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Parcel Manifesting: To Pre or Not To Pre?

As your customers place smaller, more frequent orders, your small parcel volume is going up. How do you handle this volume efficiently and accurately? A good place to start is to determine when to manifest: before or after picking? In today’s blog we review the pros and cons of these alternatives.


Pre-Manifesting means printing order-specific documents (packing lists, labels, etc.) prior to releasing the order for picking. These documents may print at the time of allocation or when a picker requests work. Pre-Manifesting is typically used when item dimensions are accurate and an optimal pick and pack flow can be designed to enable the picker to retrieve packing materials and documentation. Pre-Manifesting is usually not a good idea when heavy post-picking activity is required, such as repacking, inspection or special handling.

To successfully implement Pre-Manifesting, you must consider several factors. If printed at the time of allocation who will manage the collating of documents and assure timely delivery to the floor? If documents are printed when the picker requests work, do you have enough printers available on the floor? Are the printers located properly? Can picking containers and packaging be stored in a convenient location?


  • More efficient throughput
  • No double handling
  • Elimination of pack stations
  • Resource cost reduction


  • Paperwork management
  • Possible additional hardware cost
  • Order accuracy may be impacted
  • Labor impact on picker
  • Paperwork must be reprinted in the event of pick shortages or box size substitution
  • Doesn’t work well for export orders because some key information, e.g., Country of Origin, may not be known prior to picking


Post-Manifesting involves completing the packing and manifesting steps after an order is picked. This option is generally used in distribution environments where item dimensions are non-existent or inaccurate, or where there is significant post-picking activity required (repackaging, order consolidation, inspection, frequent order changes, etc.) that is problematic for a picker to perform.

Successfully implementing Post-Manifesting requires reviewing your picking requirements and facility layout. Some key questions to ask: What types of pack stations will I require (pack only, inspection, labeling, etc.)? For each pack station type, what percent of my product will need to flow through the station? How many stations will I need for each pack type based on average pack rate? What is the appropriate sizing and placement of each pack station? Can I minimize packer handling through the use of automation such as an in-line scale, print & apply system, conveyor, etc.?


  • Accurate item dimensions
  • Improved picking and order accuracy
  • Reduced picking time
  • Allows for inclusion of inserts post-picking
  • Facilitates serial number capture when picking higher quantities


  • Additional labor cost
  • Packing station space requirement
  • Additional pack station costs

Pre- and Post-manifesting are not mutually exclusive, of course. For instance, Pre-Manifesting may be used in areas where product is stored in shippable containers while Post-Manifesting is used throughout the remainder of the warehouse. Regardless of the direction you choose, the first step is to review the trade-offs of each option carefully to make an informed decision on which option is best for your operations.

Need help implementing a parcel manifesting system? Contact us at (201) 940-7311.

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