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Picking List Best Practices

April 22, 2020 Published by

Best practices for pick lists

As your business continues to grow, it’s important to optimize operational efficiency. Success means demand for your products will increase, and you’ll need more warehouse space to store your products. Although growth is exciting news for any business, expansion can also bring significant growing pains. Warehouse operations costs will rise as your business expands, while labor will account for 60—70 percent of all costs. Among these costs, order picking will account for more than 50 percent of them. Creating a clear, streamlined picking list is crucial to effectively using your labor hours and eliminating costly fulfillment errors.

Follow these picking list best practices to capitalize on your newfound success–without feeling the potential downsides of expansion.

What Is a Picking List?

A pick list tell employees which inventory is needed for customer order fulfillment. Usually, a pick list shows warehouse location, shipment information and item information. Once customer orders have been received, pick lists can be generated for warehouse pickers.

If you have a warehouse management system, pick lists are automatically generated when a customer completes an order.

Components of a Picking List

All the elements of a pick list depend on the warehouse, business and products in question. As a general rule, a good pick list contains the following information:

1. Customer information

A picking list needs the customer’s name and shipping address for order validation. This is because their names and addresses will allow for cross-referencing when orders are packed.

2. Date and time of order

Many ecommerce businesses ship orders out the same day orders are placed—provided they are made before a specified cutoff time. You’ll want to keep an eye on when orders are placed since they are time-sensitive.

3. Order number

The order number associated with each pick list can be referenced by the customer in case any issues arise. An order number will easily allow you to track and see where things are going wrong in the fulfillment process.

4. Product location in the warehouse

You must provide all the information you can about the location of requested items. Your warehouse should have clear, visible signage and location names that are sequential and logical so pickers can easily navigate to ordered items.

5. Product SKUs

A SKU (stock keeping unit) is a unique identifier that represents a specific product. For example, if you sell pants, you need a different SKU for each size. Some orders take more than one SKU, so you must pay attention to both the quantities and SKUs in every order.

6. A photograph or description of the product

 Products can sometimes look very similar to each other, so having context like a description or photo is a way to ensure pickers are retrieving the correct products.

Once you’ve completed your pick list, you must choose an order picking method. Typically, methods are adopted according to the size of a business. Here are a few fulfillment methods that can get good use out of a pick list:

Pick-to-Order

This is the most basic method for picking product in the warehouse. Smaller operations will usually implement this strategy as minimal products exist. Items are pulled one at a time as orders come in, and businesses use individual order receipts or packing slips to select the product to be shipped.

Zone Picking

Under this method, picking lists become product-based instead of order-based. Each picker is assigned to a zone in the warehouse. As orders arrive, the worker’s individual pick list is filled with the products that need to be picked in the zone. Once the list is finished, it is delivered to the sorting and packaging crew to assemble individual orders.

Batch Picking

This strategy is similar to single order picking, although the picking list is slightly different. Rather than the products being used for a single order, the picking list is designed to efficiently pick a number of orders in one trip.

Once all products in a batch are picked, the picker delivers items to the packaging area. All the products are then sorted and packed in the appropriate order for shipping.

It’s important to create a clear pick list and order picking method. Without a strategy, expanding your warehouse will prove to be a costly and demanding process.

Companies Don’t Have to Expand Solo

Creating great pick lists and establishing an efficient order picking method can be a challenging and costly endeavor. Although some businesses decide to expand on their own, solutions do exist if you don’t want to tackle this challenge solo. A third-party logistics provider (3PL) is often the best choice for businesses that want to expand without the hassle of setting up a warehouse. A 3PL can store inventory and pick, pack, and ship orders, allowing you to focus on issues outside of fulfillment.