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Picking & Packing

Picking and packing operations in order fulfillment includes all of the processes associated with receiving orders, picking items from inventory, packing them in appropriate containers, and preparing them for shipment. Key to efficient and accurate picking and packing processes are strict inventory controls, software that can coordinate between the different steps, and the right people supplemented with the right technologies.

Whether your business focuses on a Just-In-Time or Just-In-Case fulfillment strategy, optimizing the pick and pack process is crucial to controlling costs and maximizing warehousing efficiencies.

The right picking and packing processes for your business will depend on your throughput and the size of your facilities and products. The most common processes include:

  • Piece picking. Single orders are fulfilled one item at a time.
  • Batch picking. Multiple orders are fulfilled at the same time so that the operator’s travel through the warehouse is minimized.
  • Zone picking. Operators are assigned zones from where they pick items before sending an order to the next zone.
  • Wave picking. Operators are assigned zones and pick items to fulfill batches of orders before sending the orders to the next zone.

The benefits of picking and packing systems

Reduce picking and packing labor and associated costs

Labor accounts for as much as 55% of the costs associated with picking and packing operations. A major benefit of integrating the right picking and packing systems for your operations is minimizing the number of times product is touched, as well as the distance operators travel.

Organizing operations so that picking is done in batches, zones, or waves can help minimize the time operators spend per order. Designing a system that ensures operators have the tools they need at-hand can further reduce wasted movement (aka, “motion waste”) and maximize efficiency.

Improve inventory and shipment accuracy

A well designed picking and packing system can improve inventory management and shipment accuracy in a number of ways. A company upgrading, for example, from paper picking to pick-to-voice or pick-to-light will realize both increased speed and picking accuracy. As accuracy increases in the picking process, it also increases in both inventory management and shipping.

Other automated solutions can help in different, but corresponding, ways. Something as simple as barcode scanners and print and apply labels can reduce the errors associated with trying to read and transpose hand-written invoices and labels. And as a facility’s picking and packing solutions progress into automated retrieval systems, the gains in inventory and shipping accuracy continue to grow.

Maximize space utilization in ambient, freezer, or chilled environments

To handle more complicated picking methods like batch or wave picking, a facility needs to have a warehouse management system (WMS) capable of dealing with multiple orders at the same time. The same WMS used to track these complex picking processes can also ensure that space is maximized in the put-away process, and that goods are stored in a way that maximizes efficiency and reduces errors.

A basic warehousing strategy might store similar items together, perhaps according to their sales volume. This can make them easier to count and faster to put away. However, it can lead to inaccuracies; as these goods are later picked, it can be easy to confuse similar items.

Picking and packing solutions use process automation to store goods in apparently random ways so as to minimize the risk of confusion, while keeping goods in the right zones. A distribution center that handles frozen, chilled, and ambient environmental zones can especially benefit from upgrading to picking and packing solutions capable of navigating these complex needs.

Handle peak periods and seasonal products

Integrating the right picking and packing systems into your operations can help you identify, and transition between, cycles of peak and diminished demand. The right WMS can not only identify items with varying seasonal velocities, but can also maximize storage density of items that haven’t yet hit peak season while keeping fast-moving goods at the pick face.

Storage processes should also include flex space that will enable facilities to handle any exceptions that come up. Whether it’s a surprise breakout gift item during the holiday season, an influx of parts caused by a roadblock in a manufacturing process, or items too big or bulky to be handled by standard equipment, warehouses should have designated areas, equipped with appropriate racking or other infrastructure, for these outliers.

Typical applications for picking and packing systems

Retail store replenishment

The right picking and packing solutions for retail store replenishment need to be capable of handling hundreds of thousands of orders every day, while also adjusting for shifting demand cycles, local sporting events and holidays, and weather conditions. Orders need to be processed with direct-to-shelf stocking in mind and by truckloads that need to be accurately loaded to minimize the time it takes to offload the merchandise at each stop.

Technologies like barcode labelers and scanners, light-directed picking, and a WMS capable of handling the company’s volume and scale can help operators accurately break full cases into individual orders for particular stores.

Direct-to-customer order fulfillment

Facilities that deal with direct-to-customer order fulfillment need picking and packing operations capable of receiving orders from multiple sales channels — possibly including social media, apps, and branded as well as third party websites. They also need to be able to efficiently pick, pack, and ship small orders being delivered to many different zip codes.

Direct-to-customer businesses have to be able to both forecast demand, adequately prepare their warehouse for that demand, and develop their outbound logistics network to deliver goods on time.

