Improve Your Picking and Packing in Wholesale and Distribution Centers

You probably take great pains throughout your business to reduce losses. Wholesale and distribution center managers know that margins are slim and that costs must be contained. Yet did you know that you may be leaking profits simply from poor picking and packing processes?

While it’s true that big mistakes are often caught in wholesale and distribution centers, small mistakes add up. Think about it. Even a half percent (0.05%!) of mistakes in picking can lead to money lost processing returns, productivity, and dissatisfied customers.

The following tips can help you seal up potential leaks and ensure that your picking and packing is nearly perfect.

Review Return Data and Reports

Reports on the quantity, frequency, and type of returned product orders can tell you a lot about what’s going on in your warehouse. For example, a high number of items returned for incorrect products or reports of incomplete orders signals a problem in the picking and packing area.

Reports from a business intelligence, ERP, or WMS can help you pinpoint if those orders occurred during a specific time period or with specific teams, if you can pinpoint it down to the individual level.

Examine Your Existing Process Manuals and Training

Does your company have a formal training process for new and seasonal employees? Many warehouse and distribution centers hire part-time or seasonal employees during peak seasons. This influx of new workers may require additional training resources to ensure that everyone is following the same processes.

Consider your current processes, too. Are they written down? If not, it’s time to write them out and share them with your warehouse staff. Make sure you review them together since warehouse staff is usually better able to judge an effective picking and packing process than the management team. They’re on the front lines and understand potential bottlenecks and mistakes.

Dust off the process manual and review the steps in the picking and packing process. They should be current; that is, reflect the steps that staff currently take or the ideal steps that you’d like them to take.

Are Employees Following Processes?

It’s one thing to have a process manual and another to make sure that everyone is following it. If your employees aren’t following the processes that you’ve outlined, find out why. It could be lack of awareness or training, or it could be that they’ve come up with better, smarter processes. You won’t know until you investigate.

Invite the warehouse team to provide comments, feedback, and suggestions. This can be done through a formal suggestion process or an informal lunch. Be sure to write down what people share and thank them for their time.


If you can monitor data on picking and packing, hold a contest to see which team can generate the lowest number of order mistakes. Give a special prize to the team with zero mistakes per month. Software that tracks return data can help you set the parameters for a contest. Monitor metrics such as returns for incorrect or incomplete orders, which leads straight back to the picking and packing process.

Identify Tricky Items

One area of particular concern in some warehouses is counting out small items. Small items can be the most troublesome in the picking and packing process since they are easily dropped, miscounted, or missed during scanning. Consider hosting some additional training sessions with your team on handling small items. Having a team pick and pack many small items can help too, with one person picking and the other person double checking the pick, then recounting it at the packing station.

It’s rarely a big mistake that hurts a company’s profits. Often, it’s many small things that add up to a financial loss, a sort of slow bleed of money that eventually weakens the company. Prevent losses in picking and packing by making sure your warehouse management systems are up to date and ready to tackle any size order at any time.

Software to Improve Wholesale and Distribution Warehouses

Warehouse mobility offers you the potential to improve your current picking and packing systems. Emerald TC’s partner, Scanco, offers warehouse mobility solutions that can improve wholesale and distribution warehouses’ accuracy, efficiency, and productivity.

Mobile wireless and static data capture solutions speed up warehouse efficiency. They also feed data into your ERP system, so if you use Sage 100, Sage 100c, Acumatica, or another great ERP system, you’ll be able to keep it updated with mobile warehouse systems.

About Emerald TC

Emerald TC can help you prioritize your next technology purchase. Please contact us now for a consultation—we are happy to help. We specialize in helping mid-market, multi-location companies increase efficiency, productivity, and profits. Contact us or call 678-456-6919 today.

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