The fulfillment part of your Shopify store is one of the most important. A well-oiled fulfillment operation can make or break your company, and the more efficiently it runs, the more time you have to focus on other areas of your business. The right pick and pack method depends on which type of fulfillment model your business uses, however it’s important to understand the benefits of each method to decide which one will work most effectively for you.
Choosing an Order Picking and Packing Method
As your business grows, you will begin to pick and pack more products. More orders mean more products to be shipped, which increases the importance of your pick and pack method. You want to choose a method which will save you time and work with your fulfillment model, allowing you to create happy customers and save money on fulfillment.
Method #1: Discrete Picking
Discrete picking is one of the simplest and most commonly used picking methods. Simply put, the merchant receives an order, collects the components of the order, and packs them – quickly moving on to the next.
Discrete picking is one of the most simple picking methods, making it a particularly popular choice for many small businesses. Unfortunately, it’s far from the most efficient method, making it a poor choice for large operations.
Method #2: Batch Picking
If you’re shooting for high efficiency at the cost of simplicity, batch picking may be the right choice for your operation. Whereas discrete picking lacks the efficiency needed for large companies, batch picking focuses on collecting and packing items for each SKU – rather than each single order. This prevents unneeded repetition, as you’ll pick and pack all components for a shipment to a single address, rather than returning to the same address over and over to prepare shipments.
Batch picking works well for many operations but isn’t the best choice when large packages are at play. When shipments typically have large dimensions, batch picking loses its edge. Orders with multiple SKU’s can also have a negative impact on your efficiency with batch picking, which is a factor to keep in mind.
Method #3: Wave Picking
Much like discrete picking, the wave picking method handles one order at a time – rather than multiple, like batch picking. Wave picking differs in how orders are organized to be picked and packed. Similar orders are grouped together and are fulfilled during scheduled waves (time frames). Orders can be grouped by:
- Items stored close together in the warehouse or storage space
- Similar SKUs, or items which are commonly sold together
- Shipping deadlines
Wave picking can work for any business, but it’s particularly effective for large companies who receive many orders. Traditionally, wave picking reaches its maximum efficiency when an entire team of people is hired to handle packing and picking, making it a better choice for large operations.
Method #4: Zone Picking
Zone picking differs greatly from each method already mentioned thus far, as it relies on the roles of employees in different parts of a warehouse. Essentially, employees in Zone A will be responsible for packing any products for an order found in their zone, and Zone B employees will be responsible for doing the same in their portion of the warehouse. Zone picking closely mimics the traditional assembly line model, making it extremely effective in many cases.
Much like the assembly line, zone picking works to maximize efficiency. It’s not an excellent choice for small operations, but it’s one of the best options for large companies with large warehouses and many orders.
Which picking and packing method do you use for your business? How have you adapted your method to increase efficiency? Let us know in the comments below!