In any business that involves fulfilling customer orders, whether it’s online retail, brick-and-mortar stores, or distribution centers, having an efficient warehouse storage and retrieval process is essential. In these cases, case picking becomes very important within the fulfilling customer orders and preparing them for shipment and delivery. But, what is case picking?

person moving a loaded pallet trolley


In this blog we’ll explore what case picking is and how to optimize case picking for maximum efficiency in your order fulfillment operations.

What is Case Picking?

In warehouse operations, case picking involves gathering items by the carton rather than selecting individual items to fulfill customer orders. These cartons typically contain a bulk quantity of items of the same type, making it efficient for fulfilling larger orders. Case picking entails retrieving full cartons from various storage locations like shelves, pallets, or racks, and transporting them to the shipping area for distribution.

warehouse employee case picking


What is a “case”?

A “case” in case picking refers to a single carton containing multiple items of the same SKU. For example, when you grab a box of chocolate bars from a grocery store shelf and place it in your cart, you’re essentially case picking. This method is ideal for handling bulk orders, while piece picking, which involves selecting individual items, is more suitable for smaller orders or those requiring customization.


When fulfilling orders that require multiple cases of a specific product, warehouse staff perform full-case picking. Instead of picking items one by one, they pick complete cases matching the order requirements, streamlining the process and preparing the cases for shipping without further handling.

When is Case Picking Used?

Case picking is primarily employed in distribution centers that supply retail stores or big box retailers. Once the cases of items reach these stores, they are stocked on shelves for customers to purchase in-store or order online.


In some cases, brands may act as wholesalers, selling cartons directly to end customers instead of going through retailers or distributors. This approach, often seen in online sales or bulk purchasing, offers items in bulk quantities within their cases rather than as individual items. For instance, national brands like Costco operate as wholesalers.


Various industries rely on case picking, including retail, e-commerce, grocery and food distribution, apparel, electronics, pharmaceuticals, automotive parts, wholesale distribution, consumer goods, logistics, and third-party fulfillment.

Case Storage Methods

There are three main storage methods for organizing cases in warehouses, each with its own advantages and considerations:

Pallet Storage


Pallet storage is the most common and efficient method for case picking. It involves stacking cartons on pallets, either on the warehouse floor or on racks. This method offers high-density storage and allows for a high pick rate per hour, making it ideal for operations with a large volume of cases.

stacked pallet racks


Rack Shelf Storage


Storing cartons on shelves or racks, rather than pallets, is another common approach. While not as efficient as pallet storage, shelves provide easier access to cartons at waist level, which can be beneficial for warehouses with a high number of SKUs but lower quantities of cases per SKU.

Carton Flow Rack Storage


Carton flow rack systems utilize a gravity-fed FIFO (first in, first out) mechanism, similar to how soda bottles dispense in convenience store shelves. These systems automatically move the next case to the front when one is removed, maximizing efficiency in picking times. However, they require more space and labor costs compared to other storage methods.

Benefits of Case Picking

Implementing case picking in warehouse operations offers several benefits that enhance efficiency and reduce costs. By selecting complete cases rather than individual items, warehouses can:


  1. Reduce Labor Costs:

Case picking saves time and labor by eliminating the need to pick items individually. This allows warehouse personnel to focus on efficiently selecting and moving complete cases, reducing labor expenses.


  1. Improve Order Accuracy:

Picking individual items can lead to errors in order fulfillment. Case picking minimizes mistakes by picking and shipping entire cases as units, enhancing order accuracy.


  1. Maximize Space Utilization:

Case picking enables warehouses to utilize space more efficiently. Stacking complete cases requires less storage space compared to storing individual items, optimizing warehouse capacity.


  1. Streamline Workflow for Bulk Items:

Adopting case picking streamlines the workflow for handling bulk items. Warehouse staff can quickly locate and transport complete cases to the shipping area, speeding up order processing and reducing handling time.


  1. Minimize Waste:

Case picking eliminates the need to open cases, resulting in less waste from empty cartons that need to be disposed of. This contributes to a more environmentally friendly and efficient operation.

What is Case Picking – A Summary

So, what is case picking? Case picking is an essential aspect of order fulfillment and warehouse management. Mastering the fundamentals, differences, and effective methods of case picking enables warehouse managers to improve their operations, satisfy customers, and stay competitive in the ever-changing supply chain environment.

warehouse employee case picking


By implementing suitable tactics, adopting automation, and promoting a mindset of ongoing enhancement, your warehouse can excel in the practice of case picking. Contact Unilogic today for more information. 

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