Pick and Pack Fulfillment: The Definitive Guide

Picking and packing is a crucial aspect of ecommerce fulfillment and cannot be overlooked. Regardless of the product or industry, efficient pick and pack fulfillment is necessary to ensure quality shipping and fast service.

This definitive guide will show you the basics of pick and pack fulfillment, alongside detailed explanations of the practices 3PL Center employs to ensure optimized picking and packing in our warehouses.

Table of Contents

What is pick and pack fulfillment?
Why outsource pick and pack fulfillment to a 3PL?
Pick and pack processes
Common pick and pack fulfillment strategies
Pick and pack fulfillment software
Best practices for picking and packing
Which industries benefit the most from outsourced pick and pack fulfillment?
How does 3PL Center optimize pick and pack fulfillment?
Common pick and pack issues (and how 3PL Center solve them)
Pick and pack fulfillment costs
Finding the right fulfillment partner
Why choose 3PL Center?

What is pick and pack fulfillment?

Pick and pack fulfillment is the process of picking an order and packing it into its optimally sized box and packaging. This occurs once a customer places an order, meaning the warehouse staff need to use a picking list to find its location. Once they locate it, they deliver it to the packing station which puts it into the correct packaging alongside relevant labels and shipping documents.

On paper, it is quite a simple process. However, optimizing the small intricacies can add up in the long run, thus maximizing efficiency.

Some businesses will manage their own picking and packing, while others will outsource to a 3PL provider like 3PL Center. In both cases, the processes work the same, however fulfillment partners know the best ways to optimize the process.

Why outsource pick and pack fulfillment to a 3PL?

Many businesses choose to outsource their pick and pack fulfillment to a 3PL. This is beneficial for many reasons, including:

1 – Reduced overhead costs – businesses no longer need their own warehouse space.

2 – Easy scalability – by handing responsibility of your supply chain to a fulfillment provider, businesses can focus on expansion and growing their brand.

3 – Improved shipping speed – 3PLs typically have a wide network of efficiently-run warehouses, meaning they can timely deliver goods to customers

4 – Expertise and knowledge – By working with a wide range of industries, fulfillment providers know what tactics to employ for specific businesses, thus optimizing their supply chains.

Pick and pack processes

Pick and pack fulfillment involves a number of different steps, starting from the moment a customer places an order, to when it is shipped:

1. Receiving

When a customer places an order, it will alert the warehouse through the warehouse management software and generate a packing slip. It does not matter where the customer places the order from as long as the initial integrations are working correctly.  

The business’s warehouse management system will calculate the best warehouse location to send the product from. It does this by assessing the location that is nearest to the customer and has sufficient inventory to send.

2. Picking

Once the warehouse receives the order, a worker will then find the product via a picking list. The list may also contain other items that are shipping with the order, but this depends on the way the warehouse runs. Consequently, the worker will likely have to visit multiple zones of the warehouse to do so.

There are a number of ways that warehouses perform picking. This depends on the size of the warehouse, the volume of the product they ship, and if they are in-house or a fulfillment provider.

3. Packing

Once the worker finds all the items on the picking list, they then deliver them to the nearest packing station. Depending on the type of item, the workers in the packing area may need to adopt different methods to ensure they handle the products appropriately. For example, fragile items will need a certain level of care to ensure they do not break. 

After this, the workers will put the items in the correct packaging. The type of packaging again depends on the product, so fragile items will likely need bubble wrap to reduce the chance of any damage.

At 3PL Center, we work with a large variety of businesses that require different types of packaging. Whether it be packing small individual items for the clothing industry, or a specialist approach to heavy bikes and lithium batteries for the e-bike industry, we have experience with all ends of the spectrum.

4. Shipping

After packing, the product is ready for shipping. Before actually sending the packaging to the customer, it needs the correct label in order to meet the requirements of the parcel carrier. This is also the point that businesses weigh the package to work out costs.

Shipping is arguably the hardest part of the pick and pack fulfillment process to balance due to customer expectations. Many people see express shipping as a standard and others simply refuse to pay for higher shipping costs. This means businesses have to find ways to save money and optimize the process as they try their best to adhere to customer wishes.

Common pick and pack fulfillment strategies

Supporting the four main steps of picking and packing fulfillment are common strategies that warehouses employ. These strategies depend on the type of warehouse, its size, the products it stores, and the volume it moves per day.

Picking strategies

Batch picking

Batch picking organizes orders into batches, with each batch containing items located in the same section of the warehouse. When using this strategy, the picking list will give workers an efficient route through the warehouse, ensuring they do not visit the same place more than once.

Batching picking works well for businesses that have a large volume of orders. 

Piece packing

Piece picking generates a picking list that includes all items from a single order. Workers will then go around the warehouse to pick the items from their respective locations.

Piece packing works well for smaller businesses that do not have a large volume of orders.

Zone picking

Zone picking involves workers staying within a specific zone of the warehouse. When an order comes through, they are tasked with picking any corresponding items that are in their zone. Once they do this, they pass the order to the next zone until it is complete. After this, it goes to the packing station.

