Order processing

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Order processing is the process or work-flow associated with the picking, packing and delivery of the packed items to a shipping carrier. Order processing is a key element of order fulfillment. Order processing operations or facilities are commonly called "distribution centers".


Automated picking
Sorting packages according to destination

Order processing is a sequential process involving:[1]

  • Picking: consists in taking and collecting articles in a specified quantity before shipment to satisfy customers' orders.
  • Sorting: process that separates items according to destination.
  • Pre-consolidation or package formation  : includes weighting, labeling and packing.
  • Consolidation: gathering packages into loading units for transportation, control and bill of lading.


Piece Picking[edit]

Piece picking, also known as broken case picking or pick/pack operations, describes systems where individual items are picked. Operations using piece picking typically have a large stock keeping unit, or SKU, base in the thousands or tens of thousands of items, small quantities per pick, and short cycle times. Examples of piece pick operations include mail order catalog companies and repair parts distributors. [2]

Case Picking[edit]

Operations that use case picking tend to have less diversity in product characteristics than operations that use piece picking. There are typically fewer SKUs and higher picks per SKU. [2]

Pallet Picking[edit]

Full-pallet picking, or unit-load picking, uses much simpler systematic methods than piece picking or case picking. However, there are many choices in storage equipment, storage configurations and types of lift trucks. [2]


Sorting machines in distribution


The specific "order fulfillment process" or the operational procedures of distribution centers are determined by many factors. Each distribution center has its own unique requirements or priorities. There is no "one size fits all" process that universally provides the most efficient operation. Some of the factors that determine the specific process flow of a distribution center are:

  • The nature of the shipped product - shipping eggs and shipping shirts can require differing fulfillment processes
  • The nature of the orders - the number of differing items and quantities of each item in orders
  • The nature of the shipping packaging - cases, totes, envelopes, pallets can create process variations
  • Shipping costs - consolidation of orders, shipping pre-sort can change processing operations
  • Availability and cost and productivity of workforce - can create trade-off decisions in automation and manual processing operations
  • Timeliness of shipment windows - when shipments need to be completed based on carriers can create processing variations
  • Availability of capital expenditure dollars - influence on manual verses automated process decisions and longer term benefits
  • Value of product shipped - the ratio of the value of the shipped product and the order fulfillment cost
  • Seasonality variations in outbound volume - amount and duration of seasonal peaks and valleys of outbound volume
  • Predictability of future volume, product and order profiles
  • Predictability of distribution network - whether or not the network itself is going to change
  • Presence of small volume distribution
  • Minimization of shipping costs

This list is only a small sample of factors that can influence the choice of a distribution centers operational procedures. Because each factor has varying importance in each organization the net effect is that each organization has unique processing requirements.

The effect of Globalization has immense impacts on much of the order fulfillment but its impact is felt mostly in transportation and distribution.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ D.F. Bozutti, M.A. Bueno-Da-Costa, R. Ruggeri, Logística: Visão Global e Picking, EdUFSCar 2010
  2. ^ a b c Piasecki, Dave (2012). "Order Picking: Methods and Equipment for Piece Pick, Case Pick, and Pallet Pick Operations". Inventory Ops Consultation. Retrieved 1 May 2015.