5 Ways to Prepare Your Packing and Shipping Area for the Holiday Rush
Every part of your ecommerce business is going to experience an influx of some kind or another during the holidays.
Your website will see more traffic. Your customer service representatives will field more phone calls. And your packing and shipping area will process more orders.
To keep your packing and shipping workspace in tiptop shape during the holidays, follow the five guidelines below.
Situate your packing and shipping area in the best location.
When determining where to set up the packing and shipping zone, pretend you’re a city planner. Consider where team members will be coming from when they enter the workspace and where they’ll be headed when they leave. Also consider what kinds of items team members will be carrying during their travels around the distribution center. This includes not only products but also carts, storage bins, and other shipping equipment.
Make sure team members have a direct route to the packing and shipping area from anywhere, regardless of what’s in their hands. The location should also have plenty of space for supply storage and workstations.
Before you decide where to put the packing and shipping zone, use tape to mark off the space and do practice run-throughs. Will the location affect other operations in the distribution center? Is there proper visibility throughout the workspace? How will the design affect efficiency and productivity? This will help prevent issues before you’ve invested in installation.
Have all necessary supplies and equipment on-hand and readily accessible.
A productive packing and shipping area is always well-stocked with the right materials and tools. This includes …
- Postal scale
- Boxes and envelopes
- Cushioning, such as bubble wrap, kraft paper, air pillows, foam sheets, and peanuts
- Label printer and labels
- Packing tape
- Tape measure
- Packing slips
In addition, team members should be able to quickly find the materials they need. Assign each item its own dedicated shelf or storage bin and clearly label where everything belongs. Make sure team members always put each item back in its proper storage location.
Stay ahead of the game.
If you know certain products will be in high demand during the holidays, consider keeping a stockpile of them near the packing and shipping zone. This will keep team members from repeatedly retrieving the same products from elsewhere in the warehouse. As long as these items aren’t bulky and won’t be in the way, this tactic can improve efficiency.
If possible, pre-pack popular products. Then, your team members can just throw in the packing slip or invoice, seal the box, apply the shipping label, and send the package on its way. This will require more work upfront, but when your team is in the thick of the holiday shipping rush, they’ll appreciate having fewer steps to complete.
If you haven’t identified your best sellers yet, you can pre-build a few of your most commonly used boxes. And if you usually include freebies such as stickers or coupons for future orders, keep those in the pre-assembled boxes, as well.
As your operation grows and space becomes more limited, pre-packing and pre-assembling may not be an option. But smaller retailers should take advantage of every opportunity to shave time off the packing and shipping process.
Create and post a carrier quick reference guide.
Every carrier has its own shipping and delivery policies. If you’re using multiple carriers, post an easy-to-read cheat sheet with the following details for each shipping provider:
- Available shipping methods
- Holiday shipping deadlines
- Delivery timeframes
- Package restrictions
- Shipping rates
- Fees and surcharges
- Package weight and dimension guidelines
- Delivery zones
Don’t forget the steps before and after packing and shipping.
Your packing and shipping space is likely designed with packing and shipping in mind, but what about the steps before and after?
Before an order is packed, it’s picked from the shelves. And after an order has been packed, it isn’t immediately shipped. In addition to the items being packed, you must take into account two other categories of products:
- Ones that have been sold but not yet packed.
- Ones that have been packed but haven’t been shipped.
Ensure each set has its own dedicated space in the packing and shipping zone so team members can quickly move orders through the process.
Most importantly, make sure the packing and shipping area has room to grow. When the holiday rush rolls around, you don’t want your team scrambling to find space for the additional inventory, supplies, and equipment.