Zone picking is best for large fulfillment warehouses. It requires efficient warehouse management software in order to succeed.

Wave picking

Wave picking combines the strategies in batch and zone picking. Workers will pick items in their corresponding zones for batch orders as opposed to single orders. They then pass the batch on to the next area until it is complete.

Wave picking is the most complicated picking strategy and works best for highly coordinated fulfillment warehouses. When done correctly, it can be the most efficient form of pick and pack fulfillment.

Packing strategies

Whilst picking the orders correctly is important, strategic packing is crucial in performing efficient pick and pack fulfillment. If a warehouse cannot do this correctly, it can easily waste a lot of time and money. Regardless of which strategy a business employs, it needs to be coordinated properly:


Cartonization is a packing strategy that all warehouses or fulfillment centers will employ. This strategy involves finding the optimal packaging size for each order. This is important as finding the best size both reduces shipping costs and space the package takes up, meaning more room for more orders on a delivery truck.

Plenty of fulfillment centers use software that analyzes the dimensions and sizes of orders, in turn giving the most optimal box size for each shipment.


Kitting is a specific part of pick and pack fulfillment. This involves putting several products together into a single package. This works best for customers who order multiple products or customers that place an order that comes with accessory items (i.e. a mobile phone with a charger). This strategy reduces packaging costs by combining products together, while also increasing customer satisfaction with products arriving at the same time.

Branded packaging

Businesses want to be able to show off their brand identity with their packaging as it gives them an opportunity to differentiate from their competitors. By adding a personal touch, it leaves a lasting impression on the customer and strengthens their relationship to the brand. Whether this be through logos, thank you cards, or complementary products, many businesses and fulfillment centers offer this service.

Pick and pack fulfillment software

Efficient picking and packing requires advanced software that can process orders and generate picking lists for workers. This warehouse management software (WMS) ensures that warehouses optimize their time spent picking and packing, as even saving a single second on an order can add up immensely over time.

Barcode scanning

WMS works with scanning devices to record real-time location information. When a worker scans a product, the software updates automatically, showing an accurate depiction of the product’s status and the new volume in the warehouse.

Packing optimization

Packing lists will optimize the packaging of a product by analyzing the order dimensions. This automates the process, thus eliminating the need for workers to spend minutes figuring it out and speeding up packing time.

Pick and pack fulfillment best practices

Pick and pack fulfillment is all about efficiency. Warehouses that fail to optimize their strategies will likely fall behind, leading to dissatisfied customers and a huge backlog of orders to deal with.

Here are some key industry practices that fulfillment partners like 3PL Center employ to ensure their picking and packing is always seamless:

1. Consistent organization and labeling

The entire pick and pack fulfillment process depends heavily on how accurate a warehouse’s information is.  If a product moves location, it needs to be updated immediately in order to avoid any delays in the picking process. Staff need to know of any changes and how this may affect the day-to-day operations.

2. Work smart, not hard

The warehouse layout should accommodate the picking strategy that it employs. For example, warehouses that use batch picking should place the products that ship the largest volume nearest to the packing stations, minimizing travel time. Alternatively, warehouses that use piece picking should place items that are commonly shipped together within the same section, again saving travel time. 

3. Rely on real-time order management

Fulfillment software is not only beneficial in preparing orders but also for tracking them too. By using a real-time order management system, warehouses can quickly identify any areas that are causing significant delays, which gives employees time to find a solution before it affects the supply chain.

Which industries benefit the most from outsourcing picking and packing?

While all ecommerce businesses will benefit from pick and pack fulfillment services, here are five great examples of industries that thrive when opting to outsource:


The electronics industry is constantly evolving and requires a meticulous approach to picking and packing. As it is common for customers to order many electronic parts together, businesses need a warehouse system that is optimized correctly for it. Fulfillment centers will typically employ zone picking for electronic products, whilst opting for efficient kitting strategies when packing.

E-bike and bike shipping

E-bikes sales across North America are skyrocketing upwards, meaning the demand for them is only going to increase more and more. E-bikes require careful packaging due to their cost, size, and fragile lithium battery. Fulfillment partners will streamline this process through their warehouse management software, quickly telling warehouse workers the optimal way to package the product.


Mattress businesses suffer from product size and needing warehouse space to hold it. Fulfillment providers like 3PL Center optimize their warehouse space to effectively hold higher volumes of product – with mattresses being no exception. By alleviating these businesses of high overhead costs, it is clear why increasing numbers across the country are looking to outsource their pick and pack fulfillment.

Vitamins and pharmaceuticals

As vitamin warehouses need to adhere to food and safety regulations, fulfillment centers focus on providing a route that meets FDA-approval. Through warehouse management software, packers know when to use safe and secure packaging for vitamin orders, ensuring correct transportation.

Apparel and footwear

The apparel and footwear industry is constantly changing due to evolving fashion trends and customer demands. This requires having large quantities of product to cater for a sudden influx of orders. Providers like 3PL Center utilize SKUs to continuously update warehouse management software on stock levels and locations, meaning they can logistically handle high volumes of sales.

