4 Tips for Better Shipping

When your ecommerce business starts to take off you'll surely be excited by some increased numbers. To see growth in traffic, sales, and revenue is wonderful! But there are certain increases that can become costly if you're under-prepared. After all, you still have to ship out all those orders so extra sales literally means extra time spent in picking and packing. You may be caught off guard if your business booms and your shipping process isn't ready for the influx.So when the time comes that you really need to save time - and ultimately money - during your shipping process you'll quickly discover that every second counts. To develop the most efficient system for fulfilling your customers' orders it is important to look closely at your operations at every step in the process. Here are 4 suggestions to cut out those extra seconds spent on each order to put some time back into growing your business.

1. Develop a system and stick to it

Starting from the ground up, you will first want to look at organizing your physical work space in a way that promotes efficiency. A great place to start when planning your system is with the 5S System. The 5S system was originally part of Toyota's Production System so it may seem a little overkill but the concepts carry great value for a production system of any scale.The idea is to fine-tune your order fulfillment machine down to the last bolt to ensure everything runs smoothly even during peak operation times. Here's a brief description of each component in the 5S system:

  1. Sort: De-clutter! Make sure all the tools and materials necessary to the job are easily accessible. Lose anything that doesn't need to be there.
  2. Set in Order: After sorting your work area make sure everything has a home and that everything makes it home when it's not being used.
  3. Shine: Make a habit of cleaning up. Wipe down surfaces, clear trash and other obstacles from walking paths, and sweep regularly so the focus can stay on the task at hand.
  4. Standardize: Don't let the last three steps slip - try making a daily checklist to make sure your efforts in the last 3 steps don't fall apart in the end.
  5. Sustain: Keep these practices going long term. Train new employees to stick to your system and regularly make assessments to ensure a long lasting efficiency plan.

Keep in mind that after you've implemented these practices you will still want to assess your system and tweak certain things here and there as you see fit.

2. Print labels strategically

Even though your order information is well-organized in your shipping software you can't overlook real life organization habits. Once you physically print out those labels someone has to sort through them and make sure they get stuck to the right packages. By strategically printing labels you can develop a method to easily identify which products to pull from your inventory for packaging.Take advantage of SmartShyp's Batch Management feature to help minimize time spent picking products from your inventory. Try creating separate batches for SKUs or Product Descriptions, Quantity, or even bin location to make your life easier. Most importantly - avoid printing too many labels at once. Keep your print jobs manageable so you don't end up with a rat's nest piled up under your print station.

3. Save time by doing steps in bulk

To help you understand the importance of bundling tasks to save time, imagine your favorite restaurant. What would it be like if they employed one cook per table? Surely their order fulfillment times would slow to a painful crawl. There's a reason they cook in a line - it designates a fry cook, a grill master, and a prep artist so that they can all focus on one aspect of the system and it all comes together like clockwork. Again, maybe the culinary industry is a far-stretch from your business but the concept is the same. Isolate tasks and bring it all together in the end.So let's bring the line-cook idea to the shipping realm. Instead of each cooking station, you want to break down your process into chunks. Here's how I did it when I was fulfilling all the orders at my first ecommerce job:

  1. Group labels by similarity. I chose to group by SKU and QTY.
  2. Pull product for the first stack of labels.
  3. Make all boxes for all orders in that stack.
  4. Fill boxes with product - then fill boxes with packing peanuts.
  5. Finish up by closing and labelling each box. Now they're off to the pallet.
  6. Go back to step 2 and repeat process for the next group of labels.

You should be able to see how this approach can save huge amounts of time as opposed to a "one-at-a-time" approach. Of course in order to pull this off you'll need to come up with a smart batching system to group the labels effectively in step 1.

Learn how to Bulk-Edit shipment details in SmartShyp.

4. Double check your work!

At the end of the day is there a stack of labels still sitting on the desk? Do you still have product or empty boxes hanging out in your work area? Try to keep an actual count and make sure it matches up with the numbers on your computer. If something slips through the cracks or you make a mistake you will end up with upset customers. The last thing you want to do is double down and go through the whole process twice to make it right.Pro Tip: Take advantage of our Batch Queue feature to keep track of which labels have been printed. Batches marked not yet printed are no fun for anyone.Have questions? Want to brag? Leave a comment below and tell us about your shipping process or reach out for more advice.