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Jaidyn Farar

How To Build a Great Pick and Pack Process for Your Business

by Jaidyn Farar

The faster you get orders shipped, the faster they reach your customers. So if your warehouse is full of bottlenecks and inefficiencies, the ripple effect—delayed shipments—will negatively impact your brand image and customer satisfaction scores. 

To keep products flowing smoothly out of your warehouse, you need to have an effective pick and pack process. When you master the art (and science) of picking and packing, you’ll save money on labor, fulfill orders more quickly, and keep up with increasing order volumes during high-demand periods.

What does pick and pack mean?

Pick and pack is the process of selecting, gathering, and packaging items from your inventory in preparation for shipment to customers. Picking involves workers finding and retrieving individual items from warehouse shelves or storage bins. Packing happens afterward, when other workers (often aided by automation technology) place those items into boxes or envelopes. From there, the newly-assembled packages are labeled and shipped to customers.

The pick and pack fulfillment process has a major impact on warehouse efficiency. When you reduce the labor it takes to assemble products for an order, you save both time and money.

Review of the pick and pack process

Before getting into strategy, let’s review the pick and pack process from start to finish. 

  • Receiving. When someone places an order, your ecommerce sales platform sends the order information to your order management system, which generates a physical or digital packing slip.
  • Picking. Using the information on the packing slip, a warehouse worker collects the products needed to fill an order. Picking efficiency largely depends on the method you use (more on that below). 
  • Packing. Once items for an order are gathered, packers place them into a box or poly mailer, adding filler material if necessary. They seal the packages and add shipping labels. 
  • Shipping. Finally, your team sorts orders by carrier and gets them ready for carrier pickup.

Pretty straightforward, right? It should be. But unfortunately, it’s all too common for picking and packing to take way too long, slowing down order fulfillment and bogging down other logistics processes. To avoid delays, you’ll need to choose the right pick and pack method, optimize your warehouse layout, be strategic about inventory storage, and rely on technology.

Choose the right pick and pack method

You can choose from four main pick and pack methods: piece, batch, zone, and wave. While small businesses can often make piece and batch picking work, enterprise-level organizations should use zone or wave picking for maximum efficiency.


Also known as discrete picking, piece picking involves hand-picking items for orders one at a time. When an order comes in, one worker retrieves each product for that order until they have everything ready to ship. 

As you can imagine, piece picking is generally inefficient. Walking all over the warehouse quickly expends pickers’ energy, and it can take a long time to gather products for a single order. Because of this, piece picking isn’t the best method unless you have a very small warehouse.


Batch picking is similar to piece picking, but orders are picked in batches instead of one by one. For example, a worker might get assigned to pick five orders. As they move through the warehouse, they select items for each order. This method is more efficient than piece picking, but you can get even better results by breaking the warehouse into zones.


For larger warehouses, zone picking is most efficient. Warehouses are broken into zones, and each employee is assigned to one. They only pick things from that zone, and if an order requires products from more than one zone, the items are sent on manually or by conveyor belt.

Zone picking works well for large warehouses, but it requires complex coordination and a powerful warehouse management system. (Later in this article, we’ll dive deeper into the technology needed to build the optimal pick and pack process.)


Using the wave picking method, workers pick items in multiple passes, or waves, to fulfill several orders simultaneously. Waves are determined by shared characteristics of orders, such as shipping date, shipping location, or location in the warehouse. Warehouse management schedules waves strategically to minimize idle time.

Since wave picking can combine batch and zone picking, it has the benefits of each method. When multiple orders are grouped into batches, workers can pick items for several orders at once, minimizing the need for multiple trips to the same location. Assigning each worker to a specific zone lets them focus on picking items only within their designated area, reducing walking time.

Optimize your warehouse layout for pick and pack

Your warehouse layout determines how quickly goods flow from receiving, to storage, to shipping. And of course, this impacts your pick and pack process. Three of the most common warehouse layouts are U-shaped, L-shaped, and I-shaped. 


In a U-shaped layout, the warehouse is laid out in a U shape. Inventory is stored in the middle (the bottom part of the U), while receiving and shipping take place at each end. Because the receiving and shipping areas are next to each other, you can easily share dock resources (like equipment and labor) between them. 


In an L-shaped warehouse layout, inventory flows in the shape of an L. Incoming products are received at the far end of the L, stored in the middle (at the right angle), and shipped from the other end. By minimizing back-and-forth movement, L-shaped layouts can help reduce bottlenecks. But because the shipping and receiving docks are located at opposite ends of the warehouse, this layout requires more space than a U-shaped one.


An I-shaped layout is most common for midsize to enterprise businesses that ship high volumes and have large warehouses. Picture it like an assembly line: Stock is received at one end of the I, stored in the middle, and shipped at the other end. This layout comes with several advantages for businesses with large inventories, including the following: 

  • Efficient use of space. An I-shaped layout maximizes the available floor space, providing a more efficient and organized arrangement. 
  • Straightforward material flow. This layout enables a linear flow of stock from the receiving area to the storage and shipping areas. 
  • Potential for expansion. A rectangular design allows for easier expansion or modification of the warehouse layout to accommodate the evolving needs of your business. 

Like an L-shaped layout, an I-shaped layout keeps the receiving and shipping areas separate from one another. While this means you can’t share labor or equipment between them, it also gives you more space for each function. 

Choosing the right layout

The warehouse layout you choose directly impacts operational efficiency and overall productivity. So how can you make sure you get it right? Begin by analyzing your business's specific needs, product characteristics, and order fulfillment requirements. You should understand your inventory levels, frequency of product movement, and storage needs. With a thorough understanding of your storage and shipping workflows, you’ll have the information you need to select and implement the most effective layout.

