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Pick, Pack, Ship: E-Commerce Fulfillment 101

There are about 165 billion packages shipped in the US each year. As the eCommerce industry booms, retailers are increasingly looking for ways to optimize their fulfillment processes. If you’re fulfilling in-house, this means you’re having to pick, pack, ship, and process returned orders all by yourself. The pick, pack, ship process is what eCommerce fulfillment essentially is.

In this article, we’ll cover the fundamentals of eCommerce fulfillment. We’ll also go over various fulfillment solutions you can use to make the process more efficient.

Understanding the Ecommerce Order Fulfillment Process

Simply put, eCommerce fulfillment is the process of delivering products to customers after they have been purchased online. It can be a complicated and expensive process that often requires a third-party service – like Print Bind Ship!

In addition, having a successful order fulfillment strategy is vital for online retailers to stay competitive; it can even build customer loyalty and expectations.

When it comes to effective order fulfillment, many sellers find that depending on a third-party logistics (3PL) company can be the most rewarding solution. This is because most 3PLs possess the ability to manage order fulfillment efficiently and effortlessly.

What is Pick, Pack, Ship?

Pick, pack, ship refers to the efficient operations involved in fulfilling customer orders and ensuring their timely delivery. This process involves three key stages – pick, pack, and ship – each with its own significance in the overall order fulfillment process.

Stage 1: Pick

The picking stage is largely the first step in eCommerce fulfillment. It occurs after an order has been placed and received. The order picking involves selecting the items or products from the warehouse shelves that are required to fulfill a customer’s order. During the pick stage, the main aim is to pick the correct products for each customer order.

This is typically done by warehouse employees, who use picking lists or handheld devices to locate and retrieve the items from their designated storage locations. This stage becomes even more efficient when warehouses have the right tech to help map out routes for pickers. For example, warehouses might see the use of handheld barcode scanners that minimize mistakes and can even the exact location of each product within the warehouse.

A great way to make the pick, pack, ship process more efficient is by integrating your eCommerce sales channels with your warehouse systems. You can do this by partnering with Print Bind Ship.

Once a customer places an order, our fulfillment warehouse receives a packing slip that our warehouse management software will generate. We integrate with all the major eCommerce platforms like Shopify, wooCommerce, Etsy and more!

Common Picking Strategies

While there are many picking strategies here are a few common ones.

  • Piece Picking: The most common form of picking is piece picking; which is also known as a single order, individual, or discrete picking. In this method, a picker goes through one order at a time while grabbing an item line by line before moving onto the next order.
  • Batch Picking: Also known as cluster picking, batch picking works best when fulfilling many identical orders that use the same SKUs. By utilizing batch picking, a picker can stay in the same area, rather than travel throughout the warehouse to end up circling back to where they were. Batch picking aims to improve productivity as it reduces repeated trips, steps, and time.
  • Zone Picking: Otherwise known as pick and pass, zone picking is an enhanced version of batch picking. Workers are assigned to specific locations or zones, and order cartons move through those zones.
  • Wave Picking: Just like batch, ordered items are queued and grouped (batched) into combined pick lists. On the other hand, wave picking is executed multiple times per day (or shift) and balances more factors than product overlap.

Stage 2: Pick Stage

Once the items have been picked, they move on to the next stage – “pack.” The pack process involves carefully placing the items in appropriate containers or boxes, ensuring they are protected during transit.

This step may include additional tasks such as adding packing materials, creating labels and inserting any necessary documentation, such as invoices or return labels. The packaging needs to be secure and efficient, preventing damage to the products while also optimizing the use of space.

Packers will make sure items are securely packed, sealed, and labeled. Furthermore, packers will typically follow a packing list – along with dunnage and any other custom packaging materials like a thank you card and place the products into an appropriate box. You may also want to include print shipping labels at this point, to allow for seamless customer returns.

Packing slips can be both internal and customer-facing documents. Customer can verify packing slips to check if they have received everything. A packing slip is typically packed into the package along with the products. Some companies may even combine the packing slip with the shipping label; which is placed on the packaging itself.

The details that you may find in a packing slip include:

  • Packing slip documentation number
  • Invoice details
  • Company address and contact details of the seller
  • Shipping addresses of the seller and the customer
  • Description of goods shipped
  • Personalized messages

During the packing stage, quality assurance measures also take place to ensure that what was ordered is exactly what was picked. Quality checks include order accuracy, packaging appropriateness, and labeling accuracy.

Stage 3: Shipping

After the items have been picked and packed, they move on to the final stage – “ship.” This involves preparing the packages for shipment by arranging transportation logistics, such as selecting a suitable carrier and generating shipping labels.

Efficient shipping processes are a must, especially when it comes to reducing delivery times and enhancing customer satisfaction. Customers also tend to expect a tracking number, to be able to monitor the progress of their orders and estimated delivery dates.

