Inventory Management

What is a Pick List? | Sortly

February 15, 2023 • 5 min read

When your customers place orders from your warehouse or inventory storage facility, your team likely uses a system to ensure those orders are fulfilled efficiently and accurately. The most organized businesses—and especially warehousesuse “pick lists” to streamline this process. 

In this article, we’ll define a pick list, reveal the seven fields every pick list requires, provide a customizable pick list template, and briefly discuss how to pick an order. 


What is a pick list?

A pick list is an essential document that communicates precisely what inventory a warehouse picker will need to “pick” to fulfill a customer’s order. 

A pick list can be either digital or physical. A digital pick list is a paperless order sheet sent wirelessly to mobile devices, laptops, or tablets used by inventory pickers at a warehouse. Sometimes, digital pick lists offer automation features like barcode and QR code scanning, AI-powered quality control checks, and more. A physical pick list is a traditionally-printed document.


What should be on a pick list?

While every business may design and detail its pick lists differently, seven fields should always appear on a pick list. They are:

1. Customer details

Your pick list should first identify the customer’s key information. Include the customer or company name, shipping address, and key contact information. For example, if your business communicates with a salesperson or an account manager instead of the customer directly, that contact information should also be provided. That way, if warehouse pickers need to make substitutions or ask questions, there will be no delay. 

2. Order date and time—and any and all deadlines

Next, you’ll want to ensure your picklist articulates when an order was placed and when that order must be fulfilled by. If your business has committed to shipping out orders by a specific time, that deadline should be clearly posted on the document.

3. Order number

Ensure the correct order number is provided on the picklist. This should match the order numbers used on invoices, receipts, and your customer’s records. 

4. Every product ordered

Of course, you’ll also need to list every item a customer has ordered and the required quantity. Remember to clarify the unit of measure for every line item.

5. Every product’s warehouse location

Next to every item name and quantity required, your pick list must also indicate where a given product can be located. For example, in a warehouse, you’ll need to clarify the aisle, shelf, and bin number. And even in a smaller storage facility, providing a universally-understood, precise location for each item will save your pickers time and stress.

Related: How to Organize a Stockroom

6. Every product’s SKU or other identifier

If your business uses SKU numbers (stock-keeping unit numbers) to keep track of inventory, you’ll want to the connect that alphanumeric code to every item on your pick list. Some inventory apps, including Sortly, automatically assign unique identification numbers to inventory. A Sortly ID or similar code can also be used in place of an SKU. 

If your business uses an inventory management system that connects with barcodes and QR codes, you can also add those codes to the pick list. Barcodes and QR codes can help your team more accurately prepare orders by helping verify each item before it has been picked and packed. 

7. Pictures and descriptions of products, when necessary

Your business may want to include pictures or write descriptions of all or some items on a pick list. These additional details can clarify exactly what items a customer has ordered, especially if the customer has made special requests or if many items in your warehouse look or sound alike. 

Note that many of these images and details can be logged on your warehouse’s inventory management software and transferred over to your pick lists.

Related: A Guide to Visual Inventry Control


Example picking list

Whether your business manages its own warehouse or contracts with a third-party logistics provider to store, pick, and ship orders, pick lists are one of the best ways to stick to your fulfillment schedule. Our team at Sortly has created a simple, flexible pick list template to help you get started. Feel free to customize it as you see fit.


How to pick an order

There are three main strategies for picking an order using a pick list. They are zone picking, batch picking, and picking-to-order. 

Zone picking assigns different pickers to different areas of the warehouse. Every picker knows their area well, and as a team, a variety of pickers work together to complete one pick list. This can prevent crowded aisles and confused pickers while speeding up the fulfillment process.

With batch picking, pickers complete the same order over and over again before moving on to a different set of orders. This works very well for subscription-style businesses since many customers receive the same razor blades, fancy wine, or book of the month. 

Picking-to-order remains the simplest and most common strategy for fulfilling a warehouse order. Pick lists are sent to pickers as soon as they are available, and one picker completes the order and then moves on to their next task. While straightforward, picking to order is not always the most productive strategy.

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About Sortly

Sortly is a top-rated inventory management software solution to help all businesses manage their inventory, whether stored on-site or across the country in various warehouses. With key automation features, customizable reports, and the ability to track the same details your business needs to include on its pick lists, there’s no shortage of ways Sortly can help you get organized.

Wondering whether Sortly is a good fit for your business? Claim your free, two-week trial today.