The many ways to organise efficient picking and packing systems

Picking and packing are essential processes in warehouses where goods are picked from shelves then moved to packing tables for dispatch. There are several ways to organise a picking and packing system.

The layout of the picking and packing areas

Picking and packing should be organised in a way that minimises travel distances. Items that are picked most frequently need to be in locations that are easy to reach, at a height between the picker’s waist and shoulders so that they do not have to stretch up or bend down to pick them. This will reduce strain and fatigue.

There are several ways to organise the pick and pack lines:

Straight Line:
Shelving is organised in a straight line with the most popular items at the front to reduce the distance they have to travel to the packing station.

Serpentine Line: Items are stored in rows, with the popular items in the front rows, and the less picked items on the back rows.

Branch and Pick Zone: A centre aisle or conveyor belt is at right angles to the shelves with popular items closest to the centre aisle.

Pick to Conveyor: Several operators pick items for the same order. Each operator is stationed at one pick zone and places items on a conveyor until all items have been picked and delivered to the packing table by the conveyor.

Pick to Light or Sound: Lights signal the location and direction where items are located. Sound picking systems send audio direction commands to workers wearing headsets.

Automatic: There are several semi-automatic and automatic systems where machines move items to the workers stationed at a packing station. Fully automatic systems are expensive so are only suitable for high-volume picking and packing.


The basic pieces of equipment warehouses needs for picking and packing are shelves, packing tables and trolleys. Depending on the goods stored, specialist storage equipment may be required. For example, the garment industry needs garment rails, and the furniture industry uses storage equipment designed for sofas and chairs.

Good quality flat trolleys and sack trolleys make manual handling easier. Mechanised handling equipment such as forklift trucks may be needed for heavy items.

It pays to purchase quality equipment. Packing tables and trolleys made from tubular steel are recommended because they are strong, lightweight and will last a long time under heavy use.

Improving the picking and packing system

After a picking and packing system has been running for a while, it needs reviewing to see if any improvements can be made. Picking and packing times and accuracy need measuring. All employees working in the operation should be asked for their views of the system and how it can be improved. Material handling manufactures can be consulted about equipment upgrades.

Improving the performance of the picking and packing systems increases efficiency so that a better service is provided for customers. Warehouses should aim to provide a service that minimises the time between receiving orders and dispatching them.

Posted by Katrina
7th September 2018

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