When designing a modern E-commerce warehouse, you always face a key task – Designing an efficient Packing Station.
Every warehouse, from the smallest – located in the garage to the largest warehouse halls exceeding 30,000 ft2, must have some kind of separate place for packing packages.
So what should such a packing station look like so that packing is done quickly and without problems? Let us answer this question then.
An efficient Warehouse Packing Station should be divided into product collection, packaging, and labeling zone for the greatest possible throughput. The station should be automated as much as possible to eliminate employee errors. All the necessary tools must be at hand.
The employee should be able to pack the package without effort and with as few movements as possible. So take the time and dive into Packing Station problems with me.
What is a packaging station?
To put it simply a Packaging Station is a table, Space, or area where the very process of packing parcels takes place. Such a table can be very simple or more sophisticated allowing the worker to do his packing job in no time.
More advanced Packaging Stations have mini zones and appropriately adapted shelves with accessories such as envelopes, cartons, poly mailers, or bubble wrap for packages. They can be equipped with a weighing table and automatic ejectors for carton filling material.
How to Prepare Packing Station?
Preparation of the Packing Station requires prior planning of the entire process, from collecting the product from the warehouse rack to placing the package in the waiting area for the courier.
First, think and write down how the employee will move. The paths that he is walking through. What materials will he pack the products in and what tools he will use.
You will design a packing table differently for light and small products and differently for larger packages placed in cardboard boxes. In the next paragraph, we will consider all the most important options.
Things to Consider when You Design Efficient Packing Station
- Package Size
- Weight of Packages
- Do You have a Picker employee or not?
- What kind of packaging will you pack the parcels in?
- How many people will pack the parcels?
- What degree of Automation do you have implemented in the packaging process?
#1 Size of the packages
In most cases, You are able to predict what products your E-commerce Store will be sold. By “what” I mean their size.
If you are in the haberdashery industry and sell crocheting yarns, it is rather known that your products will not exceed a certain weight and their size will fit in a small envelope or a small box.
If, on the other hand, your Online store sells customized armchairs, not only do you have huge products, but somewhere you also need to combine seats in the right color with wooden legs or other accessories.
In both extreme cases, the entire packing process will be totally different, the space of the packing table you need will be different and most importantly, the packing materials will also be different.
With tiny packages, your employee will have practically everything he needs to pack the package at their fingertips. All he needs to do is reach to the left and find bubble envelopes at hand, bubble wrap for wrapping under the tabletop, and polymailers or cardboard packs on the right. Here, the case is simple and the workspace itself does not take up much space and is quite easy to design.
In the case of larger dimensions, it is starting to be complicated. People begin to move around and walk along the packing line.
Then it is worth considering the conveyor belts or the table with rollers on which the goods will move for the customer. Various types of automatic wrappers, rotary tables, and other unusual solutions available on the market will also be helpful.
You have to think about where to facilitate the packer’s work.
#2 Weight of packages
Here, the case is similar to the “size of the packages” paragraph. If the packages are very light, the work is not physically demanding and even weaker women can easily perform Packers Tasks.
If the products are rather heavy, then in addition to the sliding tables, you will probably need to equip them with manual or automatic forklifts and most of your goods will be moved on pallets around the warehouse.
#3 Do You have a Picker employee or not?
If the packing process in your warehouse is divided into two stages – Collecting and Packing, then you either already have employees working in the position of the so-called Picker or you are thinking about it.
The person in the Picker position collects the products from the shelves and properly delivers them to Packing Stations where the packer is already taking care of them.
If this is what works in your E-commerce warehouse looks like, then the packaging process itself is quite well optimized. This solution means that the packer does not have to break away from packing and go to the warehouse for goods, but can only take care of packing and focus on it.
In this scheme, we can really extremely shorten the time of packing one package, and believe it or not, companies that do it well are able to reduce the time of packing one package to 10 seconds per package.
When you pack with Picker, your Packing Station will probably need to be equipped with a pending order table with crates, baskets, or other order containers. It’s best for them to drive automatically closer to you when you take the next orders from the queue.
In extreme cases, the goods are collected from the warehouse by machines or delivered to Packing Stations.
#4 What kind of packaging will you pack the products in?
This point is quite simple. When you are going to pack packages only in envelopes or poly mailers, you will need racks with small shelves on which there will be stored envelopes of various sizes. It is important that the employee does not have to take them out of some collective box, but is able to take that where they are easy to remove from.
You can do the same when packing in cartons. This is where WMS systems are helpful, as they can tell the employee in which box the order should be packed. The condition is to enter the correct dimensions and weights of goods into the system in advance.
If, on the other hand, you want to wrap the parcels in stretch foil, your table will have to be equipped with stands for such foil. Such stands can be equipped with a foil knife and an adjustable brake, thanks to which it will be possible to regulate the force with which the worker has to pull the foil.
For large packages, rotating tables (automatic or not) with a Stretch foil dispenser are helpful.