All of these issues present different challenges that can be eased with the implementation of the appropriate picking and packing technologies.

Business-to-business fulfillment

Because business-to-business (B2B) order fulfillment is often challenged with large, bulky, or heavy shipments, it poses particular challenges in the industry. B2B has similar difficulties as other industries, such as handling orders from multiple sales channels and dealing with demand cycles, and it has to handle those issues while dealing with products that might weigh several tons or be too wide for a standard trailer. Industrial moving equipment — such as automated forklifts, AGVs, and AMRs — can reduce the risk of operators being injured from moving heavy equipment.

B2B fulfillment often struggles with issues crossing international borders, including ensuring that items are properly labeled for each country they pass through and have adequate paperwork. Print and apply labels can help ensure that boxes are appropriately marked and can help reduce problems in customs by ensuring that the labels are legible. Adequate reporting software can also help lower the risks and damages associated with slowdowns that can occur when crossing international borders.

Just-in-time delivery of parts in manufacturing

While post-COVID many industries are moving toward a Just-in-Case replenishment model that holds more buffer inventory, manufacturing is still focused on a Just-in-Time delivery model that minimizes waste by delivering raw materials and parts exactly when they are needed. To accommodate this, picking and packing systems, as well as outbound logistics, need to be streamlined in a way that moves parts through the system as efficiently and reliably as possible.

To support this, the company needs to incorporate technologies that enable companies to:

  • Ship raw materials so that they will be delivered when they are needed
  • Synchronize the movement of goods throughout both the fulfillment and production cycles
  • Prevent bottlenecks by continually monitoring processes

Important considerations when evaluating a systems integration partner for picking and packing systems

Are they consultative?

When partnering with a systems integrator, one of the risks material handling companies face is trying to work with a partner that promises more than they can deliver. The integration partner smiles through consultations and then, behind the scenes, desperately tries to invent the technology they need to deliver on their promises. They miss deadline after deadline until their client reaches a point of no return — they’re willing to justify their costs by seeing any kind of benefit from their investment. Even if those benefits are well below what was originally planned and agreed to.

PeakLogix is not that kind of partner. We are fully consultative, and prioritize your goals and needs. We undertake a thorough discovery process so that we understand both the roadblocks you face now and the goals you have for the future. Our solutions are designed to help you move past your roadblocks, and scale with your business growth. We don’t offer solutions in a top-down fashion that refuses input and denies questions, but collaborate with you and provide the recommendations we believe will best suit your needs.

Are they vendor agnostic?

Vendor agnostic solutions providers like PeakLogix don’t push their favorite suppliers onto their customers. Instead, we work with our suppliers to find and test the applications for which their product is the best fit. We don’t pitch untested products as viable solutions, but rather look for the best solution that already has a track record of solid performance.

Being open to integrating the best solutions on the market — regardless of their manufacturer — means we can truly optimize solutions for our clients, and quickly adjust to changing demands.

Can they scale to your needs?

The changing urban landscape, an aging workforce, the large-scale adoption of ecommerce, and the increased use of artificial intelligence and machine learning have created challenges and brought opportunities that are continuing to change industries in every sector. Businesses need solutions that are more responsive than ever, with the ability to scale both up and down to meet a company’s growth as well as periodic changes in demand.

PeakLogix has been solving the material-handling needs of companies of every size, and in many industries, for over 30 years. We are dedicated to our own continuous improvement because we know that designing systems that will adapt to your changing business needs means being knowledgeable about changes in the industry. By offering adaptive solutions where appropriate, we bring added value to our partners.

Can you contact support when you need them?

PeakLogix started in 1989 as a material handling and systems integrator serving clients across the Mid-Atlantic. Over the past 30 years, we’ve completed thousands of successful projects and have grown to become a thought leader in the industry and a national provider of innovative solutions, software systems, and automated technologies.

From the beginning of our working relationships with clients, our team works to discover your goals and challenges. We collaborate with you to develop solutions that meet your needs today and also lay the groundwork for your future growth. When your project is complete, we offer services including 24/7 system support, operator training, and maintenance and repairs.

At PeakLogix, our partnerships are our priority.

What Picking & Packing system solutions should you consider for your inbound handling?


Conveyors are a time-tested means of efficiently moving material of all shapes and sizes, from heavy pallets to fine powders. In picking and packing operations, conveyors move unfilled orders between zones, take completed orders to shipping, enable automated print and apply operations, and more.