How does 3PL Center optimize pick and pack fulfillment?

While 3PL Center follows many efficiency strategies that the industry values, we also pride ourselves on our innovative thinking and aims of revolutionizing picking and packing.


Our warehouses use the VNA (very narrow aisle) system in order to maximize storage space for products. This creates a high-density storage system that increases the capacity of the warehouse without ever needing to expand the space.

Aisle size

While many of our competitors use 12 foot wide aisles, we use smaller ones measuring at 6 foot. Tighter aisles means more space for product, thus maximizing space and keeping things organized for warehouse staff.

Turret pickers

Complementing our VNA and aisle height structure, our workers use state of the art turret pickers to quickly gather items in large quantities. By installing wires in between aisles, this allows them to move at fast speed to efficiently complete orders. 

We have the optimal size turret pickers measure at 5 foot 8. Having larger pickers means workers can collect more items at once, reducing the number of trips they have to make and maximizing their efficiency.

Common pick and pack issues (and how 3PL Center solve them)

When new clients partner with us, they tell us about issues they have experienced with previous pick and pack fulfillment partners. It is true that we have experienced some of these too, but 3PL Center quickly provides solutions to ensure that the supply chain remains unaffected.

  • Incorrectly shipped items – while this can happen in any warehouse, 3PL Center’s optimized software ensures minimal crossover between orders. Our WMS generates an efficient picking list for workers to follow, making their journey around the warehouse clear and concise. In the rare event that a customer does receive a wrong item, our returns team is on hand to quickly rectify the situation.
  • Orders not shipping on time – shipping is such an important part of the fulfillment process and needs attention at all times. Our reliable shipping ensures that customers receive their product within 2 days, allowing your business to build trust with your client base.
  • Missing inventory – some 3PL providers refuse to keep up with the times, using outdated technology to manage their inventory. With our integrated WMS, you can always see the status of your products in real-time. This is constantly updated through the use of SKU scanners to continuously keep the inventory numbers correct.

While it would be untrue to say that we have never experienced any of these issues, our team knows exactly what to do when something does go wrong. Our solutions to these issues ensure that all parties are completely satisfied with the result.

Pick and pack fulfillment costs

When looking to outsource your pick and pack fulfillment, you need to consider the costs that come with it. Many businesses think that the bulk of the cost comes from the shipping itself. However, you will need to consider several other services that will incur fees:

  • Onboarding – Receiving and stowing your product into inventory
  • Storage – Holding your product while awaiting order
  • Pick and packing – Readying your product for order
  • Packing materials – The materials used to ship your product. Special products that require tailored packing will likely incur costs.
  • Kitting – Assembling special products in a certain way
  • Shipping – Sending orders to your customers

Whilst this is a lot of factors to consider, it is important to remember that fulfillment partners typically receive reduced shipping and packaging costs from the channels they work with. This means that moving a lot of items in bulk will receive further discounts, saving your business a lot of money down the line.

Finding the right fulfillment partner

Businesses looking to partner with fulfillment companies should be aware of a number of factors that will influence their decision. If you are only just starting to consider outsourcing, or you are currently looking to change provider, you could ask yourself the following:

  • What are your business’s priorities? Costs? Shipping times? Marketing?
  • How much do you want the business to grow? Can the provider accommodate this?
  • How much experience does the provider have in your industry? Do any of your competitors use them?
  • Do they have a good reputation? What are their reviews like?
  • Can they cater to your business expanding? In 3 years, will they be able to keep up with your order volume?

On top of these factors, you should always be considering how the provider goes above and beyond for efficiency. Whether it be new integrations or technological solutions, ensure you ask exactly how they will be able to optimally manage your supply chain.


At 3PL Center, we invest roughly three times the amount that a standard 3PL would on their warehouses. While costly, this gives us the competitive advantage by offering methodical and logical solutions to our clients. This also gives both us and our partners an increased return on investment due to the sheer speed and reliability of our systems.

Why choose 3PL Center?

Pick and pack fulfillment is vital for any ecommerce business. Managing your orders incorrectly can cause massive delays in shipment, meaning customers receive their product late and will likely not engage with your business again.

3PL Center strives to be one of the industry leaders in efficient pick and pack fulfillment. By optimizing our warehouses, we can guarantee:

  • 24-48 hour turnaround time for inbound receivings  
  • 99% shipping accuracy – your customers receiving the correct product and quantity.
  • 99% ship same day (for orders before 2pm)

While our current set up is incredibly efficient and effective, our experts are constantly looking for new ways to optimize our supply chain management. Whether that be with new technology or changes to the warehouse itself, we are always proactively seeking opportunities to improve our service.

If you are looking to partner with a consistent 3PL provider, ensuring your customers receive the best product and shopping experience, then look no further. Our goal is always ensuring that we exceed both you and your customer’s expectations.

Start optimizing your pick and pack today – contact us now.