As the year winds to a close, the supply chain disruptions that have plagued retailers show little sign of improvement. Heading into the holiday season and beyond, businesses have been told to expect the unexpected. With persistent uncertainty about inventory in our future, those businesses that have not looked inward to optimize the elements of warehouse management that are within their control should do so now. Here are three areas that all warehouses should make sure are running like clockwork.

The Right Shipping Supplies — In the Right Amount

Cartonization, or the process of determining the exact shipping materials required for each product, helps warehouses speed up the order fulfillment process. In an ideal world, each bin has specific packaging instructions, including which materials to use and even how to arrange products in the package. Workers responsible for picking and packing products know exactly what to do for every order that comes in.

On top of that, products are always packed in the appropriate container. Packages that are too big lead to waste and increased shipping costs, while those that are too small could end up with broken or damaged merchandise. For every product, there’s packaging that’s “just right.” Cartonization helps ensure that the right packaging is used and that there’s always enough packing materials at the ready.

Audit Shipments Regularly

Shipments are late up to 10% of the time. Depending on the carrier used and their guaranteed delivery times, this means that nearly 10% of your shipments might be eligible for a partial or full refund if those delivery times are not met. Carriers might also charge incorrect Saturday delivery fees, create duplicate charges for the same shipment, or charge for inaccurate address corrections. Regular audits (hopefully with the help of software that integrates with your shipping solution) can yield significant savings.

Faster, Automated Shipping Processes

Speaking of shipping software, a strong solution can do wonders for automating much of the shipping process and finding additional cost savings. Every carrier has its specialties, and it may be more cost effective to ship big products using one carrier and small products using another, for example. Every order should be evaluated independently, and shipping software is the only way to do rapid rate comparisons and bulk label printing.

Those businesses with multiple warehouses could also benefit from automation like intelligent order routing. If you have the same product in multiple locations, it’s more cost effective (and sustainable) to ship that order from the warehouse that’s closest to the customer. Smart software can connect to your inventory management solution to do that work automatically.

In an uncertain world, automating the processes that are stable and constant will give businesses a leg up on the competition.

Will Lindow is Marketing Director, Acutane, where he primarily focuses on omni-channel brand, demand generation and growth marketing for the enterprise e-commerce shipping software ShipWorks (within the Auctane family of shipping solutions). To learn more about how to improve warehouse efficiency for high-volume businesses, click here.