Efficiency can feel like magic. Remember the first time you uploaded a spreadsheet, saving yourself hours of manual data entry? Brilliant—and cost-effective. But it's probably that second quality you care about now that you're an ecommerce business owner, and that's exactly why you should be working toward fulfillment efficiency, too. Whether you're determined to handle fulfillment in-house or looking to vet a third-party logistics (3PL) partner, you should understand pick and pack software—a tool that will recapture that efficiency magic.
Pick and pack is the process businesses utilize to put together and ship orders that contain multiple items. The name sounds boring and manual, but there's software bringing a little magic to the process. These technological systems, which many 3PLs use, ensure that order fulfillment duties are handled strategically and efficiently, minimizing errors and maximizing output. How do they do this? Let's jump into the world of pick and pack software to find out.
What Is Pick and Pack?
Let's rewind for just a second. If you run an ecommerce brand and you've been handling the fulfillment process in-house, you might not know that selecting the items for your outbound orders and packing them together is the picking and packing process in the lingo of the logistics industry. Small businesses can get away with using their ecommerce orders as packing slips, but you'll likely find that method doesn't scale as your brand grows.
Using a 3PL may be the next logical step in your brand's growth---which may have you wondering how warehouse picking works, considering just how many products these companies manage on a daily basis. And that's exactly where software to streamline warehouse operations, ensure inventory accuracy, and increase shipping capabilities comes in.
What Is Pick and Pack Software?
Pick and pack software is software designed to monitor customer orders and produce automated picking lists to help put those orders together in order to smooth and accelerate the order fulfillment process. These automatically generated picking lists help warehouse workers with the pack process, increasing order accuracy and making it easier to fulfill multiple orders.
But let's quickly put that into context. 3PLs use a wide range of software:
- Inventory Management Software: Software for inventory management (also sometimes called stock management) allows 3PLs to keep track of all the products stored in different warehouse locations, ensuring that items are accounted for and located accurately. It's essential because it helps prevent stockouts and overstocking, ensuring you always have the right amount of stock available.
- Warehouse Management Software (WMS): A warehouse management system helps optimize the organization and functionality of a warehouse for improved pick, pack, and shipping efficiency. It's crucial because it reduces order cycle time and increases order accuracy, enhancing customer satisfaction. Some software for picking and packing is part of a larger warehouse management system.
- Transportation Management Software (TMS): This software assists 3PLs in managing and optimizing the shipment of orders. It's important for its ability to consolidate shipments, select optimal carrier and route, and track deliveries in real-time—all leading to reduced shipping cost and improved delivery time. These systems help with high-level strategic planning but also day-to-day tasks, and can be used to print shipping labels.
- Order Management Software: Order management tools help manage and fulfill sales orders, keep track of customers' order history, and streamline order processing. They're helpful because they can improve order accuracy, speed up order fulfillment, provide valuable business insights, and ultimately increase customer satisfaction.
- Pick and Pack Software: We've already explained that pick and pack software helps warehouse workers find where order items are located on warehouse shelves to speed up the packing process for outbound orders, ease batch picking, reduce shipping errors, and ultimately, help business growth by increasing customer satisfaction. These systems can exist independently, separate from larger warehouse management systems.
How Does Pick and Pack Software Work?
To give you a step-by-step:
- Order receiving: Ecommerce orders come into the system after a brand's sales channel is integrated with software.
- Order picking: The system creates packing slips for these orders, which workers use to find and pull items from shelves. The labor efficiency of this part depends on many factors, like whether the warehouse uses barcode scanning, picking methods used in the warehouse, and whether the order needs to be broken into different parts because the items are stored in multiple locations.
- Order packing: The items pulled for the orders are sent to a packing station for the packing process, in which they're packed, sealed, and given shipping labels. (This happens at multiple warehouses if a purchase was broken into multiple orders in the step above.)
Not to throw you in the deep end here, but if the software for picking and packing orders is part of a larger WMS, the system will generate two types of lists: a picking list and packing slips. A packing slip is what you see when you unbox your order and only includes items for a single order. A picking list, on the other hand, includes items to be picked in the warehouse for multiple orders. That's because an entire pick will include several orders to increase labor efficiency.
Different Types of Pick and Pack Software in the Market
Clearly, that's a lot of technology used across warehouses and fulfillment centers. You don't need to understand all of it for now, but if you're considering partnering with a 3PL, it's helpful to understand the different types of software that help warehouse managers and workers with pick and pack fulfillment. Each type has distinct features and advantages and is best tailored to different business requirements and fulfillment scenarios. Understanding these differences is crucial when selecting the best software for your business---or evaluating whether a potential 3PL partner is right for your brand.
The three primary types of this software are basic, advanced, and integrated, and we'll cover more in-depth below.
Basic Pick and Pack Software
This type offers fundamental features to manage the order picking and packing process efficiently. It is typically best suited for smaller operations where orders and inventory levels are low. For instance, if you operate a niche online store with a limited product range, basic software may cover your needs.
Advanced Pick and Pack Software
As the name suggests, the advanced version comes with more sophisticated capabilities. It can handle a larger volume of orders and a more extensive range of products. This is an excellent choice for larger businesses or ones expecting rapid growth. Suppose you run a large-scale ecommerce store dealing with thousands of SKUs. In that case, advanced pick and pack software will help maintain accuracy and efficiency.
Integrated Pick and Pack Software
This type combines the features of both basic and advanced software and seamlessly integrates with other systems like an ecommerce platform or an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. If you have a complex business operation that involves multiple sales channels, integrated software would be the right choice. For example, if you're running a multi-channel retail business, this type will effectively manage orders from various sources.
