical storage solutions to maximize space utilization.

    Challenge: Seasonal Fluctuations

    • Solution: Employ a temporary workforce and flexible scheduling to manage peak seasons effectively.

    Trends Shaping the Future of Picking and Packing.

    The future of picking and packing is being shaped by several emerging trends:

    • Automation: Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and conveyance systems are becoming increasingly prevalent, reducing manual labour and improving efficiency.
    • Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI algorithms are being used to optimize picking routes, forecast demand, and enhance decision-making in real time.
    • Robotics: Collaborative robots (cobots) work alongside human workers to pick and pack items, increasing productivity and reducing errors.


    By adopting these strategies, warehouse managers and supply chain professionals can significantly enhance their picking and packing methods. This leads to greater operational efficiency and cost savings and improves customer satisfaction. Ultimately, a well-optimized warehouse is a cornerstone of successful and profitable supply chain management.

    Here are some tips for implementing improvements:

    • Analyze Data: Utilize data from your WMS or other systems to identify areas for improvement.
    • Continuous Improvement: Regularly review and update processes to ensure they remain effective.
    • Training and Communication: Proper training and communication with workers are crucial for successful implementation of any changes. Involve them in the process to gain their support and ideas.
    • Collaboration with Suppliers: Work closely with suppliers to improve inventory management, reducing picking and packing lead times. Overall, continually reviewing and optimizing these processes is key to maintaining a competitive edge in the fast-paced world of warehousing and logistics. By embracing technology, implementing efficient strategies, and overcoming common challenges, businesses can ensure accuracy.

    If you want to improve your outbound order fulfilment process and are considering using a different picking process, we’d be pleased to show you how Korber One WMS facilitates the pick/pack picking method.

    By following the strategies and solutions discussed in this comprehensive guide, you’ll be well on your way to optimizing your warehouse’s picking and packing processes, ensuring that your operations are as efficient and effective as possible

    Frequently Asked Questions.

    Pick and pack is a process where individual items from inventory are selected (picked) and then packaged (packed) for shipment. This is crucial for fulfilling customer orders accurately and efficiently, especially in e-commerce and retail industries.

    The process typically involves several steps:

    1. Order Receipt: The warehouse management system (WMS) receives an order.
    2. Picking: Staff or automated systems locate and select the items from their storage locations.
    3. Packing: The picked items are brought to a packing station and packaged for safe arrival.
    4. Shipping: The packed order is labelled and sent for delivery.
    • Single Order Picking: Items for one order are picked at a time, straightforward but time-consuming for high volumes.
    • Batch Picking: Items for multiple orders are picked simultaneously, more efficient for large volumes but requires complex coordination.
    • Optimise Layout: Arrange items to minimize walking distance and improve speed.
    • Use Zones: Create zones for high-demand items to reduce congestion and improve flow.
    • Implement Slotting: Place fast-moving items in easily accessible locations.
    • Regularly Review Layout: Adjust based on order patterns and seasonal changes.