Prefer to bring in the experts? Many businesses rely on supply chain consulting organizations to analyze warehouse data, assess possible layouts and organization methods, and offer solutions.

How to organize your inventory

In addition to warehouse layout, the way you store your inventory will affect picking speed and accuracy. Below are just a few methods you can use to allocate SKUs to different areas of your facility.

  • Like with like. With this method, inventory is organized by shared characteristics such as color, category, and size. This tends to lead to errors—for example, it’s easy for a picker to grab the wrong size red sweater if all the sizes are stored next to each other.
  • Chaotic. The opposite of like with like, chaotic storage means that inventory is placed in the warehouse randomly, so similar items will never be next to each other. For this method to work, you must have accurate inventory management software that maps the location of SKUs.
  • Volume. To minimize picking time, store SKUs with the highest turnover closest to the packing station, with slow-selling products stored farthest away. You can combine this method with chaotic inventory storage. 
  • Class-based. Group items based on a shared trait. For example, you might group certain seasonal items in the same area of the warehouse so they’re easier for pickers to access. 

Strategies to improve your pick and pack process

The picking and packing process works best when things are organized and coordinated. Every detail matters! As you look to optimize your pick and pack process, remember that you have many tools and techniques at your disposal. In this section we’ll list just a few. 

Keep your warehouse clean and organized

Sometimes the simplest things have a big impact. Keeping your warehouse clean and organized will help improve picking and packing accuracy. An organized environment reduces the chances of mistakes; when items are stored in designated locations, they’re easier to locate during the picking process. 

A clutter-free environment also reduces distractions for warehouse staff, allowing them to focus on what they’re doing and safely complete their assigned tasks.

Scan orders twice for accuracy

Put a policy in place that packers double-check that the items they’re putting in packages are listed on the packing slip. If they’re missing a product or have the wrong thing, they can correct the mistake before shipping the order.

Train picking and packing staff

While some warehouses are almost fully automated, that’s not yet the norm, so you’ll probably be relying mostly on human beings to pick and pack orders. To set them up for success, offer comprehensive training.

Make sure the training you provide helps staff understand the importance of accuracy in picking and packing orders. Encourage them to prioritize important tasks, minimize idle time, and pay attention to the details.

Use a combination of visual aids, written materials, and interactive sessions to accommodate various learning styles. Then, foster a culture of continuous learning by regularly updating training materials to reflect changes in technology, processes, and industry standards. 

Track performance metrics

You’ve trained your workers—but did the information sink in? To understand how your people are doing, track their performance using warehouse analytics software. Implement performance metrics, and monitor the performance of your pickers and packers to see which areas of your process are falling short. 

Using pick and pack technology

The techniques above are helpful, but the most surefire way to improve your pick and pack process is to use a combination of different warehouse technologies, including software, machines, and robotics. 

Inventory management system

A robust inventory management system enables accurate monitoring of stock levels, reduces the likelihood of stockouts, and ensures that packing personnel can easily locate and pick the required items. 

Warehouse management system

When optimizing your pick and pack process, a warehouse management system (WMS) is essential. These systems can guide nearly every aspect of warehouse operations, from receiving inventory to picking and shipping orders. 

What exactly does a WMS do? Among other things, it … 

  • Tells you how to receive, process, and store inventory 
  • Provides real-time visibility into inventory across locations
  • Helps you find the most efficient picking and packing methods
  • Supports picking and packing technologies
  • Integrates with shipping platforms and other fulfillment systems
  • Gives you visibility into labor costs, productivity, and more
  • Helps you design your warehouse for maximum efficiency

If you need help choosing a WMS, get in touch with Summit Advisory Team. With a team of experienced data strategists and advisors, Summit Advisory Team can offer recommendations, guidance, and implementation help as you select a WMS and get it up and running.


Automation technologies like conveyor systems, robotic pickers, and automated sorting machines can significantly enhance efficiency in pick and pack processes. Integrating these technologies with your WMS will improve accuracy, reduce labor costs, and increase the overall speed of order fulfillment.

From simple systems to autonomous robotics, the options are almost endless—and new solutions are constantly being developed. The following technologies are a great place to start if you’re considering automating your warehouse.

  • Goods-to-person technologies. These solutions bring items to workers for picking and packing. Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) use vehicles, cranes, and carousels to transport goods, while conveyor systems move goods using tracks.
  • Automatic guided vehicles (AGVs). Automated guided vehicles use a variety of sensors, such as magnetic strips, floor markers, and cameras, to navigate through warehouses. They can be used to transport inventory to more accessible locations for picking.
  • Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). Like AGVs, AMRs navigate through warehouses. However, instead of having a set path, they can move without physical guides or markers.
  • Pick-to-light systems. Pick-to-light systems help pickers locate goods using bar codes and LED lights.
  • Voice picking. This technology tells workers what to pick through headsets, giving them a hands-free, paperless way of receiving instructions. 
  • Sortation systems. Sortation systems identify items and send them to the right location, such as a packing station or picking zone.

As your warehouses become more streamlined, the cost to store and ship goods will go down, and customer satisfaction with the delivery process will increase.

Complement your pick and pack process with enterprise shipping software

While the phrase “picking and packing” has a nice ring to it, we can’t forget the vital last step in order fulfillment: shipping. Picking, packing, and shipping all need to go smoothly in order for customers to receive their packages on time and intact. 

Enter: EasyPost Enterprise. EasyPost Enterprise is a suite of shipping and supply chain solutions designed to meet the needs of high-volume shippers. With EasyPost Enterprise, you can achieve sub-second shipment processing, gain full visibility into your shipping data, and much more.

Learn how EasyPost Enterprise makes high-volume shipping a breeze.