In the context of the current market, characterized by increasingly fierce competition and rapidly evolving commercial dynamics, companies that sell their products online are faced with the challenge of continuously optimizing their logistics processes.

But what is picking? The term indicates a process through which purchased items are taken from a specific storage location and then sent to the packing area and prepared for shipment to the end customer. In theory, this activity may seem simple, but in practice it represents one of the most delicate aspects within the logistics and distribution system of an e-commerce business. According to what was reported in a recent article by Forbes, picking operations account for more than 50% of the total costs of a warehouse: an error in this phase of the order fulfillment process can have significant consequences. For example, research conducted by Invesp reveals that 23% of customers who return an item do so because they received a different product from the one purchased. Picking out and delivering the wrong product can therefore be costly, as it not only compromises consumer confidence but impacts productivity levels and quality of performance. Therefore, let us examine which aspects to take into consideration to be able to build effective picking procedures.

How picking works

In the era of e-commerce, characterized by fast, safe, traceable and customizable delivery times, organizing and managing the various processing phases that take place in the warehouse in the best possible way is essential. Let us examine how picking works and its component steps:

1. Receiving the order. The moment a product is purchased on the company's e-commerce site, the management and preparation process for shipping begins, a phase that must provide the operator with exact information on the type, quantity and location of the items to pick out.

2. Item picking. The picker, or the person in charge of carrying out this task, follows the established path and picks the items from the shelves. In this phase, it is important to minimize movements and avoid picking errors.

3. Verification and packaging. Once all the items have been collected, we proceed to verify the correctness of the order and the packaging phase, in line with the needs of the goods and the consumer's requests. This step is crucial to ensure the accuracy of your order.

Picking operations account for more than 50% of the total costs of a warehouse.

23% of customers return an item because they received a different product than the one they purchased.

Warehouse picking: the most common mistakes

Picking is configured as a linear process. In reality, however, it hides numerous pitfalls that can cause errors capable of negatively influencing the customer experience and compromising company productivity. These are the most common:

Wrong item picked. It is a circumstance that can occur for various reasons, such as incorrect arrangement of the goods during storage, the presence of unclear or incorrect labels or, more simply, a distraction on the part of the employee. Especially for small businesses, errors are due to the inability to adequately cope with the resources necessary to better manage the warehouse, with a consequent increase in risk percentages.

Incorrect quantities. This circumstance occurs when the number of items picked does not correspond to the quantity requested in the order, leading to incomplete shipments or excess products. In addition to impacting shipping costs to integrate or recover the excess, this mistake risks having repercussions on inventory control.

Non-optimized picking paths. A logical and organized arrangement of goods without taking into account their movement and the routes necessary for pickers to reach them can significantly increase processing times and, consequently, operating costs. The efficiency of product picking routes is crucial to minimizing order waiting times and maximizing productivity.

Poor data management. Warehouse picking operations require procedures and software capable of keeping inventory under control. Data entry errors, such as incorrect item numbers or localizations, can cause significant inefficiencies and result in discrepancies between physical inventory and system-recorded inventory that can cause delays or the inability to complete orders.

How to optimize picking

Optimizing picking is a primary objective for companies that sell their products online: this, in fact, allows them to improve operational efficiency, reduce costs, increase customer satisfaction and increase their competitiveness on the market. Let us look at useful tools and strategies.

Improve the storage of goods. A logical and functional arrangement of goods during storage is the first step towards efficient picking, ensuring, for example, that the most requested items are more easily accessible. This can help significantly reduce withdrawal times.

Rely on advanced technologies. The integration of advanced technologies and specific software, capable of synchronizing operations between e-commerce platforms and internal systems in real time, is essential to effectively track and manage each order, from the selection of goods to shipping. These solutions, through the automation and precise control of picking activities, play a crucial role in orienting staff towards accurate item picking, significantly increasing the operational efficiency of the company.

Study the distribution of spaces. An optimized layout can significantly reduce travel times for pickers, improving the speed of the picking process. The construction or rental of suitable structures is, for SMEs, a significant commitment that takes up precious time and resources. A quicker and more functional solution may be to rely on partners specialized in warehouse management for third parties and capable of identifying the needs of a business to offer the most suitable solutions.

Invest in staff training. Ensuring that employees are well trained on the procedures in place and the use of available technologies can significantly increase efficiency. This, naturally, entails high costs for e-commerce and small businesses which can, however, be reduced by relying on players capable of guaranteeing specialized personnel, updated on the use of software and technologies and capable of operating at their best.

MBE Fulfillment is the integrated system that allows the management of orders and all internal warehouse logistics processes to be entrusted to a team of expert professionals, allowing companies to concentrate time and resources on their business. From order processing to product storage, from picking to packaging and shipments, Mail Boxes Etc., with a network of over 1,700 centers around the world, supports companies that wish to optimize their work and guarantee customers services quality.

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Picking is the process of selecting and removing specific items from a storage space in a warehouse to fulfill customer orders.
Picking errors can lead to additional costs, lost time, customer dissatisfaction and potential loss of customers.
Optimizing picking is essential to ensuring timely deliveries, reducing shipping errors, increasing customer satisfaction and maintaining a competitive advantage.
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