Amazing how much of our daily resources are NOT spent on packing, but rather on order picking and receiving. Yet no order goes out the door without being packed. Likewise, packing is the last place your employee can influence a valuable customer’s opinion of your company. 

5 Question Quiz for Packing Improvement:
Do you:
1. Have more packers than pickers?
2. Manually insert manifests, receipts, return labels and documentation?
3. Ship boxes with extra corrugated, air or dunnage?
4. Use more than seven standard shipping box sizes?
5. Seal boxes manually?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you likely have an opportunity to improve your performance, bottom line and customer service satisfaction. Here are some fast answers why you want to address these issues:

1. Focus packers on packing and not being “jack of all trades” and general labor. Also create, specialized pack stations for specific types of orders and inventory. Items that are fragile, large sizes, need to be inspected or weighed, gift wrapping, etc. should have dedicated or specific pack stations and packers designed to take care of these requirements. The receptiveness of the operations makes the packers “experts” and improves their performance dramatically. 

2. Warehouse document printers and inserter systems should be used to automatically generate the needed manifests, invoices and documents, and automatically insert them into orders. Systems can easily do up to 4500 documents/orders per hour.

3. Automated box systems (semi-automated or automated) create a box to size of each order. These systems often provide a very fast ROI while by eliminating wasted floor space, labor and shipping costs. The semi-automated system requires an operator to queue and feed the system, while the automated version is fully automated and requires zero direct labor. By looking at the one to three year forecast for daily orders, current packing labor requirements, corrugated costs and total space requirements, an ROI calculation can be made to determine your organizations best path.

4. There is no drop dead number for how many box sizes any distribution system should use, but from experience, when you get over seven, organizations costs become dramatic. Starting with having to stock and replenish your inventory for each carton size, the floor space they require in bulk and on the floor storage, the labor to manage and move them and then the carton erection time and queuing… the amount of resources becomes quite staggering. So the short answer is to reduce the number of standard boxes or realistically evaluate the semi and fully automated box systems. 

5. Case sealers range from semi-automated to fully automatic. They eliminate the otherwise wasted labor, required floor space and most importantly help keep orders flowing smoothly and efficiently. 

The quiz and questions for pack station perfection goes on, but this is a start. Evaluate or call in a third party organization to evaluate your current situation and suggest improvements. Packing and shipping costs are too high not to make sure your organization is maximizing them. 

Ed Romaine is the CMO-VP Marketing for Integrated Systems Design - ISD, which provides consulting and integration of cost effective automated pick, pack and shipping systems for warehouses, distribution centers and manufacturers. He can be reached at edromaine@isddd.com, or (215) 512-431-4524, visit our website at: www.ISDDD.com or https://plus.google.com/+EdRomaine 
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