Packing stations are an important part of your business – so far we have covered how your packaging should be and why should it be branded. Now, let’s have a look at the place where all of your packing happens, the packaging station.
It’s crucial to your business that these stations are as lean and efficient as possible – why package something in 5 minutes when it can be done more efficiently in less than 1 minute? And efficient packing station helps you save time and money.
Let’s have a look at a couple of steps that can help you make your packing stations more efficient:
Assess whether your shipping facility is streamlined enough
If you want to improve the efficiency of your packing stations, your first move is to take a step back and take a look at the big picture. After all, your packing station is only going to be as efficient as the operations supporting it.
As a first step, we recommend having a quick overview of your facility. This approach, which comes from the world of lean manufacturing – it allows you to quickly establish a performance baseline and uncover issues by asking a series of critical questions, such as:
- Is your shipping facility hampered by things like inefficient space utilization or irregular inventory workflow?
- Is your workforce committed to productivity, safety and problem-solving?
- Would you personally buy products shipped through this facility?
Undertake A 5s Program To Make Your Packing Workflow More Efficient
If you’re not familiar with 5S program, it stems from Japanese manufacturing efficiency expert Hiroyuki Hirano and his work as an efficiency expert for Toyota. Closely related to this is the work of Robert B. Pojasek, who wrote the paper “Asking ‘Why?’ Five Times”, to uncover inefficient procedures that are hiding in plain sight.
Customized the packing stations
Once you’ve taken a look at how to improve the overall efficiency and workflow of the facility, it’s time to create detailed plans for the packing station flow.
Document all the steps from start to finish, identify and segregate packing workflows that are different from one another – remember, one size does not fit all.
For example, it’s quite common to have high-volume quantities that need to be packed in smaller packaging (small cardboard boxes) and low volume quantities that need special attention because they are oversized, heavy or especially prone to damage in packing and/or shipping.
High-volume packing stations handling small packages can be more compact in design, allowing the worker to pack faster by taking fewer steps. On the other hand, packing stations that process large, bulky items will likely need bigger tables with built-in lifting capability to assist workers handling heavy items.
Be generous with the space allocation. Think about your busiest times of the year and plan accordingly. Too much activity in too little space will cause problems down the line. It’s also a good idea to add a little extra margin to make room for automation equipment you might acquire in the future.
Make prototypes of packaging stations and evaluate them in real-life conditions
Take the time to develop a quality assurance plan to assess the prototype design and ask these questions to check that everything is working as expected:
Does the packer have sufficient table space to consolidate orders?
Have you provided the packer with an easily accessible method to confirm their packing list items?
Is it easy for the packer to include any printed materials like special offers or documentation into the packaging?
Can the packer stick the label on the package without any margin of error?
What is the workflow for staging packed orders? How are they transported away from the packing station?
And most importantly: what checks are in place to help prevent errors and what is the procedure to handle an error once it has been detected?
Incorporate ergonomic design features in the packing stations
You can reduce the potential for on-the-job injury at packing stations by focusing on three key areas:
First, it’s important to provide power-assisted loading tools for heavy items. This alone can reduce common injuries such as lower back pain or accidents stemming from Packers accidentally dropping heavy objects onto their feet.
Second, packing stations need to accommodate different sized individuals. This means that chair and table heights need to be easily adjustable to match the stature of your Packers.
Last but not least, when it comes to things like height-adjustable work surfaces, power assist has become the new standard.
Make sure that your packing stations are worker-friendly
The devil is in the details.
Choosing which packing supply items to keep on hand at a packing station – and where – can have a great impact on overall efficiency.
The goal is of course for the packer to work quickly, without errors, and using the smallest possible shipping container adequate for the job.
This last detail is important; you want to avoid shipping large cartons filled with very few items that could drive up storage requirements and transportation costs considerably.
Having the right shipping containers in the right place can save money.
To make sure this happens, you need to verify your list of equipment, packing supplies, and materials, as well as personal items that need a home at the packing stations.
To use the space surrounding the Packer effectively, refer to your list of items created earlier that ranked each item according to how often it gets used.
Put these items used most often in the easiest to reach locations. An important tip, avoid the temptation of using table surfaces for storage. After you located the highest-ranked items, take the next group of items and find a home for each of them in the second tier storage areas. Finally, place those items that are rarely used behind the packer.