As e-commerce orders continue to comprise an increasingly more significant share of orders in fulfillment centers nationwide, warehouse managers continually evaluate practices to keep the costs associated with fulfilling these smaller, less profitable orders down.
The overall costs associated with packing and shipping e-commerce orders formerly were not a major concern because they made up a small percentage of total shipments. After all, many fulfillment operations have built their processes around shipping out full pallets or cases of products down the supply chain. However, as the rise of e-commerce continues to take over a more significant share of orders, it becomes critical to examine solutions that can not only lower labor costs but also increase fulfillment accuracy and speed while reducing shipping costs.
In taking a closer look at the packing and shipping elements of fulfilling e-commerce orders, there are efficiencies to be found. Look at the process of boxing, for instance. It is easily the most expensive part of packing because it is the most time-consuming and uses the most materials. Also, put yourself in the shoes of a packer; you are tasked with packing as quickly as possible. You have a product in hand. Are you going to try and fit that product snugly into an appropriately sized box, or are you going to select the larger box by default and move on to the next pack?
From a management standpoint, that means wasted time and materials, and now you will need to order more of the larger, more expensive boxes more often. This also translates to higher shipping costs due to parcel carriers’ DIM weight pricing strategies. Multiply that out by hundreds or thousands of packages a day, multiplied by the number of packers who are all making those same decisions, and you can begin to see why you should start evaluating how best to automate this process.
Automated Packing Solution – Sealed Air iPack
Think about all the additional waste that comes from a packing process, especially in a peak season with sub-optimally trained workers who are not as familiar or capable of maximizing an efficient technique. You’re looking at tape guns (which cause a lot of waste) or messy glue getting onto packaging. You’re looking at those larger boxes, which require additional void-fill (even more costs).
With an automated packing solution like Sealed Air’s iPack, you have a standard tray holding the product, which slides into the iPack machine. The machine then adjusts the box’s height based on its size and folds around the product. This automated process removes the need for dunnage or air pillows and eliminates the labor required to fold and shut the box.
By removing the folding, taping, and void-fill, you can already see tripled increase in throughput. There are also ancillary benefits like reducing the corrugate, tighter inventory of packing materials, less supply of packing materials, and ultimately less labor.
Plus, once the package is on the iPack machine’s line, no one must touch the box again physically. That means less room for error and more time for your people to work on higher-level tasks. Other automated packing solutions are available in the industry that may make more customized-sized boxes, but they require additional human touches. iPack is the only automated packing solution that does not require the extra touch. If you are looking at an automated packing solution for e-commerce, we recommend this solution.
AutoBagger Technology – Sealed Air Autobagger
All things being equal, packing and shipping with bags is a significantly less expensive process than packing with boxes or other containers – at roughly 25% the price. However, operational and labor costs add up over time by keeping this a manual process. There’s opening the bag, closing and sealing the bag, handling the load after it has been packed, and more.
Each of those steps may not look significant for one pack, but the typical manual bagging process is 75-100 bags per hour. With an automated autobagging solution, packing and shipping rates can increase to 150-200 bags per hour, meaning more throughput with significantly reduced costs.
For instance, with Sealed Air’s Autobagger, an operator scans an order, and the WMS recognizes the product, adds the label, and opens the bag. The packer then drops the product in the bag when the Autobagger seals the product in the bag. Then, the product is taken away for shipping. Automated bagging removes up to five steps per bag when compared to the manual process.
Plus, but using the one-size-fits-all bags, you don’t have to worry about ordering different sizes, keeping those stocked with proper levels of inventory, and you don’t deal with as much void fill or dunnage as you would by packing with boxes—your return-on-investment results from the increase in productivity and a reduction in labor costs.
Autobagger Technology – Sealed Air FlowWrap
Additional automated bagging solutions can quickly and efficiently pack more delicate products like pillows, rugs, or clothing, such as Sealed Air’s FlowWrap machine. This solution created ready-to-ship, custom-sized polybag packages, which can bag up to 1,800 parcels an hour. It is another solution that right-sizes the bags to closely fit the materials within, which similarly creates savings on throughput at material optimization.
The advantage of a FlowWrap solution comes to fulfillment centers that need to pack and ship a wide range of products and may only see one or two units per order. In this scenario, we estimate that a FlowWrap machine can perform at nearly twice the Autobagger solution rate, making it an excellent alternative for high-demand e-commerce fulfillment.
Automated Packing Solution – Sealed Air PriorityPak
If your fulfillment center packs and ships small cube products like electronics, books, or printed materials, a solution like Sealed Air’s PriorityPak may be an ideal automated packing solution for your operations. This system is a high-speed product containment and protective packaging solution that uses advanced sensor technology to create compact, custom packaging for varying packaging requirements.
Like the other products, this system is designed to reduce labor costs, improve order accuracy, and increase fulfillment volume. In most scenarios, the PriorityPak solution can create up to ten packages per minute, compared to traditional manual rates of packing one to three containers per minute. The result is as compact of a shipping package as possible, which reduces postage costs.
One unique advantage this solution offers is the additional protection that is inherent to the packaging system. The PriorityPak will encapsulate your products in a Cold Seal® cohesive protective packages that locks and seals products in place, which is ideal if you need your products to be secure or wear and tear from shipping the product could cause damage.
Integrating automated solutions into your operations does not need to be a complicated process, but it helps if you have an expert by your side to guide you through the process. If you are struggling to find, maintain, or lower your overall labor cost, one of the best places to look at is automated packaging equipment.
Our team of experts knows the ins and outs of these products and can connect you with the best solution for your business, depending on the unique challenges you face. With automated packing and shipping solutions, we can help you reduce labor and waste while increasing throughput at the same time. Give us a call today!