Staci Americas Blog

5 Traits of Efficient Pick and Pack Operations

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In our last post, we took a close look at the components of the pick and pack fees that your fulfillment partner charges.  The more efficient a provider is, the lower your fees.  Let’s take a still-closer look at pick and pack operations, and examine the ways that your fulfillment partner can maximize efficiency. 

Maximizing Efficiency of Pick and Pack Operations

Whether you outsource fulfillment or do it in-house, your biggest warehouse expense is labor.  It makes sense to keep a close eye on the pick and pack process and look for efficiencies.  Here are 5 ways to improve:

Reduce time.  Pick and pack operations need routine efficiency tune-ups.   A determination should be made on which pieces of the process eat up the most time.  Is it sorting picked items?  Box assembly?  Labeling?  Once this is identified at a broad level, a single component of that process can be targeted for improvement.   The most effective area of focus will likely come down to time and, by extension, repetition. 

If improvement to a given process can save 20 seconds, 8 times a day, it may not be worth the effort.  However, if another process improvement can save just 3 seconds, but up to 1,000 times a day, it is likely very worthy of pursuit. 

Implement new technology.  In our last post about pick and pack fees, we showed you a bagging and labeling machine that resulted a 3-fold productivity increase for an Staci Americas client.  This is precisely the type of automation investment that can pay big dividends.  And there are many similar products out there, from box erectors to large conveyor systems, that can make operations vastly more efficient. 

There is, of course, a balance.  These upticks in efficiency result from technology purchases that cause an uptick in spend.  In many cases, though, these expenditures pay for themselves quickly.  It’s a good idea to stay current on available material handling equipment. If you use an outside fulfillment company, it’s fair to expect that they would know and proactively recommend technology to improve productivity.

Reduce travel time.  There are many different picking methods, from simple ‘piece picking’ where orders are picked one-by-one, to ‘wave picking’ in which multiple orders are combined into in a single wave that allows order pickers to go to one area of the warehouse to pick multiple orders.  Efficient operations match the size of the warehouse to the appropriate pick method, then streamline the picking process with a warehouse management system (WMS) that can “organize” the work of order pickers to minimize travel time.

There are still more ways to reduce travel time in the picking process.  Your fulfillment partner can have a system that actually brings items to pickers, typically through automation.  It can also stage popular or difficult-to-pick SKUs at or near the packing area. 

Capitalize on groupings.  The work performed within pick and pack operations includes opportunities for grouping smaller tasks into one big common task.  For example, orders that will be shipped via the same carrier can be treated as a batch and pulled at the same time.  They’re then ready to go out at the same time, in a more expeditious manner. Similarly, if there is a very popular SKU, all orders containing that SKU can be processed together.  Make sure your fulfillment partner is thinking about intelligent ways to leverage group picks to reduce labor costs.

Time can also be saved within the quality control process.  If there is a group of orders that are 100% similar, it may not be necessary to check each individual order.  If the picking is checked properly, then random orders can be checked during QC and the weighing of the packages can confirm accuracy. 

Plan labor to minimize “standing around” time.  There is nothing more inefficient than paying people to stand around without work to do.  In most fulfillment operations, the volume of work will have predictable patterns throughout the week so that shifts can be staffed accordingly (e.g., some people may work four ten-hour shifts, while others work five eight-hour shifts).  Labor needs to be there when the work is. 

Efficient 3PL providers may also have the administrative team prepare the work for the shift before it starts so that associates can hit the ground running. 

The bottom line is your bottom line.  You want to pay reasonable rates for great service.  The best fulfillment companies understand this and embrace efficiency as a dynamic component of every company aspect, including pick and pack operations. This makes them profitable and keeps you happy. 

To learn how Staci Americas Logistics works with Etailers and direct sales companies to maximize fulfillment efficiency, contact us today


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