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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2018 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Pick, pack and ship is the process of finding and collecting merchandise from inventory and packing it for shipment. The “batch” in “batch pick, pack and ship” is about improving workflows on common objects and clustering multiple items from several orders or shipments so that they can be picked, packed and shipped in a more optimized and efficient fashion.
As a store manager, you might ask why it matters to you. It’s important because omnichannel retail is here to stay and if you are not already running a ship-from-store strategy, you soon will.
A ship-from-store omnichannel strategy brings many benefits to the physical store. These benefits include:
Keep in mind that in addition to these benefits, ship-from-store also brings added work and responsibilities to the store staff. What’s important to you, the store manager, is to figure out how to handle this new process. Warehouse pickers are efficient at this. Now the question is how to help your associates stay on task, be focused and happier. As well as help their efficiency.
“But MY store wasn’t originally meant to do this” is likely to be a response to this new fulfillment paradigm. While we agree with that statement, ship-from-store pushes your facility to do things it may never have tried before (like pick and pack) to keep pace with how order management and omnichannel commerce are evolving.
Since this might soon become a necessity at your store, here are five tips to keep in mind when building your ship-from-store process.
Part of the batch solution is pick list optimization. The idea here is that your associates aren’t running around the store looking for products for a single shipment, one at a time. You want them picking for several shipments (and the items included) on each pick journey. It is more efficient and will make the process faster. After all, as we all know, customer satisfaction improves with speed of fulfillment. For example, batch pick, pack and ship gets even better when your order management system (OMS) has inventory details down to the shelf level and in-store location. Using that data, optimized pick list for intelligent picking routes can be created for each individual location. In other words, you don’t want your associate walking to one extreme end of the store to pick an item, then to the other end to pick the next, then back again, etc. It tires out your associate, wastes time and slows getting your orders fulfilled. A good batch solution should consider pick paths and efficiencies.
Another good tip for optimizing store operations is to cluster top selling merchandise. These items should be in locations that are easy to reach and accessible. This is a principle that should already be being followed in your store It helps customers shopping in-store and even leads to additional purchases. It also makes batch pick, pack and ship a much more effective process.
Another important aspect of batch pick, pack and ship capabilities is collecting feedback on the in-store stock. In other words, what’s really in the store. There are many reasons why an inventory management system may not align with physical stock. Factors include item damage, stock shrinkage, misplaced merchandise, or incorrect initial inventory counts. When a store associate notice missing stock during a picking route, the inventory system should be updated. This is where the batch pick, pack and ship system helps improve the in-store inventory accuracy.
As the store picker collects items for the shipments, they can validate inventory in real-time. However, when merchandise is not found, you need a system that can readjust and take actions like noting the missing stock, splitting the shipment, rerouting the order to another store, or simply rejecting the shipment altogether. These functions need to be easily at hand.
In some cases (like with a shipment rejection), triggers can be put in place to tell the order management engine, for example, to automatically reroute the order to the next best location for fulfillment. This updated validation is important to improve the accuracy of the inventory counts for the store, between formal inventory reviews. It ensures the details for the store that are shown online and on digital channels are correct. More so, by extension, it keeps the customers happier with an accurate solution.
At the last stage of the batch pick, pack and ship cycle, the order is ready to be packaged and sent for delivery. At this point, a good batch solution will provide a summary of the shipments and orders in the batch, provide detail on any incomplete shipments and provide functionality based on the state of the batch. While it’s always best to double check, a good batch solution will give your users the tools they need to be effective.
Ship-from-store is a retail strategy that offers a lower cost, quicker and more sustainable alternative to shipping from a distribution center. It also dramatically improves the business impact of physical stores. Yet, there are added processes and responsibilities at the store level. Modern order management systems (OMS) are built realizing the new responsibilities facing store managers. As such, make sure your OMS has multichannel applications with batch pick, pack and ship capabilities.