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What Can I Automate With My Shipping System?

Posted by Doug Popejoy on Oct 25, 2016 8:30:00 AM

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Whether your business uses an omnichannel (customer-driven) or more traditional multichannel shipping approach, there’s always room for improvement.

If you haven’t yet incorporated automation into your shipping process, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to boost efficiency, maximize productivity, reduce costs and, most importantly, serve your customers better.

Automation: The New Normal

From Tesla’s self-driving cars to Amazon’s robotic warehouse product pickers to Apple’s incredibly helpful, always cheerful Siri, more companies are tapping into the vast potential of automation. While there has been push-back on the topic of automation regarding the perceived threat it poses to human workers, data indicates that automation won’t replace human workers. In fact, by increasing productivity and, in turn, profitability, automation could lead to more hiring.

Earlier this year, consulting firm KPMG asked 138 U.S. tech industry CEOs about their plans for automation. About 75 percent reported that they plan to replace at least 5 percent of their workforce with automated systems over the next 3 years. That’s not surprising. What is surprising is that more than half of those CEOs said they also expect to increase their human workforce by at least 6 percent during that time period. Automation won’t replace workers. It will help them work more effectively.

Significantly Streamline Shipping Operations

In the shipping arena, automation can reduce labor costs, improve efficiency, and improve accuracy. In most warehouses, shipping continues to be a separate process.

Typically, there are two stations: a packing station and a shipping station. Orders are sent to the packing station, where an employee places products in a box, seals the box, and transfers the box to a separate shipping station. There, a different employee handles the box, researches shipping options, and creates and affixes a shipping label.

Using an automated system eliminates that stand-alone shipping station.

Instead, at the packing station, a blackbox interface generates a shipping label for the most efficient, cost-effective shipping method. There’s no need for a dedicated shipping clerk to perform research – or even to exist. The package enters the packing station, where a packer seals it in a box, retrieves a shipping label generated by the automated blackbox system, affixes the label, and places it in line for carrier pickup.

Automating international shipping is even more of a time-saver, because an automated system also generates all customs documentation for export shipments. The box is touched only once during the packing/shipping phase, and ships directly from the packing station.

Automating the shipping research and label generation processes eliminates the need for a standalone shipping station. Packages move through the shipping process faster, so you can handle higher volume. Automation eliminates the need for dedicated shipping personnel, so you can reallocate those resources to boost productivity someplace else – perhaps in the pack-out area. Automation frees up valuable space in your warehouse by eliminating the shipping stations. Automation reduces the likelihood of human error, because fewer people are involved in the shipping process.

Shipping Automation Can Be a Game Changer

Automation holds tremendous promise in many facets of business, not the least of which is shipping. Anytime you can do more with less, you are boosting your bottom line and able to use your resources to grow and improve, rather than to simply perform at the status quo.

Automating shipping improves not just the speed and accuracy at which packages leave your warehouse. It also improves the entire process flow. Improving shipping efficiency has a trickle-down effect throughout your warehouse. Machines are much faster than humans.

You’ll no longer end up with a backlog at the shipping station at the end of the day, requiring you to pull employees away from other tasks so they can help get packages out the door before the pickup window. You’ll experience calm, rather than chaos.

That in itself will do wonders for productivity.

Topics: Insider