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How to Choose Your Pick and Pack Process

Reckitt-Benckiser shoot for Ryder. (Davis Turner photos)

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 business areas. The right pick-and-pack method depends on your business's type of fulfillment model.

However, it's essential to understand the benefits of each approach 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, increasing your pick-and-pack method's importance. You want to choose a way that will save you time and work with your fulfillment model, allowing you to create happy customers and save money on fulfillment. In addition to choosing the right method, choosing the right pick and pack warehouse is also important to effectively carry out your 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 trendy 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 every 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 SKUs can also hurt your efficiency with batch picking, which is a factor to keep in mind.

Method #3: Wave Picking

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 things that are commonly sold together
  • Shipping deadlines

Wave picking can work for any business, but it's particularly effective for large companies that 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 significantly from each method mentioned thus far, as it relies on employees' roles in different warehouse parts. 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 accountable for doing the same in their portion of the warehouse. Zone picking closely mimics the traditional assembly line model, making it highly 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.

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