Why should you care to differentiate picking, packing and loading? Afterall, what matters is your ability and experience of running a warehouse operation, right?
Not entirely, if you want to make it big – especially as the world moves ever rapidly towards digitization, thanks to the pandemic.
The outbound process of a warehouse comprises several stages, with the essential ones being picking, packing and loading.
Here are some good reasons why you should consider knowing these stages in more detail:
- Awareness and knowledge is the key to improvement.
- You want to optimize the efficiency of your operation.
- You intend to optimize efficiency with the help of a warehouse management system (WMS).
- You will be on the highway to ringing in higher revenue, if you get each stage right and running more smoothly.
Awareness and Knowledge is the Key to Improvement
Some businesses, especially startups, may have one person to do both the picking and packing for each order. This may not work all the time. In fact, this method proves to be ineffective for larger-scale businesses, such as those running a warehouse. Larger companies with a warehouse would have higher number of orders and a significantly wider space. That means considerable amount of time is spent just traversing the warehouse storage to pick the ordered items.
Having picking and packing as separate processes enables you to be more efficient. This can be achieved by planning more detailed operating procedures and strategies. It is only by being specific that you could slice and dice your operation and thereby, making key improvements.
So, a little about the three (3) essential stages of activities, in case you didn’t know:
Picking is the process of collecting products that customers have ordered, from the warehouse storage. Typically, the picker will have a picking list as a reference for which products and the quantity to pick. The locations of the products would most likely be stated as well.
Packing being the next step is one in which the packer gathers the correct items based on each customer order. The items will be wrapped in appropriate protective materials and container. This ensures that they reach the customers in good condition.
Loading is the act of moving cargo from the warehouse onto a delivery truck. This is the point at which the customers’ ordered goods leave the warehouse for shipping. Loading may seem like a straightforward process. However, do not underestimate the impact of a well-planned strategy on the efficiency of the process, and more importantly, the safety of your warehouse workers.
Optimizing the Efficiency of Your Operation
For picking, you could consider having a team of pickers to collect all the items. Then, have a different team of packers to package them. Or, have each team member pick by batch and then pack by batch. More importantly, it is crucial that careful consideration is done to select the picking method that works best for your business. If you haven’t already, read this article (The Piсking Mеthоds You MUST Know) to familiarize yourself with some of the most common methods used today.
In the packing process, factors for optimization that you would likely consider include:
- The type of protective materials and how much to use to protect the items during shipping, while avoiding wastage and staying cost-effective.
- The type of container to use for which products.
- The sequence of activities involved in this process to ensure the highest efficiency.
- Whether or not to make use of packaging materials to promote brand identity, which inevitably, would incur higher cost for you. You’ll have to weigh the benefits against the cost to decide.
In the loading process, safety should be the top priority because loading docks are high-risk areas with so much commotion involving workers, trucks and moving parts of machineries. Thus, your loading strategy should include a standard operating procedure (SOP) that creates awareness of common hazards that could occur at loading docks, as well as clear loading instructions to properly load the cargo. Having a loading guide which accounts for package constraints and characteristics – dimensions, weight and fragility, etc. – is also a recommended industry practice.
Optimizing Efficiency with a Warehouse Management System (WMS)
A warehouse management system (WMS) would be able to help you produce such guides with accuracy (without human errors and blind spots). In fact, using the right technologies, which includes but not limited to a WMS, can help to streamline your entire warehouse operation and optimize resources and efficiency.
In order to achieve that, a good WMS would account for all recommended industry practices, including those mentioned earlier in this article. Therefore, it is crucial for you to understand and be able to clearly differentiate picking, packing and loading.
Generating Higher Revenue
Undoubtedly, higher operational efficiency enables higher productivity and less wastage. This which would then bring in more revenue. Rather than trying to improve only the overall strategy, drilling down to detail in each process of the operation would more effectively optimize the processes, and subsequently, the whole operation.