In 2020, direct-to-consumer (DTC) eCommerce sales continued their meteoric rise, representing 4.1 percent of total eCommerce retail, up from just 3.4 percent in 2018. Statista estimates that by the end of 2021, there will be a total of 2.14 billion global buyers shopping online.
As more and more online retailers and DTC brands find success in the world of eCommerce, they need support systems in place to quickly fulfill all of these orders; they need fulfillment partners who understand the intricacies of picking and packing to support efficient order fulfillment.
An efficient fulfillment center is like a well-oiled machine, requiring smooth-running systems and operations that get orders packed and out the door faster than ever.
So, how can you improve your picking and packing strategies? Here’s a look at how we are refining our pick and pack logistics at OceanX to support our clients’ desires for fast, economical, efficient fulfillment.
About Picking and Packing in an eCommerce Warehouse
Picking and packing are critical steps in the success of any order fulfillment operation. It calls for speed and accuracy, and when done correctly, plays a key role in reducing costs, maintaining efficient fulfillment practices, and keeping customers satisfied with fast shipping times.
The term “picking and packing” refers to the steps taken to select inventory from the fulfillment center to include in each customer’s order and is the first step that happens after a customer completes an order and the fulfillment center receives the order. Once all the items are picked from their location in the warehouse, the order is packed and prepared to ship out to the customer.
The process of locating and assembling the right products to complete an order is the most intensive stage of order fulfillment and warehouse packaging services, requiring the most hands. It also means that this is the most frequent time when things go wrong. To correct these kinds of mistakes and remove inefficiencies, it’s important to understand where things commonly go wrong. Some common picking and packing mistakes include:
- Grabbing the incorrect item from the wrong bin or location
- Selecting the wrong items with similar product numbers or SKUs
- Adopting the wrong picking and packing strategies that create bottlenecks or other inefficiencies
- Substituting the wrong items when a particular product is out of stock
- Misplacing order details or losing track of half-picked orders
- Prioritizing the wrong things and not adhering to a first-in, first-out approach
Maximizing the Power of Your Pick & Pack Warehouse
How can you turn your fulfillment center into an unstoppable picking and packing tour de force? There isn’t one cut-and-dry answer that will work for every DTC brand or online retailer. Often, it requires tweaking your system to match your fulfillment objectives, fine-tuning until you find a process that works best for you.
However, here are a few suggestions of how to optimize your picking and packing process:
- Lay out your warehouse to be efficient. Top-selling products should be placed closest to your packing station, and items that are often sold together should be stored in neighboring bins. Generally, your inventory should be arranged from top-selling to low-selling.
- Automate, automate, automate. More and more, fulfillment centers have access to innovative tools and technologies that can automate an increasing portion of the fulfillment process, cutting down on mistakes and reducing the amount of time it takes to pick and pack each order.
- Consider packaging optimization. A major way to reduce costs and improve efficiency is to make smart decisions about packing materials. This can control costs, help your team pack orders faster, and limit the use of unnecessary materials. You’ll also save on costs related to freight, inventory, damaged goods, and labor and equipment expenses.
While there are many approaches to order fulfillment and picking and packing, OceanX employs a pick-to-light strategy. This technology solution uses a system of barcodes attached to refillable containers. Based on each individual order, LED lights illuminate to guide fulfillment center workers to the right storage location, indicating which items should be picked (and how many). These displays then continue to light up, guiding the workers to the next picking location to eliminate any potential mistakes and reduce idle time.
Pick-to-light systems also help lower labor costs and provide better recordkeeping, since these systems reduce the amount of time fulfillment center workers spend walking from location to location or bin to bin and reading paper-based records.
The best part? These pick-to-light systems are fully integrated into OceanX’s existing technology, which means that orders transfer seamlessly from the online store platform to the warehouse for fulfillment.
Error-Proofing a Pick-to-Light System
With our pick-to-light system, OceanX has been able to achieve a 99.8% order accuracy rate. But sometimes, this level of accuracy just isn’t enough, as was the case with our client, Madison Reed. Madison Reed is an at-home, luxury hair care company that specializes in high-caliber hair dyes and subscriptions. Knowing that there is no room for error in the world of hair dye—which could result in someone ending up with the incorrect hair color—we revolutionized our pick-to-light system to achieve 100% order accuracy.
Using scanners to scan both the box and its contents, our fulfillment teams were able to ensure 100% accuracy for all of Madison Reed’s subscribers and customers just two days after implementing this system. Because of this, Madison Reed can promise salon-quality hair color to their customers at scale, with faster shipping times and more efficient fulfillment practices.
Optimizing Pick and Pack Fulfillment: A Strong 3PL Partner
Often, optimizing pick and pack fulfillment is about identifying your priorities. At OceanX, we are dedicated to helping our clients reach their self-identified fulfillment goals, offering picking and packing solutions to match the results they’re after, including:
- 100% order accuracy
- Same-day shipping
- A stunning unboxing experience
- Higher daily order outputs
- No merchandise damaged or broken in transit
- Sustainable processes from beginning to end
Whatever the goal, the key to truly optimizing the picking and packing fulfillment process is to communicate with your qualified 3PL partner, who has insights into how orders are picked and packed and can find solutions to optimize fulfillment according to your unique needs.
OceanX 3PL Warehouse: Picking and Packing Pioneers
At OceanX, we got our start in picking, packing, and fulfillment—especially when it comes to kitting and bundling services for subscriptions, which requires smart, accurate, picking and packing for efficient fulfillment practices. We’ve revolutionized picking and packing, as well as managing recurring orders and billing, DTC fulfillment, and customer service.
We understand the ins and outs of what makes a warehouse or fulfillment center tick, and we’ll customize our processes to best meet your fulfillment needs and goals. Whether it’s accuracy you’re after like Madison Reed or you’re in search of higher daily outputs and same-day shipping, we have the automation, technologies, tools, and people to make it happen.
To discover more about our cutting-edge picking and packing solutions and how we can help you connect with customers faster than ever, request a quote today.