Shipping and logistics for ecommerce brands & 3PLs

Case Picking: What Is It and How Can You Use It?

warehouse worker that's holding a box

Many warehouses face challenges with their picking process. Inefficiency, too many errors, and cost being spent while not optimizing for speed and accuracy could be some of them.

With that said, you’re trying to actively change that and are looking for strategies, and that’s where case picking comes in.

This article explores what case picking involves and how it can streamline operations. The goal is to provide you with the knowledge to optimize your warehouse workflow and overcome operational challenges confidently.

What is Case Picking?

Case picking is a logistical process in warehouse operations where products are selected and moved in their original packaging cases or cartons, rather than as individual items.

This method is primarily used when customers order larger quantities of products or when products are already packaged in cases, differing from piece picking (selecting individual items) or batch picking (picking multiple orders at once).


Think of case picking as something similar to you being in a giant supermarket.

You’ve been asked to grab some snacks for a big party, and instead of picking up just a bag of chips, you then grab a whole box containing several bags since it’s quicker for you to do this.

The box in this scenario is the ‘case’ in case picking.

In a warehouse, workers do something similar. When a store orders 100 bags of chips, instead of picking up each bag one by one, the worker will grab a whole box (case) that already contains several bags.

If they need more than what’s in one box, they’ll grab as many boxes as needed to fulfill the order. This way, they can move lots of products at once, just like how you’d prefer to carry a box of chips to the checkout to save time and effort, instead of making multiple trips for individual bags.

What are the Pros and Cons of Case Picking?

a box that's being packaged

Now that we’ve covered the definition of what case picking is, let’s now go through its list of pros and cons to better understand when and where to use this process:


Efficiency and Productivity

Reduces the number of individual picks needed, significantly cutting down on travel time within the warehouse. This streamlined process enhances overall productivity and speeds up order fulfillment​​.

Simplified Packing Process

With full cases, packing becomes more straightforward. This ease of organization and loading onto shipping containers can lead to more efficient shipping operations​​.

Storage and Retrieval Efficiency

Case picking facilitates effective storage and retrieval strategies, especially beneficial for products with higher demand or those frequently ordered together. This method can optimize warehouse space and improve inventory management​​.

High-Order Accuracy

By handling products in their original packaging, there’s a reduced risk of picking errors, contributing to higher order accuracy and customer satisfaction​​.

Reduced Labor Costs

Case picking can lower the need for extensive labor by minimizing the number of individual picks, thereby‌ reducing labor costs​​.


Storage Space Requirements

Requires dedicated space for storing full cases, which may lead to reduced storage density and limit the flexibility in warehouse layout and design​​.

Inventory Management Challenges

Balancing and rotating inventory can become more complex, particularly in warehouses handling a diverse range of products. This might necessitate breaking down and repackaging cases, adding to labor and time costs​​.

Less Flexibility for Mixed Orders

While efficient for standard cases, this method may not be as flexible or efficient for orders requiring a mix of products from different cases.

Potential for Overstocking

There’s a risk of overstocking certain items to maintain full-case quantities, which can tie up capital and storage space in less popular products​​.

Equipment and Infrastructure Needs

Depending on the scale, case picking might require investment in specialized equipment (like forklifts) and infrastructure (like racking systems) to handle pallets and cases efficiently​​.

Tips to Better Optimize Your Case Picking Process

a warehouse employee

To optimize your case picking process effectively, you should focus on strategic planning, integrating technology, and improving operational efficiency. Here are some practical tips to enhance your case picking operations:

Aim for an Optimal Picking Strategy

Developing a clear understanding of your current operations and identifying areas for improvement are crucial first steps. Conducting an operations assessment can reveal specific opportunities to enhance efficiency and streamline your processes.

By documenting and analyzing your existing workflows, you can pinpoint time-saving opportunities and envision an optimal process that boosts productivity within your distribution center (DC)​​.

Select Your Storage Method by Item

Customizing your storage method based on item characteristics can significantly impact efficiency. High-volume items or those with larger order quantities may benefit from dynamic storage solutions like carton flow racks, while slower-moving or larger items might be better suited to traditional pallet storage.

