Setting Up a Pick and Pack Warehouse
If you run a business that fulfills online orders, you will need a warehouse for storage. And if you have a warehouse, you need to design a workflow and organize your inventory to efficiently fulfill orders. A popular way to set up a warehouse is using a pick and pack philosophy; a pick and pack warehouse is where employees on-site pick ordered products off shelves in a warehouse and pack them for delivery.
This style can provide tremendous flexibility for a business and their ability to ship out a variety of goods. However, an efficient pick and pack warehouse may not be as easy as it sounds; let’s explore some questions and tips surrounding a pick and pack warehouse.
Questions to Ask Before You Start
Before you start your own pick and pack warehouse, ask yourself some questions.
Pick and pack is not the only style of warehouse organization; some fulfillment centers elect to use cross-docking instead. In cross-docking, goods are received by inbound transit and are immediately shipped out to their next destination, reducing or eliminating the time spent in storage. While efficient, cross-docking typically requires items to come prepackaged and generally leaves a fulfillment center with less flexibility in what they can send out. However, when your components need to be packaged and combined for shipping, pick and pack warehouses are king.
Different Types of Pick and Pack Warehouses
There are four main types of pick and pack warehouses that have different applications depending on the scale of your business.
Discrete Order Picking:
Discrete order picking is a linear approach to pick and pack. Here, an employee would pack orders one at a time, moving in order down the order list. They would find all the items for one order before moving on to the next. This method is the most popular among small businesses where they have smaller warehouses, smaller inventory, smaller staff, and less orders. Discrete order picking makes fulfillment straightforward and easy to stay on top of.
Batch picking is similar to discrete order, but instead of one order at a time, an employee would grab one certain item at a time. For example, if three of the five orders require a pencil, then an employee would grab three pencils and package them in their respective orders before moving on to the next object. This method is also used mostly by small businesses with large order volumes to streamline the fulfillment process.
Wave picking is basically combining discrete order picking and batch picking. Groups of similar orders are fulfilled in waves. Items collected during the same wave would have similar shipping deadlines or are in close proximity to one another.
Zone picking is the popular strategy amongst big fulfillment centers with large inventories and a high volume of orders to fulfill. Here, an employee would be assigned a zone in the warehouse and would be responsible for picking and packing items that fall in their jurisdiction. This method is how companies like Amazon with massive inventories and order volumes can keep up with demand.
Tips for Keeping Your Warehouse Organized
Maintaining an organized warehouse is crucial for a pick and pack operation. Efficiency in pick and pack comes from being able to locate items quickly and get them shipped out as soon as possible. Here are some tips for keeping your warehouse organized and efficient:
First, meticulously plan the warehouse’s layout. There are some great online programs that can help with this planning. Consider putting items commonly sold together in close proximity. Think about the workflow for how items will be picked off shelves and where they go to be packaged and shipped off. Put the time in to designing a great layout before moving inventory in. Rearranging large amounts of inventory in a crowded warehouse will cause a load of problems and take a lot of time.
Find a warehouse inventory system that you trust! Beyond just organizing the layout, having a program to keep track of inventory is essential to a smooth fulfillment operation. If you can’t find items that are ordered, or are not even sure if you have inventory left, your pick and pack operation is destined for failure.
When you do receive a shipment of inventory, stock items in the same spot each time. The last thing you want is to be wandering around the warehouse looking for a certain item; this is inefficient and will cost you time and money!
Tips for Keeping Your Warehouse Staffed
A vital piece of a successful pick and pack warehouse is a trustworthy staff that understands the layout of the facility. You can maintain this by utilizing a few tips:
To help keep people on staff, make the pick and pack operation as simple and straightforward as possible. Have a clear, concise layout where employees can easily locate items on shelves and bring them to the packing area. A complex layout will serve to only frustrate employees, lower efficiency, and raise stress, which is something that will generate more turnovers in staff.
Once an organized layout is established, maintaining organization is also huge for maintaining employees. Warehouse staff don’t want to be working in a cluttered environment with inventory missing or scattered about the warehouse. Again, make their job easy and straightforward, take the thought out of the operation. A frustrated employee is going to find other employment a lot quicker than a content worker who understands their role and how to complete it.
Contact the Pick and Pack Warehouse Specialists at NextGen 3PL
For help with anything related to pick and pack, contact the pick and pack warehouse specialists at NextGen 3PL! We will gladly loan our expertise to you to help fix any problems you have or to get you started on your pick and pack journey.