The Pack Slip Challenge: The Amazing Race Against Time

by Nancy Panunto

We live in an era where consumers demand instant gratification. From on-demand TV, streaming videos, instant messaging, iTunes…you get my meaning. It’s no wonder that eCommerce companies are trying to deliver orders faster than ever to their customers in an effort to satisfy their need for instant gratification.

With the consumer demanding same day delivery of their online orders, it’s not hard to imagine how order fulfillment lines are being impacted. Most distribution centers will call in temporary staff who are on standby to handle peak order volume within this limited delivery time window.

Working in the pack station area of a distribution center during peak order fulfillment often feels like a race against time. Packers work in overcrowded conditions, in a rushed environment which typically results in an increase of order errors.

The pack station is a well-known area of the distribution center that impedes the fulfillment of orders in a timely manner. Automated pack slip systems can improve order fulfillment lines significantly; however, caution should prevail when choosing a system, as not all systems are alike.

The PSI Autoslip System uses technology with a folding capability that renders ship labels unnecessary. This is a good – but hard to communicate – value proposition, because it takes 5 seconds of labor to peel and apply a ship label. For 1,000 orders that amounts to 1.4 hours of labor.

A hands-free pack station with verification points during the fulfillment process ensures that the right order with the right documents is delivered to the right person. This is the perfect order methodology that many distribution centers have adopted as their best practice focus.

What is this going to cost me to run?
Material costs to buy and maintain the label printer and source the ribbon and substrate can range from five to seven cents per label. At five cents, that amounts to $250 for 5,000 orders. Fed Ex and UPS will supply labels free of charge to some customers (this is based on the assumption that minimum volume/annual spend qualification criteria is met) but there is still cost in terms of wasted resources including the labor to peel and apply labels (often a task assigned to a manual pack station), printer acquisition, replenishment and maintenance.

An all-in-one design that operates without requiring custom paper or labels and operates on a digital printer platform offers the lowest overall operating cost. More importantly, a system that will print and insert or apply the shipping documents on demand will be a key factor to meet same day delivery constraints.

Another key factor to consider in this race against time is to deliver that same day order error free. An all-in-one system, with verification processes built in (available in the Autoslip system) can ensure that the order gets delivered error-free, same day, to the customer. An amazing feat in an amazing race.

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