Four Ways to Improve Your Packaging Process

Among the many things that are coming into focus as an unforeseen challenge to every business that had to suddenly ramp up their Ecommerce efforts last year is “packaging.”

Improve Your Packaging Process

Packaging created some serious issues in many Distribution Centers last year, both for outbound shipments and the inbound returns.

While it might seem like an afterthought in the big picture of running a warehouse, it can be a surprisingly big problem that impacts productivity, customer satisfaction and even your space management.

What are some of the typical problems we see across many facilities? Empty carton space, excessive fillers, unpopular non-recyclable materials and lack of automation all contribute to the headaches experienced by businesses that were forced to ramp up their Ecommerce operations in a hurry.

Here are four common areas to focus on to help your packaging process keep up with the rest of your Ecommerce evolution:

Proper Packing Stations

One VERY common gap we see out there – especially with businesses that had little or no previous experience shipping single customer orders, is a poorly organized packing area. While this is technically not part of the definition of “packaging”, it’s a big part of the “packaging” process.

Setting up a plain table was probably all you could do when this started, but now it’s time to get a proper packing station. Professional packing stations provide adequate storage for your cartons, fillers, tape, printers, etc. and organize them ergonomically to make it easy for the packer to access them.

The station shown below from Dehnco Equipment is just one example of the type of professional equipment required to ensure your packing staff are equipped to meet a higher standard than where you started last year.

Right-Sizing Your Cartons

Let’s start on this by reassuring you that there actually is no right answer for how many different size cartons do you need? There actually is no right answer, but there will always be a “too few” and “too many”. But with modern software, often built into many WMS systems, and the use of a dimensioning scale, you can optimize not only the number of carton sizes, but the exactly the right carton for each individual order being packed based on the total dimensions and weight of the enclosed items. Optimizing carton size comes with plenty of benefits:

  • Better product protection
  • Reduced waste (of space and packing fillers)
  • Lower transportation costs

Recycled, Resuable and Reduced Packaging

There are MANY reasons to carefully source your package fillers, wrappers and other peripheral packing materials, and not all of them are immediately obvious.

  • Consumers are becoming increasingly vocal about overuse of plastics, excess paper or messy fillers. And the worst outcome is a customer not happy about them but is NOT vocal – as they just decline to order again. Waste and recyclability are a higher priority than ever, especially as consumers see the packaging pile up as their use of Ecommerce increased last year.
  • Reverse Logistics is another process often overlooked early in the Ecommerce experience, but when you start getting 10-20% of your outgoing orders coming back as returns, you’ll appreciate having them arrive in packaging that can either be reused or easily broken down and recycled. The returns process can be extremely labor intensive, and customers are not trained as packers to use optimized packing and tape, so the breakdown process benefits from making our own packaging reusable.


Like most warehouse processes, automation is growing at an ever-increasing pace. One of the biggest factors is impacting businesses experiencing a rapid increase in Ecommerce shipments is the labor required.

While automation usually implies large-scale investment, there are “starter” options that are affordable for situations where you may have a single SKU or product that can be set up to be packed by machine on demand, or pre-packed to be await labeling when ordered.

These basic options, which have been available for over two decades, are easy to implement and can take your biggest sellers off the hands of your floor staff and allow them to focus on the more complex and varied shipments.

On the high end of the scale, there are now ways to automate packing using machines that actually CREATE the box required on demand for the order being shipped, The video above highlights a solution from Quadient that can pack up to 1,100 parcels per hour.

As you can see from the video, the machine still requires workers to place the orders in a somewhat organized manner into the feeder where they are then scanned for dimensions and very carefully folds the perfectly sized cut cardboard around the items and seals it up for shipping.

While it may be over the top for what you thought you would need when your Ecommerce blew up last year, it is certainly a good option to consider if your future plans include large growth in your direct to consumer business.

As Ecommerce Grows, so Does the Packaging Problem

It’s completely understandable that last year’s “mission” was rightfully focused on “getting it out the door.”

Now that your Ecommerce business is here to stay, getting the other supporting processes right will help your shipments become more profitable and reduce the exertion required from your teams by providing the professional, process-driven approach that may not have been available when the initial “emergency” response arose last year. If you have solutions worth sharing, questions or ideas, feel free to reach out to our team anytime.

Related White Papers

Download the Paper

5 Tips to Improve Your Warehouse Returns Process
Quick and efficient returns management (or reverse logistics) is a must for companies striving to be leaders in customer experience and satisfaction. Download Now!

Download the Paper

10 Tips to Improve Your Warehouse Receiving Process
Warehouse receiving processes can make or break a company's ability to service its customers. Download Now!

View more: Newcastle Systems Resources

Related: PODCAST: Improving Speed, Capacity and Accuracy of E-commerce Fulfillment

Article Topics

Newcastle Systems News & Resources

How this 3PL Eliminated Costly Labeling Errors: Problem, Solution, & Results
Inflation’s Impact on Warehousing and the Supply Chain
10 Tips to Improve Your Warehouse Receiving Process
Increase Warehouse Efficiency with These Technologies
Quiet Quitting in the Warehouse
2023 Tech Trends in Warehouse Management Execs Should Know About
Newcastle Systems moves to larger location to meet demand for its mobile powered carts
More Newcastle Systems

Latest in Warehouse|DC

Investment Triggers a Manufacturing Supercycle
Transforming the Factory
Gartner® Critical Capabilities Report for Choosing the Right Warehouse Management System
9 KPIs for Efficient Warehouse Operations
Strategies for 3PLs to Maximize Warehouse Space
Omnichannel Fulfillment and Creating Seamless Customer Experiences
Reducing Distribution Center Overtime Costs
More Warehouse|DC
Mobile Computer Carts
Mobile Stand Up Workstations

Newcastle Systems is a provider of workplace mobility solutions that include a range of mobile computer carts for every mobile workstation need and a unique power pack system that enables companies to maximize workplace efficiencies with smaller investment. Newcastle Systems mobility solutions are in place around the world helping reduce footsteps in warehouses, speeding receiving operations, improving staffing efficiencies in retail, and providing convenience and ergonomic benefits for employees in many sectors including Manufacturing, Education, Distribution, Military and other Government entities.

View Newcastle Systems company profile


Featured Downloads

Becoming a Shipper of Choice
Becoming a Shipper of Choice
C3 solutions' scheduling software streamlines the shipping process.
Thinking Differently About Supply Chain Planning
Thinking Differently About Supply Chain Planning
Political landscapes shift overnight, global trade is constantly changing, consumers demand increasingly personalized service and smaller day-to-day challenges hit without warning. If...

Rapidly Improve the Performance of Your Warehouse Logistics
Rapidly Improve the Performance of Your Warehouse Logistics
The Rapid Performance Evaluation identifies opportunities and potential improvements in every aspect of warehouse logistics operations; performance, productivity, service, quality, and systems.
Resource Management System (RMS): How to Effectively Leverage Your Assets
Resource Management System (RMS): How to Effectively Leverage Your Assets
This guide provides an in-depth analysis of the potential of various resources available in a warehouse and how they can be utilized...
Sustainable Supply Chain Insights From PITT OHIO
Sustainable Supply Chain Insights From PITT OHIO
A whitepaper on supply chain insights gleaned at the LEED-certified gold Cleveland transportation and sustainability summit.