Typically, 3PLs prefer using advanced or integrated software for ecommerce businesses due to the enhanced capabilities these systems offer. Advanced systems are ideal for larger businesses with more complex needs, though they can efficiently cater to simple ecommerce brands as well due to their flexible scaling features. Integrated software, on the other hand, is excellent for seamlessly merging the pick, pack, and delivery process with the business's online platform. So even if your ecommerce brand isn't complicated, both these software types can provide the bootstrapping efficiency and accuracy essential for unerring fulfillment of your product orders.
How Pick and Pack Software Streamlines Order Fulfillment
This type of software plays a pivotal role in the ecommerce fulfillment process by streamlining and automating the process of picking items from inventory and packing them for shipment. It's a key component that maintains efficiency within the warehouse, ensuring the right products reach the right customers on time, every time. This ingenious technological solution streamlines the entire process, boosting both efficiency and accuracy significantly.
Here are just some of the ways ecommerce brands benefit from these systems:
- Optimized Efficiency: We mean the ability to significantly slash the time taken for the order picking process. The software does this through mechanisms such as batch and zone picking, which organize picking in a way that minimizes movement in the warehouse. Fewer footsteps translate into less time wasted, increased order processing speed, and consequently, higher volumes of orders fulfilled daily.
- Increased Order Accuracy: The software enhances accuracy by automating the entire process, thus eliminating human error, which can be common in manual picking. It even allows for real-time inventory updates to avoid mispicks due to stockout situations. The accuracy also extends to shipping, where the software verifies the package contents before they are shipped to ensure the correct items are sent to the right customers.
- Inventory Management: These systems aptly manage your inventory, reducing stock discrepancies and overstocks, thus saving on inventory holding costs.
- Higher Labor Efficiency: This software reduces labor costs by automating manual tasks, decreasing the reliance on a large workforce. And though your 3PL partner directly sees this benefit, the savings trickle down to you, their customer.
Enter third-party logistics providers like All Points, who can become a turbo-charged partner for your ecommerce business operations with the aid of this software. 3PLs handle the gamut of logistics, from warehousing to delivery; with state-of-the-art software in their arsenal, they can supercharge these operations, maximizing the speed and accuracy of order fulfillment and improving overall customer experience. That's how a 3PL, equipped with pick and pack software, becomes an incredible ally for your ecommerce fulfillment needs.
The Impact of Pick and Pack Software on Customer Satisfaction
Partnering with a 3PL provider that leverages pick and pack software brings a host of benefits to your ecommerce brand. Foremost is the potential to significantly boost customer happiness, and in turn, customer retention.
All of the benefits we mentioned above translate into a better customer experience:
- Ensuring that customers receive exactly what they ordered without errors is fundamental for keeping customers happy.
- The automated process that the software provides shortens order preparation time, contributing to quicker deliveries that meet or even exceed customer expectations.
- Having accurate stock levels provides an increased level of transparency, letting your customers know exactly what's available and helping to maintain their confidence in your store.
- Consistency is key in customer retention as it ensures customers know what to expect from your brand and can trust in the service you provide.
But there's more. As a result of the time and resources saved by automation, you have more room to focus on enhancing your customer service further---whether that's in quicker responses to their inquiries or brainstorming your next product tailor-made for your audience. In short, a partnership with a 3PL provider using pick and pack software can take your ecommerce brand to the next level, improving customer service significantly and increasing the likelihood of repeat business.
Evaluating 3PL Providers for Pick and Pack Efficiency
When figuring out whether a 3PL like All Points meets your brand's needs, meticulous evaluation is crucial for your ecommerce company. To gauge their pick and pack efficiency, consider these steps:
- Scrutinize Their Software: Ensure their pick and pack software is capable of efficiently managing your inventory and order logistics. Your potential 3PL partner should have sophisticated systems in place for error prevention, accuracy of orders, and speed in processing.
- Dive into Their Track Record: Look at their history in managing pick and pack services. Success stories, case studies, and customer testimonies can provide insight into their capabilities and proficiency.
- Understand Their Scalability: Gauge if the 3PL can grow with your business. They should have the infrastructure and resources to handle peak seasons and increases in order volumes efficiently.
- Evaluate Their Industry Experience: The 3PL should have a good understanding of your niche. Experience in your industry implies they're familiar with your specific challenges and can implement the right strategies to overcome them.
- Ask About Their Integration Capabilities: Whatever system the 3PL uses must synchronize effortlessly with your existing ecommerce platform, thereby simplifying the maintenance of inventory levels and enabling real-time tracking.
Once you've chosen a 3PL provider, it's essential to continuously monitor their performance to ensure that they meet your business requirements and customer expectations. Here’s how:
- Regular Communication: Frequent and transparent communication helps identify and solve issues promptly. It ensures both parties are on the same page regarding expectations and performance.
- Performance Reviews: Regular progress reports and review meetings not only help you stay abreast of their operations but also allow for open discussion on areas of improvement.
- Customer Feedback: Attention to your customers’ experience with the delivery and handling of products can provide valuable insights into the efficiency of your 3PL provider. Negative reviews about late delivery or damaged goods may indicate a problem with your 3PL's pick and pack efficiency.
By carefully selecting and monitoring your 3PL partner, you can ensure that you are getting the most out of your business relationship and meeting your ecommerce fulfillment needs effectively.
All Points uses state-of-the-art software to streamline the pick and pack process for its clients and offer cost savings on order fulfillment. Our team gets to know your business inside and out, and we'd be happy to discuss our picking methods with you if you're considering teaming up with a 3PL to supercharge your next phase of ecommerce growth.