Simple roller conveyor systems can be used to help employee ergonomics and lower the risk of injury. Energy efficient motorized drive rollers (MDRs) can be spaced throughout a long conveyor, creating accumulation zones. The speed and even direction of MDRs can be controlled with optical sensors.

More complicated systems, like sortation conveyors with pick and divert technology, are part of highly complex ecommerce fulfillment centers.


Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) enhance productivity and workflow in both manufacturing and distribution facilities. AGVs help streamline processes, decrease delays, and move heavy, bulky materials efficiently and safely.

Guided vehicles use a number of navigational methods, tailored to your facility’s needs. They can be customized and programmed to follow the paths in a facility that are safest for staff and most efficient. They can be an integral part of a facility’s material handling and also programmed for complementary tasks such as trash collection or other housekeeping tasks.


Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) use sensors to detect their surroundings, which they navigate safely and independently. Efficient material handlers, they are programmed to safely follow the most functional path through a facility. They can be integrated into a facility in a matter of weeks with minimal negative effect on ongoing processes and without changing the facility’s infrastructure.

AMRs are equipped with a range of features that make them safe for operators to work with and around, including audible alarms, visual signals, and emergency stops. Depending on how they are tooled, they can interact with conveyor transfer stations to enhance both inbound and outbound processes, can lift pallets either by forks or at a pick and drop (P&D) stand, or can carry small parts or pieces in totes.

Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs)

Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) are ideal for expanding a facility’s footprint by maximizing vertical storage while also improving throughput rates and reducing labor costs. Vertical lift modules can be ideal for small parts and pieces, as they use inserters and extractors to automatically move trays of goods in and out of compact storage. They can also work with cases, totes, and large items.

VLMs provide user-level access for restricted goods, have basic user controls, and integrate with existing software management systems. Because of their small footprint, they optimize vertical space while freeing up valuable floor space.


Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RSs) optimize productivity and operational throughput through the combination of data-driven optimization, warehouse management software, and labor reallocation. Especially in ecommerce, the manual storage and retrieval of small pieces can drain a facility’s profitability. By automating this non-value-adding task, companies can increase both profitability and employee morale.

Any business that deals with the movement and storage of physical goods needs fast, accurate, and efficient storage and retrieval systems. AS/RSs integrate with a facility’s WMS to allow for increased throughput in decanting, reracking, and conveyance of goods; expanded floorspace through the maximization of vertical storage; reduced or avoided capital expenses related to expansions and reallocations; and lowered labor costs.

Print and Apply

Print and apply labeling reduces the number of touches, labor, and costs associated with shipping processes, improving shipping accuracy and warehouse throughput. Print and apply allows a facility to process hundreds or even thousands of packages an hour, all with accurate weight, measurements, and freight costs.

Shipping manifestos and labels can be automatically printed and applied to a variety of packaging materials, shapes, and sizes. They can be combined with accumulation conveyors and other automation to further increase shipping efficiencies.

Pick Module

Pick modules use pallet or carton flow racks to push eaches, cartons, totes, or containers through a facility. PeakLogix integrates a variety of pick modules that can be tailored to your facility’s needs.

Pick modules can allow operators to pick small parts quickly and reliably, increasing speed and accuracy in assembly, manufacturing, or distribution processes.

Pick to Voice

Voice picking technologies allow operators to wear a headset and wrist scanner, enabling a hands-free, eyes-focused picking system. This helps create an environment that keeps operators safe by allowing them to be better aware of their surroundings, while also creating an efficient system that doesn’t require constantly looking between a clipboard or display to verify the location of their next pick.

With pick-to-voice technologies, voice prompts direct operators through the facility. The hand scanner validates the order by registering the item’s barcode. The software supports many languages and the system has a very shallow learning curve.

Pick to Light

Pick-to-light is a cost-effective solution that streamlines warehouse picking operations and increases picking speed, accuracy, and productivity. Especially in omnichannel fulfillment centers, pick-to-light solutions enable the reliable processing of high numbers of SKUs, while increasing efficiency.

Pick-to-light solutions are often a good entry point for a warehouse’s automation transformation. They can work as standalone systems, or integrate with Warehouse Management Software, enabling them to easily scale with a company’s growth.

Horizontal Carousels

Horizontal Carousels are a cost-effective way to quickly add storage capacity and increase put away and retrieval accuracy and efficiency. They are ideal for high throughput facilities and high speed picking, and can increase storage density by up to 75%.

Horizontal Carousels are generally arranged into pods or zones. Multiple carousels in a pod can create variable access points to create an efficient, worker-friendly layout that can triple average pick rates.

Advance your pick and pack operations.

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