Pick, pack, and ship: the basics
If you sell goods online, the nature of your business can vary wildly from other retailers. The exact market and niche you serve, and your approach to meeting the needs presented, are what make your brand unique. But no matter what your field, approach, and twists as a brand look like, a few things are certain if you operate in ecommerce. Among those certainties is the need to pick, pack, and ship your orders reliably and efficiently.
The details of your order fulfillment process probably weren’t a top concern when you first got started with selling online. There were so many other things to worry about, like getting your name out there and working with suppliers to meet consumer demand. You might even be using roughly the same process today, no matter how rapidly your business has grown since Day One. That’s actually great news: it means you kept things simple early on, since it’s the simple processes that most easily scale with your business.
But today, things are starting to feel different. You’re probably shipping more orders than ever and starting to feel the pressure mounting to ship them all out on time. Your fulfillment team might be making mistakes pulling items from inventory or packing them in with the right orders. They might even be choosing the wrong shipping services or mixing up which packages to ship with each order. If you’re aware of these issues and looking for a solution, that’s also great news: it means you’re being realistic about flaws in your process and eager to solve them. With that, let’s get started with everything you need to know about fulfilling orders efficiently.
Picking should be brainless and painless
For most ecommerce fulfillment teams, picking is the most time-consuming and error-prone task of the day. Having to walk aisle after aisle to pull an order item, and repeating the process for each item on a packing list, can eat up time very reliably. Having to double-check that you’re looking in the right place for a particular product, and that you’re pulling the right product for the order, adds even more time and frustration.
Think of order picking as a task similar to grocery shopping. After a short time getting familiarized with your store or warehouse, your fulfillment team is fairly certain where most products are kept and where they need to go to pick each order. But just like when shopping at your favorite grocery store, there are occasional items that aren’t where you first guessed they would be, and you find yourself doubling back and crossing the same paths over and over again. Now imagine that you have to go shopping with several different grocery lists every day. From that perspective, it’s no wonder order picking takes up so much time and causes so much headache!
Thankfully, there are simple and reliable ways to make order picking easier on your team and more beneficial to your business. Small optimizations, such as tracking where each product is located, moving top-selling products to more easily accessible locations, and implementing barcode scanning to eliminate picking mistakes, can have a huge impact on your team’s performance. By taking the guesswork and frustration out of the picking process, your team can finish picking orders faster and still have time (and energy) for other tasks that await you each day.
Packing should be seamless and accurate
While it tends not to be as time-consuming as picking, the packing process can be another source of daily frustration for fast-growing ecommerce brands. Every step, from finding the right sized box for a shipment to securely wrapping or padding the contents, presents an opportunity for error or inefficiency. But while most business owners and warehouse managers concerned with optimization focus on picking products and creating shipping labels as quickly as possible, the ease and speed of the packing step shouldn’t be ignored.
When an order has been pulled from inventory and is ready to be packed, the exact steps you take to do so may vary from product to product, or there many be a common standard for your brand overall. The trick to efficient packing, for most brands, is quite simple: do as much of the work ahead of time as possible. For example, if certain products are always encased in bubble wrap during packing, try carving out some time to do this before those items are pulled for orders. Having pre-wrapped items on the shelf can save time and headache when your team is trying to get orders out the door as quickly as possible.
Shipping should be as automated as possible
The “old way” of getting shipping rates and printing shipping labels was to open a piece of shipping software, manually enter the order address and package information, compare postage costs before selecting a shipping service, and then wait for the label to print. This manual entry was time-consuming and prone to errors, since everything from the address input to the rate comparison was done by hand, and often in a hurry.
Today, more brands are moving to newer shipping software that can automate parts of this data entry in order to speed up the shipping process. Order addresses are often filled in automatically when creating a shipment, and rate comparison between carriers and services can be much easier today. But most teams are still entering package information manually and checking rates before selecting one manually, even when they don’t need a specific shipping method or service. These tasks can also be automated, at least for most orders, through modern software that has more insight into your business.
Here’s one example of a simple but effective shipping optimization: let’s say that most of your products can be shipped via any available shipping service, but you need to check that the cheapest service available is deliverable to the customer’s region and address. You also have some products that can only ship via certain methods. These decision-making tasks can be broken down into programmable automations. Once implemented in your shipping software, shipping rates and methods can be selected automatically based on the criteria you normally have to process manually, saving you time and eliminating errors in this decision-making.
We designed ShipLeaf to bring the best in modern picking, packing, and shipping optimizations to your fingertips. With barcode scanning, picking location descriptions, packaging memorization, live rate comparisons, and shipment auto-configuration, ShipLeaf can reduce the time it takes to pick, pack, and ship every order that comes in, all while maintaining 100% accuracy. It’s never too early or too late to think about your pick, pack, and ship workflow. Get started today with a simpler, faster solution.