Pick Your Packers’ Brains for Fulfillment Improvements

The packing people and process of the warehouse are long overlooked by operations management, according to consultant Curt Barry. And that’s not right, because packing is the last touch point of the order process, and it’s crucial to customer service.

Speaking at the NCOF show in Las Vegas in last month, Barry—president of operations consultancy F. Curtis Barry & Co.— presented 15 ways to reduce warehouse expenses. One of the areas was the packing department.

Packing factors to look at include workplace design, workflow, station fill, order checking, dunnage, errors, and limited corrugated sizes, Barry said, noting that most operations pack 30 to 35 boxes an hour. “Are your packing stations designed for productivity?” he asked.

If you’re looking to make improvements to your packing, you should start by asking the packers what you need to do better, says Barry. He asked attendees “When was the last time your asked your packers, Hey, what could we do to speed things up?”

As for what might you hear from packers when you ask where you need to make improvements, they may tell you that the packing table height is wrong. Or that the package inserts they’re supposed to be putting in boxes aren’t well organized. Or even that they’re always running out of tape, Barry said.

Just as with the people picking products, you want to reduce walk time for your packers, he added. “They may tell you they’re always walking 50 to 60 feet just to get more packing cartons.”

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