Fulfilling orders and delivering products quickly and efficiently to customers is critical to any warehouse operation. Many businesses rely extensively on either their own or third-party warehouses and fulfillment centers to take care of the logistics of getting items to their customers. In many cases this involves taking inventory that has been stored in one type of unit quantity but picking, repackaging, shipping it piecemeal, and with other products mixed in.
This is where pick and pack processes come into play; the concept of warehouse staff being able to easily find and pack items for orders. Essentially the pick and pack process are the steps followed by warehouse staff once an order comes in.
The basic steps are as follows:
The “Pick” happens after an order is confirmed and must now be located and selected from a storage location within the warehouse by staff.
The “Pack” happens once all of the items for the order have been gathered (or Picked) and now need to be put into packaging ready for shipment.
Sounds easy, right? And theoretically you’d be right. The challenge for warehouses is getting this right every time, thousands of times over, and often in tight timeframes.
For warehouses a smooth and efficient fulfillment process is critical. One of the primary challenges in order fulfilment is that customers tend to place orders that are fairly unique in their variances. Pick and pack processes are meant to help businesses deal with this challenge as efficiently as possible. The right strategy implemented correctly has a direct impact in increasing revenue and productivity while lowering costs and frustration.
Challenges in implementing these processes still exist. These tend to be inherently linked to human error. Stock for example may not be in the location it should have been stored in or perhaps stock was not replenished in time. At Akatia we come across this a lot when implementing our WMS for a new customer. Either the business was coming from a completely human reliant system, or their previous system required manual data inputs. Either way a system that relies on people to input and maintain data, often not in real time, is open to significant errors.
Another common challenge related to pick and pack are organization. Warehouse pickers need the right information and tools at their disposal. Getting the small details right amount to big impacts. Real time information and data are key and the ability to access it is all too important. Handheld devices which can both scan, update and allow access to information are a great step in surmounting organization challenges and standardizing pick and pack processes. Warehouse layout is another way to enhance pick and pack. We’re not talking about ripping down your shelves to the ground. But ask yourself: Are my locations barcode controlled? Are items of a specific type located near each other? Are frequently purchased items easily accessible? Do I have designated areas for packing so that picked items can be dropped off to allow pickers to get back to picking and packers to pack? A little forethought can go a long way in improving your pick and pack process.
One of the best ways you can improve pick and pack is by implementing the right WMS solution. A WMS solution can help in a variety of ways. Akatia’s WAM for example cuts down on paper processes. We can also automate processes like creating a shipment as an order comes into the system. Or flagging inventory stock thresholds for replenishment. As well WAM has a mobile app for scanning devices so pickers can work on the go rather than wasting time on manual processes. And as WAM is developed for Salesforce users our mobile app also connects live to a company’s Salesforce database which means everything from the stock levels to status of orders are updated in real time. In WAM’s case we introduce carrier rate retrieval, and the printing of packing labels and slips from the carrier into the WMS environment so that this aspect of the logistics management is introduced to the pick and pack processes.
As you can see lot of the manual tasks, guess work, and data input is taken out of the equation allowing staff to focus on fulfilment. On top of this stakeholders and business decision makers can report on any datapoint which gives them valuable feedback to be able to continue to improve and build on processes.
A WMS like WAM also increases workers confidence in the process, knowing that errors are all but eliminated. In our experience warehouses that implement WAM as a WMS see high ROI on the investment and it becomes the core of their growth and success.
Our topic was why pick and pack is important for your WMS. Really though what we’ve been able to demonstrate is that a WMS can integrate pick and pack into your fulfilment operations. The value in real time information visibility, process standardization, warehouse design and elimination of human errors is immense and what a WMS is made to bring together. This contributes to a warehouse being able to fulfill faster, efficiently, and keeps customers happy. All while increasing profitability and at a reasonable investment which pays for itself.
A WMS like WAM is designed to bring all these benefits into one cohesive environment that works for you rather than against you.