The shipping carrier you choose to work with is of utmost importance, as they will influence your total shipping cost. You must understand how all of these factors can impact your business’s shipping margin in order to make the correct decisions. To learn more about calculating shipping costs, read our guide here and review other options for shipping.

When you partner with Print Bind Ship, you get a built-in shipping carrier and fulfillment service in one. Bundling may not only allow you to save, but also optimize your business’s pick, pack, ship process.

Challenges of the Pick, Pack, Ship Process

Experiencing problems with your internal pick, pack, ship process? Rest assured that you’re likely not the only one. There are so many factors that affect the smooth operation of eCommerce fulfillment that can be overlooked or underestimated small details. Ultimately, this can lead to delayed orders or missed products for your customers.

Some areas that would likely require more attention are the following:

Lack of Organization

There’s no doubt that efficient warehouse management will save you both time and money. On the flip side, lack of organization can lead to slower fulfillment times and more costs.

Hours can quickly add up with a messy and disorganized warehouse. Additionally, if your team doesn’t have a tight system in place, this can lead to wasted time as well.

Disorganization is the number one reason to implement the pick, pack, ship strategy. Even though it may be a difficult transition, using a professional 3PL can definitely can pay off in the long run.

Inventory Management

Having an inaccurate record of inventory can lead to incorrect scheduling and a longer lead time. Inaccurate inventory can stem from items that go missing or counts that are off. For instance, if the stock records are not updated or inventory data is entered incorrectly, it can lead to confusion in the order fulfillment process regarding the amount of stock available.

For cases like this, a perpetual inventory system is ideal for organization and inventory management. However perpetual inventory systems can be expensive and a challenge to implement. Nonetheless, if you’re interested in learning more about perpetual inventory systems, we go more in-depth about it here.

Why Outsource Warehousing and Fulfillment?

Implementing warehouse picking improvements is one of the most effective ways to optimize your supply chain, but the cost of doing so will not only be paid in money but time as well. This is the leading reason outsourcing warehousing can save you the headache of both.

Partnering with a 3PL means utilizing a company that already has the pick, pack, ship strategy, and many others, expertly in place.

How a 3PL Partner Can Help You Optimize eCommerce Fulfillment

Third-party logistics (or 3PL) refers to the outsourcing of eCommerce fulfillment processes to a third-party company.

These processes can include inventory management, warehousing, order fulfillment services, and more! Furthermore, a 3PL partner will allow eCommerce businesses to accomplish more and even aid in scaling; with the tools and infrastructure to automate retail order fulfillment.

Print Bind Ship is a leading 3PL and ecommerce fulfillment partner. We manage all stages of the pick, pack, ship process – allowing you to focus on other priorities for your business.

Order Management

The best 3PL providers will be able to process all your orders in real time through their central dashboard. In addition, 3PLs handle returns, making it extremely easy because they will have all the needed information at hand; including eCommerce order tracking numbers.

Pick, Pack, Ship Process

As previously mentioned, 3PL partners have the much-needed expertise to handle pick, pack, ship fulfillment strategy. Thus making it easier to streamline the process and even reduce the cost of eCommerce fulfillment.

Of course, there are other added benefits as well, depending on the 3PL partner. 3PLs, like Print Bind Ship, can provide subscription services, hand customer returns, and even custom packaging solutions.

Inventory Management

A 3PL can help you better organize and keep track of your inventory.

3PL partners, like Print Bind Ship, can provide more value for warehouse fulfillment by fulfilling orders on demand plus the staff involved in this process. This process means that a 3PL partner will manufacture or assemble your orders as needed and even update you when stock is low.

Partnering with Print Bind Ship for the Best Pick, Pack, Ship Solution

Centrally located within the Midwest, the experts at Print Bind Ship have over 60 years of item fulfillment, commercial printing, and shipping experience. Think of us as your one-stop shop partner for all things branding and eCommerce.

We carry out fulfillment for thousands of orders on a daily basis. Our warehouse operations are top-notch to ensure an optimal inventory management process and pick, pack, ship solution for you business. If you’re considering optimizing your eCommerce fulfillment, get in contact us and find out how Print Bind Ship can help grow your business!


What is pick, pack, ship?

Pick, pack, ship is a process commonly used in e-commerce warehouses to fulfill orders. It involves picking the right products from the inventory, packing them securely, and shipping them to customers.

How can businesses optimize pick, pack, ship to reduce shipping costs?

Businesses can optimize pick pack ship to reduce shipping costs by employing strategies like batch picking (picking multiple orders simultaneously), optimizing packaging to reduce dimension and weight, negotiating carrier rates based on shipping volumes, utilizing regional fulfillment centers to minimize transit distance, and continuously optimizing warehouse layouts to reduce travel time within the facility.

How can pick pack ship benefit my business?

Implementing an efficient pick, pack, ship process can streamline your order fulfillment operations, leading to quicker delivery times, improved customer satisfaction, and better inventory management. It helps reduce errors and ensures accurate and timely shipments.

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