This approach makes sure that each item is stored in a manner that optimizes picking speed and space usage​​.

Improve Ergonomics

Enhancing the ergonomics of your picking operations can lead to better productivity and reduce the risk of injuries. Consider adjusting shelving and storage to minimize the need for picking from extreme heights or depths. Tools like lift tables can make pallet handling more efficient and safer for workers, particularly when dealing with heavier cases​​.

Implement Technology Systems

Incorporating technology into your case picking process can lead to substantial improvements in productivity. Technologies such as carton flow racks, directed picking systems (including light-directed and voice-directed picking), and barcode scanners can streamline operations, reduce errors, and increase picking speed.

A well-integrated Warehouse Management System (WMS) can automate the creation of efficient pick lists and facilitate advanced picking methods like zone, wave, and batch picking​​.

Fast Moving SKU Placement

Strategically placing your most frequently picked SKUs in easily accessible locations can drastically reduce travel time for pickers. This principle holds true regardless of the picking method employed, whether it’s single-order picking or more complex strategies like batch or zone picking.

The goal is to minimize movement and ensure the most popular items are picked with the highest efficiency​​.

Storage System Considerations

A well-organized and thoughtfully designed storage system is foundational to efficient case picking.

Systems that leverage gravity, such as carton flow or pallet flow racks, can automate the movement of products, making sure they are always accessible and reducing the need for manual handling​​.

Reducing Labor Costs Through Automation

Automating your case picking operations with technologies like autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) or automated retrieval systems not only reduces the reliance on manual labor but also minimizes errors and enhances efficiency.

This strategic investment can lead to long-term savings in labor costs and improve overall operational accuracy​​.

Implement Preventive Maintenance

A preventive maintenance program ensures that your equipment operates reliably and efficiently.

Routine checks and maintenance can prevent unexpected downtime and extend the lifespan of your picking equipment, contributing to smoother operations​​.

Consider Batch and Zone Picking

Optimizing your picking strategy by grouping similar orders (batch picking) or assigning pickers to specific areas of the warehouse (zone picking) can significantly reduce travel time and improve overall efficiency.

These strategies help in organizing the picking process and minimizing congestion in the warehouse​​.

By implementing these tips, warehouses and distribution centers can significantly improve their case picking operations, leading to increased efficiency, reduced costs, and a more productive workforce.


Can case picking be integrated with other warehouse operations for better efficiency?

Yes, integrating case picking with other warehouse operations, such as inventory management and order fulfillment processes, can significantly improve overall efficiency. Using a warehouse management system (WMS) can help synchronize these operations, optimizing the flow of goods from receiving to shipping​​​​​​.

What technologies can optimize case picking operations?

Several technologies can enhance case picking efficiency, including automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), conveyor systems, pick-to-light systems, voice-directed picking, and barcode scanners. These technologies streamline the picking process, reduce manual labor, and improve accuracy and productivity​​​​​​.

How does case picking differ from piece picking and pallet picking?

Case picking involves selecting and moving entire cases or cartons of products, which is more efficient for larger orders of the same item. Piece picking, on the other hand, involves selecting individual items for orders, suitable for varied or smaller orders.

Pallet picking involves moving entire pallets of goods, ideal for bulk shipments. Each method has its context of efficiency depending on the order size and customer requirements​​​​​​.

What does the ‘case’ in case picking mean?

The “case” in case picking refers to a specific packaging unit or container used to hold a quantity of goods or products. These cases are standardized in size and shape for easy handling, storage, and transportation.


We’re a cloud-based Warehouse Management System that can revolutionize your operations by optimizing pick paths, reducing picking time, and increasing overall efficiency.

So if you’re considering switching over or getting a WMS, then consider checking us, Packiyo, out.

If you want to learn more topics similar to this, then head on over to our blog where we’ve also discussed what order picking is in full detail.

In conclusion, while case picking offers considerable advantages in terms of efficiency, productivity, and order accuracy, it also poses challenges related to storage space, inventory management, and flexibility.

We hope that we’ve helped you learn what case picking is, and we’re looking forward to seeing you in our next article!

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