#5 How many people will pack the packages?
The packaging process can be broken down into several stages, each of which can be performed by a different person.
However, I know from practice that it is easier to make a mistake then and the method of packing one order by one employee is much better.
When you need to scale the packaging process, the number of Workstations you will need may be larger than 1. In this case, the packing stations will be set up in parallel alleys. Each Workstation can handle a different type of parcels, which seems the most rational solution.
The flow of employees and the movement of boxes in the Multi Packing Stations System will have to be tested and planned just like at the airport. You can practice with staff at a variety of table settings and combinations. Focus on communication paths and optimize them so that people do not crash into each other and parcel flow paths do not cross.
#6 What degree of Automation do you have implemented in the packaging process?
There is nothing worse than the complete absence of automation in the packaging process. If you don’t have it already, believe me, you need it! However, if you are reading this article, you probably already have some automation in your Ecommerce warehouse. The only question is how advanced it is.
At the beginning of the development of an online business, employees often have to review orders themselves, select them in the system, or horror – in excel. It is then easy to make a mistake.
In this case, you must equip Packing Station with a computer on which the employee will be able to search and generate the order.
It is very important to automate the label printing process. Now, even the simplest system allows for such automation and I don’t see any reason why an employee would have to manually enter the customer’s address data into the system.
The ideal solution is to pre-screen orders from the problematic ones by the person responsible for handling orders or customer service. Then the packer does not have to spend time wondering if everything is okay with the address or if the customer really wants this color or another.
You must strive to ensure that the packer performs as few activities as possible on the computer and ultimately has to press only one button informing the system that he has packed the package. In such a scheme, the touch screen can be suspended in front of the worker on a mounting bracket without blocking the workspace.
If, on the other hand, you do not have an automated packaging process, you will be doomed to mistakes and unnecessary mess on the packing table.
Why is it Important to have a Packing Station?
In the modern eCommerce warehouse, there is no room for coincidence. The entire parcel flow process should be thought out and optimized with extreme precision. Thanks to this, you do not waste money on unnecessary employees, extended their working time and you do not expose yourself to dissatisfied customers.
In the end, everything you do in your online business is to serve the greatest customer satisfaction and ultimately the greatest possible impact on your business.
There is another point to consider:
Employee satisfaction. Namely, this is how the packing worker has a hard time at work. Or rather, how you make the work of your employees difficult or easier.
I hope I don’t have to tell you that a modern entrepreneur is thinking about creating the most favorable working conditions for his employees. And if someone needs to be reminded why then to put it simply:
- A poorly optimized or uncomfortable workplace is a tired employee. A tired employee is a dissatisfied employee. A dissatisfied employee is a ready recipe for constantly hiring new employees and having a high employee turnover in the company.
- A well-optimized workplace gives employees less reason to complain about their job and more to be satisfied with their job. Such workers are more effective and ultimately are able to do their job faster and better. And this is a recipe for a thriving business.
What are the main Functions of the Packing Station?
The packing station must fulfill the most important functions:
- Boost efficiency with ergonomically designed equipment
- Increase the comfort of employees’ work and their satisfaction with work
- Reduce the number of mistakes in the packaging process
- Reduce the number of complaints and dissatisfied customers
- Reduce packaging costs
- Reduce employee costs
- Increase control of the packaging and shipping process
Warehouse Packing Station Layout
The Warehouse Packing Station should be divided into several Zones.
- Order Collection Zone
- A place to collect Products from one order
- Quality Control
- Area of securing and packing products
- Weighing and Labeling Area
- Staging Zone
It is very likely that you will want to have some of these areas outside your main packing station. This is understandable. However, let’s discuss these zones point by point.
#1 Order Collection Zone
Large warehouses have a separate collection area where people working as “Pickers” will collect products for orders. These people collect the goods in the warehouse and place them near the packing station. However, the collected goods must be placed within easy reach of the packers. Possibly on the conveyor belt.
In smaller warehouses, the goods are collected by a packing worker and placed in baskets, on pallets, or simply on the table next to the packing station.
It is best to organize the process of collecting products so that the employee does not have to walk for each separate product, but only collects a large batch of products on the basis of the Order List and places them on a pallet or in a basket near the packing station, from which he will be able to take products and pack orders freely. moving from the spot.
The process of collecting products from shelves is best supported with a barcode scanner. Thanks to this, when downloading the product, the system verifies whether the employee has taken the right product. This prevents mistakes and shipping of the wrong products.
#2 Place of collecting products for one order
This place is a transitional zone between the storage of products waiting for their turn and the place where the products are already packed. In this zone, the employee should usually have access to a computer or tablet.
In a perfectly automated process, the employee uses a scanner to scan one product, and the system displays on the monitor what other products are needed for this specific order, whether the customer requested a special gift packaging or whether we should add freebies or discount codes.
In a less automated process, the Employee will have to decide for himself what to put in the package and what to pack it in. It depends on what procedures you implement in your warehouse.
