There are numerous hacks that 3PLs have developed to speed up eCommerce fulfillment. That’s essential because consumer demand for fast fulfillment increases every year. Fulfillment batching is one technique for making the pick and pack process more efficient.
Fulfillment batching defined
If you’re wondering what does fulfillment batching mean, it is an order picking method. Also called batch picking, this method gives one picker multiple orders with identical picking lists. The picker can fill several orders at the same time, saving time and making fulfillment more efficient.
For example, suppose you sell baseball equipment. You get multiple orders per day for a glove, a bat, and a ball at the start of Little League season. Using fulfillment batching, your warehouse can give the pick lists for all the orders that contain those three items to one picker. The picker can pull a glove for each of the orders, then move on to the bats, and so on.
If you work with a third-party logistics company, warehouse managers can program the 3PL’s warehouse management system to group batchable orders from different customers. Batchable orders are usually (but not always) orders with identical picking lists.
Parts of the order fulfillment process
To understand where fulfillment batching fits in, it’s useful to understand the typical fulfillment process. Order fulfillment breaks down into several distinct stages:
You ship inventory to your fulfillment warehouse.
Your stock is placed on the shelves for inventory storage.
A customer order is electronically transmitted to the warehouse.
The warehouse management system (WMS) generates a pick list and a label for the order.
A picker pulls the items needed to fill the order.
A packer places the products in a box and affixes the mailing label.
The fulfillment company hands off the package to a delivery company.
The carrier delivers the order to your customer.
These are the typical elements of order fulfillment, but, in some cases, there are additional or different steps in the process. For example, if a product is backordered, the warehouse might use cross-docking to fill orders instead of placing products on the shelves. Or you might use warehouse kitting or bundling to create grouped items.
Benefits of the batch picking process
The fulfillment batch technique can be much more effective than picking individual orders one at a time. Here are some of the benefits of batch picking.
Pick multiple orders at once
Several picking methods allow pickers to pull several orders at a time (see below for more on picking strategies). Batch picking is one of the most efficient because the picker needs identical items for each order. Using a batch order process, the picker can retrieve items for different customers without repeated trips back and forth through the warehouse. Batch order fulfillment can speed the packing process, too, because the packer needs the same box and infill for the set of orders.
Faster picking process
By using batch picking, your fulfillment company shortens the pick and pack process so that it can fill orders more quickly. If you have six duplicate orders, fulfillment batching allows the picker to fulfill several orders in one trip rather than walking the entire warehouse six times to gather items for each order.
More efficient fulfillment
Shipping zones are only one factor determining your customer cycle time. The faster your fulfillment warehouse moves, the faster orders get to your customers. For example, Red Stag Fulfillment offers same-day fulfillment services for orders placed before the cutoff times. Your orders will be on a delivery truck the same day that people check out, rather than sitting in a long fulfillment queue.
Batch picking is one of the ways to increase warehouse efficiency, and efficient fulfillment leads to happy customers for your online store.
Batch picking FAQs
Here are answers to some common questions about batch picking and picking in general.
What are the top picking methods?
There are many variations on picking methods, and each warehouse may come up with creative ways to make its pick and pack process more accurate and efficient. In addition to batch picking, here are the most common picking methods:
Piece picking: The picker fills a single order, drops it at the packing station, then picks another. Piece picking is the slowest method, but 3PLs may use it to fill late orders that can’t be batched or combined with others.
Zone picking: Each picker covers an area of the warehouse. They pull items from their zone then hand off the order to the picker in the next location, so no one has to walk the entire warehouse to fill an order. Zone picking can work well in large warehouses.
Wave picking: This method combines zone and wave picking. Pickers get batches of orders with items in their spot, pull them, and then pass the batch to the picker in the following area.
Who should use batch picking?
Batch picking works well if many of your customers place identical or similar orders. This picking method also works well for fulfilling backer rewards since many of the backers will get the same set of products, or for a product launch. Batching can also work well for subscription box fulfillment.
However, if you find yourself receiving a batch of identical orders regularly, you should consider kitting to make fulfillment even simpler. If you kit items that your customers often order together, the picker only needs to make one stop when an order comes in.
How does batch picking work in third-party fulfillment?
Your 3PL might batch numerous orders with overlapping but not wholly matching items, in addition to identical orders. A fulfillment company’s WMS can group orders with similar things and even map out a recommended route through the warehouse. Advanced batch picking and wave picking processes are some of the ways that professional fulfillment can help your eCommerce company grow and scale.
Ensuring accuracy during fulfillment batching
What does fulfillment batching mean for accuracy? Pickers work fast, so batched picking makes it possible to put an item in the wrong bin. If that happens, someone might get two baseball gloves, and another order might be short a glove. That makes your business look bad and fixing the error costs you money. You need fulfillment services that are both fast and accurate.
So, Red Stag Fulfillment has developed processes to ensure accurate batch picking, including:
Every pick list and every bin on the picking cart has a barcode. Each pick list is assigned to a specific container at the beginning of batch picking.
The picker scans barcodes for the pick list, the bin, and the item. If they check an item into the wrong container, they get an error message that immediately alerts them to the mistake.
The packer checks the items in each bin against the pick list at the packing station, creating another layer of accountability.
You need fast fulfillment, but you shouldn’t have to sacrifice accuracy for speed.
Red Stag Fulfillment’s efficiency and accuracy can help your business grow
What does fulfillment batching mean at Red Stag Fulfillment? We have one of the fulfillment industry’s lowest error rates while also offering fast order fulfillment turnaround, including same-day fulfillment. And we stand behind our promises with fulfillment guarantees. That’s because our company was founded on the principle that outstanding fulfillment is good business, both for our clients and for us.
More about fulfillment:
The Mis-Pick Effect: Threats Persist
Profit-Friendly Fulfillment Solutions for Heavy, Bulky Products
The Subscription Fulfillment Process