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Sept. 5 2017 06:28 AM

This article originally appeared in the September/October issue of PARCEL.

For many retailers, the packing arena is a battleground they face every day. Not only do they want their packaging to stand out among the millions of parcels being shipped daily, but they also want it to be cost-effective and environmentally -friendly. With thousands of unboxing videos on YouTube alone, it’s clear that customers are noticing the incredible amount of void fill and the unnecessary volume of packing materials used for small items. With so many factors involved, finding a solution that is not only cost-effective, but increases customer satisfaction, can be challenging.

Usually, a retailer’s first step in eliminating void fill and moving toward more cost-effective packing is to stock fit-to-size boxes for almost every item being shipped. This requires a large inventory of shipping materials that now need to be stored wherever orders are packed. However, not every order, which can include multiple items, fits into a standard-size box. This means void fill material is still required to prevent damage to the items inside. The use of void fill forces retailers to use larger parcels to fulfill multi-item orders, which increases shipping costs due to DIM weight rules from many major carriers. The end result is retailers not only have higher packing material costs, but higher shipping costs as well. This can be a big problem when trying to reduce packing costs.

To win the packing battle, retailers need to look at how they can:

· Eliminate void fill

· Eliminate shipping material inventory

· Reduce labor costs

· Lower DIM weight and shipping costs

· Increase customer satisfaction

While this may seem overwhelming, there is one key tool retailers can use to help win the packing battle: automated packing solutions.

The Key to Winning the Packing Battle

Automated packing solutions are the ideal solution for the packing battle because they optimize all steps of order fulfillment.

When an order is placed on the system, the automated packing solution scans, builds, fills, folds, and labels each order into a fit-to-size parcel in as little as seven seconds. The solution can even build a parcel around single or multi-item orders with variable dimensions. By creating this fit-to-size parcel, automated packing solutions completely eliminate void fill and reduce the amount of corrugated material used by up to 20%.

This innovative solution also eliminates the need for various box sizes. By using one continuous feed of corrugated material from one pallet, hundreds of orders can be boxed and shipped. This corrugated material can also be branded to ensure that retailer identity and customer satisfaction aren’t lost.

In fact, for many customers, satisfaction increases because automated packing systems are a “green” solution. According to the National Retail Federation, 45% of Generation Z customers believe it is important for a brand to be environmentally friendly. Unnecessary parcel volume and void fill are eliminated with every order, including multi-item orders, as they are packed in custom fit-to-size parcels. Customers and retailers alike can say goodbye to large boxes and that annoying void fill. Retailers can also eliminate the large inventory of hundreds of different sized boxes, freeing up more space for product inventory.

Fight Packing Labor Costs

Packing orders is labor-intensive. At every distribution center, there are multiple employees working to fill orders daily as they search for the appropriate sized parcel and add void fill to keep items safe during shipping. This can add a lot of time in getting the order out the door and into the customer’s hands. It also takes up valuable employee time when they could instead be picking and fulfilling orders.

Automated packing solutions can reduce these labor costs. These systems don’t just save money through fit-to-size packing and elimination of void fill, they can also greatly increase efficiency and reduce costs. Automated packing solutions can do the work of up to 10 packing stations, with one operator, saving up to 88% in packing labor alone! With fewer employees in the packing area, retailers can repurpose more employees into other areas of the supply chain to increase productivity and overall efficiency.

Lower Shipping Costs

While the packing arena is a primary concern for many retailers, shipping is also top-of-mind. Many major carriers are now calculating shipping costs using the dimensional (DIM) weight of parcels versus actual weight. This means that large but lightweight objects can have higher shipping costs than if they were shipped in the appropriately sized parcel. As major carriers continue to increase DIM weight costs, parcel size has become a critical factor in overall shipping costs.

That’s where automated packing solutions are a competitive advantage. With this solution, retailers can reduce shipping volume by up to 50% and decrease shipping and DIM weight costs by 32%. This equates to one to two dollars in savings per parcel. With many retailers shipping thousands of orders daily, this can generate significant savings.

Conquer the Packing Battle

From a continuous feed of corrugated material to custom fit parcels to reduced labor costs, automated packing systems are the ideal solution for many retailers. Shipping material inventory and void fill are eliminated, packing is completed in just seconds, and more orders can be shipped each day. Customers receive an environmentally friendly parcel that gives a positive impression of the retailer. Automated packing solutions are the answer to reducing costs in all areas of the packing arena, allowing retailers to conquer the e-commerce packing battle.

Tim Casey is Vice President of Product at ProShip, Inc., a Neopost company, and a global provider of logistics software and product solutions, including enterprise-wide, multi-carrier shipping and manifesting software, automated packing solutions, and intelligent parcel lockers. From packing to shipping to delivery, ProShip’s powerful solutions enable goods to be delivered faster, more efficiently and more cost-effectively than ever before. For more information, please visit