As businesses strive to achieve the ‘perfect order’, we will explore in this blog the common pain points with which most are still struggling to find solutions to:
- Ability to scale packing operations with peaks: eCommerce can generate massive seasonal peaks with events such as Black Friday, where sales volumes easily double or triple from normal levels. Packing operations have always been the real time-thief in warehouses, with many still implementing manual processes. If warehouses are to keep up with demand they must look at the scalability of their operations.
- Quality assurance: Incorrect orders are a significant source of frustration for customers, be it items missing from their order / wrong items being delivered. While this generates additional returns costs to ecommerce retailers, the additional hassle for their end customers, could make them less forgiving when they next come to make a purchase. Getting it right, first time is critical.
- Guidance for warehouse operators: Training timelines involved in bringing new warehouse operatives up to speed can prove challenging. Automation solutions are key here; the ability to guide the warehouse operators step by step, taking redundant decision-making processes away will streamline operations and help increase throughput.
- Choosing the right size packaging: Depending on the product you are shipping and how big it is should determine decisions around the right size of box to use. Retailers should always look to minimise void fills as this will avoid excessive carrier volume charges and create a better lasting impression with the customer.
- Value added services – Items that are costly, fragile or dangerous often invite additional packaging needs. Retailers should be exploring software solutions, which guide the operators on the specific product needs, to help generate a consistent consumer experience.
- Packaging materials – though there is an increased drift towards usage of environmentally friendly packaging such as paper-based materials, managing the increased cost in terms of both Capex (cost of machines) and OPEX (materials) is a challenge for retailers. The cost can easily be 3 – 4 times higher than that of plastic alternatives and the throughput rates are often lower than on conventional machines. However, retailers must weigh up whether the environmental benefits, alongside their customer expectations provide a greater business case for making the switch.
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Finding your ‘best-fit’ solutions:
Each solution that you choose should always fit well and integrate to your existing workflows. A degree of flexibility provides space to grow. If you are handling an increasing eCommerce flow of packages each day, automation will be essential to meet demand and remain profitable.
It is important to create a holistic business case justifying cost of automating manual processes vs. benefits received. For e.g., a paper bagging machine in some cases might generate bigger carbon footprint than utilising a recyclable plastic-based packing film. Also, it helps to understand the bigger picture in terms of what products need to be packed, how products are fed, what data inputs are needed and how carriers are managed. Working alongside experienced integrators can help understand this holistic view to select wise options, which drive the maximum out of the chosen solutions.
There are a range of machines available in the market to facilitate packing automation and price of the machines obviously goes up as you add more features.
Broadly these can be classified into two categories:
|Machine Type||Features||Packing Rates||Strong Fit|
Typically, 70 – 130 orders per hour
|Semi Auto Bagger||
||250 – 300 Bags per hour||
||1200 Bags per hour||
- Case Erectors – solutions to erect a box automatically with varied size
- Case Sealers – solutions to seal the erected boxes automatically
The speed of the boxing machines vary with the size of the boxes, with smaller box size generating high throughput rates.
|Machine Type||Features||Packing Rates||Strong Fit|
||70 – 130 Boxes per hour (with Crash Lock Boxes)||
||500 – 600 boxes per hour (can vary with Size)||
|1 D Volumising||
||420 – 820 Boxes per hour (can vary with Size)||
||400 – 1000 Boxes per hour (can vary with Size)||
Lastly, there is also a new concept of Vendor Carton Labelling where labels are applied directly onto the vendor supplied cartons. However, this solution is not effective if you do a significant amount of multiple items orders, as this is going to consume larger volumes with carriers.
Smart Packing Software
The benefits of smart software to deliver better performance and control or order fulfilment processes should not be overlooked here as well. Scalable software solutions that integrate alongside your physical automation will reduce your overall cost per order if implemented correctly. Simple yet effective customisations such as, multilingual support can help with on boarding operators quickly and can also give them additional confidence to do their work. Automated label creation functionality will make packing operations more efficient, ensuring the right orders reach the right people.
In conclusion, implementing the right software solution for your operation and machine requirements, will ensure optimum utilisation of your systems. Again, working with an integrator will help you to understand when to scale your packing operations to support your throughput.Learn more about the benefits of smart software
Transforming eCommerce Packing Capabilities
Breathe was commissioned to improve the efficiency of online order picking and packing, particularly for prescription products such as pet medication. The large scale automation project for Pets at Home was implemented in a phased approach, to help alleviate pressures on the warehouse and allow benefit to be realised earlier for the customer.