#3 Quality Control
It is a good practice to check the quality of the products, their expiry dates, or simply whether a product is missing.
When designing Packing Station, we need to think about where the employee has to put away products from an order in which something is damaged. Let’s also predict where to put the broken product itself. This is important because if you do not design and predict such a place, the employee will have to break away from work and look for such a place on their own. This is ineffective and takes up valuable time.
#4 Area of securing and packing products
After collecting all the products and checking the quality, the Employee decides which packaging to pack the products in. Here, too, an efficient order handling system can tell the employee in which box or envelope size to place the products.
In front of the employee, there should be shelves with the necessary envelopes divided into different sizes, cardboard boxes, or poly mailers.
It is also a good idea to place a roll of bubble wrap under the table, for example. Preferably on a special feeder.
Also, think about the so-called ejectors. Whatever it is (cardboard boxes, foil, or other types of material), you must provide a place for it within the employee’s reach.
If you are wrapping the parcels in stretch foil, it is also a good idea to put it on the feeder as well, so that the worker does not have to hold a roll in his hand. However, when you plan to pack large packages in cardboard boxes, a rotary table for wrapping cardboard boxes with a Stretch foil feeder will also be useful.
It is also very important where you put the adhesive tapes, the cutting knife, etc. It is important that these tools do not fall on the packing table.
Modern packaging stations, thanks to the integration of ERP and WMS systems, make it possible to photograph the packaging before shipment to the customer. The system can automatically send the photo to the client and to our server.
At this point, it is best if you run tests and pack different types of packages yourself.
Pay attention to any uncomfortable movements and eliminate them. Look for imperfections and replace them. Thanks to this, the entire packaging process will run smoothly.
#5 Weighing and Labeling Zone
In this zone, the already packed package must be labeled with information labels and properly addressed. You may need to have “attention glass” labels or other warning stickers.
All printers should be placed here and a screen where the employee will indicate that the package is packed and the labels will be printed automatically. Avoid a situation in which the employee has to generate labels or complete any data himself. It only generates problems.
In this zone, some Packaging table manufacturers place a scale on the tabletop. The package is automatically weighed while standing on the scale and the actual weight of the package is printed on the label.
Thanks to this, you avoid a situation in which the courier company will charge you additional fees for the incorrectly completed package weight.
#6 Staging Zone
This is the area where you store packages packed and ready for shipping. They can be placed near the Packing Station or stored on Pallets and taken to a remote location elsewhere in the warehouse, which is more convenient for couriers picking up the goods.
If you do not have time to optimize and design your Packing Station yourself, there are many companies on the market that deal with the production of ready-made Packing Stations or Customized Stations.
This can be a good solution as you use the experience of other companies and the knowledge of experts.
How do you Organize Packaging Materials?
Packaging materials should be placed in a thoughtful and organized manner.
Inadequate placement of packaging materials in the warehouse causes errors and fatigue of employees, extended packaging time, and unnecessary financial losses.
In a well-organized Ecommerce magazine, materials such as shipping boxes, poly bags, packaging materials, and any item inserts like manuals and promotional items such as catalogs, coupons, and special offers, have their well-thought-out place on the shelves.
The employee should be able to reach the packing materials that are needed at a given stage of packing without any obstacles, unnecessary walking, and bending.
Do not leave packing materials in cartons or other types of collective packaging, as it makes their removal difficult and slows down packing.
What is an E Commerce Packer?
E-commerce Packer is a person responsible for packing and sending parcels. Her workplace is the E-commerce magazine and the so-called Packing Station. Thanks to the appropriate procedures, Ecommerce Packer makes sure that your order includes the right products and that the package is properly secured for transport.
Most often, E-Commerce Packer is supported by a WMS or ERP system that automates the entire order packing process.
How do you Organize Poly Mailers?
Use bookshelves next to Your packaging area and stack the envelopes up in those with the ones You use most often closer to You. Also, think about reducing the number of sizes of poly mailers that You use. If You use 6 sizes, think about how to reduce it to only 3 sizes. That is a lot less of a mess.
The other solution is Cube storage cabinets with bins. Write on the outside of the bin what size poly mailers and envelopes are. Also, You can keep there Your spare tape, labels, stickers, box cutters, etc. Keep it all organized and handy.
How do you Organize Plastic Envelopes?
It is the best solution to use small plastic bins or tubs with labels on it. Plastic envelopes are messy and can easily spread over the whole storage space. Of course, separate them by size. Each size is a different bin.
How do you Store Mailing Envelopes?
You can use the long, rectangular priority mailer boxes. Cut the tabs off one end and stack them on top of each other.
You can also get a cheap shelf from your local store and place the envelopes vertically.
Hope this article was at least a little bit of help in designing your efficient Packing Station. Remember to optimize the solutions you have implemented from time to time so that you can react to changes in your company, market trends, and employees’ needs.