Most Common Pick and Pack Methods for 3PL Warehouse Fulfillment



fulfillment center warehouse picker

Two of the most crucial steps in the order fulfillment process is picking and packing. Both heavily influence overall warehouse efficiency, which is a key factor in a high-performing business.


Efficient and accurate warehouse management and inventory management is key to ensuring fulfilled orders are just as efficient and accurate. A main part of that involves incorporating the most efficient picking and packing method for your business.


4 steps in the pick and pack process


Whether you use 3PL logistics services or oversee your own fulfillment, the pick and pack process generally stays the same.


The picking and packing process is as follows:

  1. Order receiving If not already, your eCommerce sales channels should integrate with your warehouse management software. Once an order comes through, your software should generate a packing slip.

  2. Order picking Based on this packing slip, a warehouse picker will actively go and pick the product from the shelves while checking for accuracy in quantity and product description. Pickers drive warehouse efficiency; thus, implementing the best picking method for your business can dramatically improve your overall business's efficiency.

  3. Order packing Once picked, the product will be sent to a packing station where a team member till pack the item with appropriate dunnage if necessary, seal it, and label it for shipping.

  4. Order shipping Packages ready to be shipped will be sorted by carrier on the loading dock.


Top 6 pick and pack methods


Picking and packing require detailed organization and streamlined communication. When all team members are on the same page with your set guidelines of your preferred picking method, there is little room for error.


Your preferred pick and pack method may change as your business grows, so understanding your options can help you manage and improve your efficiency.


Piece picking or pick-to-order


In piece picking, you essentially pick order by order, one by one. This is most common for businesses with low-volume orders, time-sensitive shipments, and a small team handling retail fulfillment where the picker is also the packer. If your business is small, you might only have a few orders a day so pick-to-order picking may be the easiest pick and pack method to use.


Wave picking


Similar to piece picking, wave picking involves a single picker who picks one SKU at a time. The main difference is wave picking involves a scheduling window. Warehouse managers can schedule picking windows during the times when they will least likely interfere with other warehouses processes to maximize warehouse efficiency.


Zone picking or pick-and-pass


Zone picking involves multiple pickers picking for the same order. This may be the more efficient option if your fulfillment center warehouse is large enough to designate pickers to specific locations of the warehouse. Business that have large warehouses, a high SKU count, and an organized system to search for select SKUs may benefit from the zone picking method.


Cluster picking


Cluster picking involves picking into multiple order containers at one time. For example, a warehouse may use a cart loaded with multiple totes or bins for different orders. The picker picks items in one zone and sorts them accordingly, thereby avoiding unnecessary and unproductive back-and-forth travel.


Batch picking

In batch picking, a single picker picks several orders at a time using a given route determined by an order management system (OMS). The main goal of batch picking is to prevent multiple repeated trips to the same bin to fulfill an order.


Eliminating repetitive trips and optimizing picking routes reduce travel time, making pickers more productive and lowering labor costs.


The main difference between batch picking and wave picking is that batch picking only requires a single picking window, while wave picking may involve multiple scheduling windows per shift.


Combination (zone-batch or zone-wave)


Combination picking methods are also common and involve some combination of zone picking, batch picking, and wave picking.


In zone-batch picking, pickers are assigned a zone but batch pick instead of piece pick within their zone. Zone-batch picking also involves a scheduling window.


In zone-wave picking, pickers are assigned a zone but wave pick instead of piece pick. They pick all of the SKUs for all orders within their zone, one order at a time within a single scheduling window per shift.


Let ShipBots pick and pack for you!


ShipBots is a third party logistics 3PL fulfillment center that will store, ship, pick and pack your products on your behalf. At ShipBots, we utilize our comprehensive order fulfillment and warehouse management software to maximize picking productivity and minimize errors. We integrate with most eCommerce platforms to accurately pick, pack, and fulfill your orders so that you can focus on scaling your business. With ShipBots as your 3PL provider, you will get the following features:

  • Receive, pick, pack and ship using personalized software that integrates with your sales channel

  • Validate and verify receiving, picking, packing, and shipping transactions

  • Track SKUs and update product quantities in real-time

  • Advanced warehouse management software (WMS) that can batch orders, print product and bin barcodes, and track inventory

  • Manage any volume of orders efficiently using workflows and triggers

  • Detailed reports including lot recall, shipping & tracking, and cycle counts

Request a pricing quote today to see if we’d be a good fit for your business.