By Sarah Good
In shipping operations, small changes can make a big difference. When you're sending hundreds or thousands of packages each year, saving just a couple of minutes or a few cents per box can add up to important efficiencies for your business. If you invest some time in organizing shipping supplies and rethinking your systems, you could see significant gains.
Where do you start? Check out these five ways you can trim and tighten your shipping system to save time and money.
1. Improve Item Organization for Faster Picking
You may be able to better organize the items you need to ship and make the selection process go more quickly. After all, a picker can lose substantial time when they have to walk longer distances or search for longer periods of time to find commonly shipped items. To reduce these inefficiencies, review which items are most common in your shipping, and analyze your placement of those items to see if you can make them more accessible to the packing area. Additionally, if a few items are typically shipped together, you might try to group them closer together.
2. Assess Inefficiencies in the Packing Process
Before you can make a plan for the packing process, assess the inefficiencies in your current system. Talk to the front-line employees and observe their packing process, noting where delays occur. Do they have to walk across the room for more bubble wrap? Does your setup require them to reach awkwardly for the tape? Do they have to root around for packing peanuts or struggle to tear off packing materials?
With these observations in mind, suggest ways to re-arrange your packing stations to make the workflow as quick and easy as possible.
3. Label Relentlessly
To cut down on time spent searching for the right item, shelves and boxes should always be labeled clearly and prominently with the name, description, and other identifying information for every item. Add images and bar codes for even better accuracy. Your shipping supplies should also be highly organized and labeled, so employees waste no time hunting around the supplies area to look for the correct item. Lastly, emphasize to employees the importance of keeping these labels front-facing and unblocked.
4. Evaluate the Ergonomics
Your workers will have more productive days on the job and be able to work faster and more efficiently if they aren't combating musculoskeletal pain. Musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis are responsible for nearly one-third of workplace injuries, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. And private-industry workers who suffer from these injuries lose a median of 12 days at work. So consider investing in an ergonomically effective environment to reduce the chance of these injuries.
For example, look into seats that encourage upright posture and adjustable tables that allow workers to move their work surfaces to the right level for their height.
5. Create Checklists for the Shipping Process
Plenty of time is lost by employees pausing to recall a process or remember the required steps they should follow for unusual situations. Create and post clear lists that can help packers remember what exactly they have to do without forgetting any details. These checklists should be simple and easy to see from a distance — employees should be able to glance up and quickly confirm they've covered everything they need to.
Another idea: Some shipping software can automate your shipping decision-making, making suggestions for how to ship products and handle some tasks such as printing labels. Shop around based on the size of your business's shipping operation.
Organizing shipping supplies and taking time-saving measures can have a major cumulative impact on the time spent in your shipping operation. Look at the small inefficiencies you can eliminate, test out your ideas, and measure your results to see which configurations work best.