8 Things to Look For In Fulfillment Consultants When Redesigning Your Packing Process
As companies scramble to keep up with online orders, many are looking for help from fulfillment consultants. Here’s how to identify the best.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in today’s market, but one aspect remains certain: Consumers continue to shop online in numbers never seen before. Digital Commerce 360 estimates that the e-commerce industry grew 44 percent year over year in 2020 due to COVID’s effect on consumer behavior. This is almost triple the 15.1 percent increase reported in 2019.
Brands need to do everything they can to keep up with demand — and quickly. Direct-to-consumer (D2C) and omni-channel online retailing are the new standard, requiring companies to handle fulfillment logistics in house or partner with 3PLs.
Rising demand is forcing e-commerce companies, retailers, and fulfillment providers to rethink packing floors, upgrade equipment, automate, and scale up their operations. But who should you turn to for help in overcoming these challenges?
Whether you’re entering the fulfillment game or looking to expand existing operations, experts can help navigate the evolving market. Here’s what to look for when you need help redesigning your packing process:
1. Custom and Engineered Solutions
Every product has unique packaging needs, and the best solutions are designed for specific applications. Engineers at Pregis IQ, Innovation Headquarters in the U.S. and E.U. work directly with customers to assess packaging that suffers from high damage rates or needs to reduce dimensional (DIM) weight, among other challenges.
The team develops comprehensive solutions based on scale and budget, and then fully tests and validates according to International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) standards. Pregis can also help organizations integrate new packing equipment or processes to increase throughput, reducing total cost of ownership, providing a better workplace, and becoming more sustainable.
2. One-Stop Shopping
The best fulfillment experts have a broad understanding of every challenge an operation has when filling an order and getting it out the door. Not only that, they also understand what a package must overcome on its journey from warehouse to doorstep. Accordingly, a consultant should be able to provide a suite of solutions, either directly or through value-added services that includes delivery, installation, and technical service of the complete packaging floor, from concept to completion.
Beyond selling packaging equipment and consumables, look for a partner that has the capabilities to redesign packing floors, integrate automation in operations, train employees, and even elevate branding and customer experience.
3. Expertise in Market Trends
Various influences shape the fulfillment industry, ranging from consumer sentiment to government regulations. The ideal fulfillment consultant will be aware of it all, offering solutions and strategies for their customers every step of the way.
For example, sustainability is a major concern for consumers and policymakers right now. Pregis’ Airspeed® Ascent system enables customers to create on-demand HC inflatable cushioning that protects against damages, keeping damaged merchandise out of landfills and decreasing the need for environmentally-taxing reships. Additionally, HC Renew is made from minimum 30 percent recycled content for a lower environmental footprint, and is recyclable at store drop-off locations. Plus, for customers interested in social impact and charity, a portion of sales of HC Inspyre is donated to the Uzima Clean Water Mission.
Other customers might opt for renewable paper solutions. For example, Pregis offers Easypack® On-Demand Paper Packaging systems that use FSC-certified recycled paper for void-fill, cushioning, and blocking and bracing applications. FSC certification means that raw materials such as paper have been harvested in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.
4. Direct Lines of Contact With Clear Communication
Look for consultants with dedicated account managers who are always available to take customer calls, listen to feedback, and problem solve. They should clearly communicate strategy and implementation. And if something needs to be clarified, the ideal consultant should be able to answer any questions. Pregis provides each customer with a dedicated account manager that serves as the primary point of contact for stakeholders. These account managers will help customers identify their problems and work with the engineers at Pregis IQ and other departments to create customized and validated solutions to problems.
5. Quick Implementation — No Long Lead Times
The fulfillment landscape continues to change rapidly, and organizations need to adapt immediately to maintain and grow their footprint. The best fulfillment consultants will have a high-level understanding of the marketplace, industry best practices, and current innovations, allowing them to deeply understand your issues and roll out solutions quickly. Pregis is experienced working with a wide-array of businesses across many industries, being able to overcome the unique challenges and limitations of each. We work hand-in-hand with our partners to ensure new packing systems are up and running within six weeks after design approval.
6. Careful Project Planning and Execution
Your ideal fulfillment consultant will have a track record of success in planning and executing upgrades to customers’ operations. These upgrades will address your primary issues and might even increase efficiency in ways you didn’t know were possible, without missing deadlines or going over budget. Pregis’ multi-industry insight and decades of service helps them anticipate and avoid implementation issues before they even become a problem.
7. Uninterrupted Service During Refurbishment
As order volume increases, shipping shouldn’t be delayed while new equipment is installed or the packing floor is reconstructed. eShipper reports that 69 percent of consumers surveyed are less likely to re-order from a retailer if a product isn’t delivered in time. Hurting customer loyalty to make packing process upgrades is counterproductive. Pregis excels at helping customers seamlessly roll out improvements. We can even refurbish machines and rebuild packing lines around customers’ schedules to avoid disruption to fulfillment.
8. Measurable Results
When new packing materials or processes are implemented, it should be for achieving a specific goal. The best fulfillment consultant will track performance metrics and document the impact on your operation. When beneficial, consultants should steer you toward “smart” and automated packaging equipment that can integrate with warehouse management systems (WMS). This way, you can track KPIs in house.
For example, the IntelliPack® SmartBagger™ creates customized foam protective packaging for order fulfillment operations dealing with high-value, fragile merchandise. Operators can use it to mix two components together in a bag that immediately begins to expand into foam. The foam can be molded around products and conform to the shape of parcels for universal cushioning and tight blocking and bracing. The machine is equipped with the Maxwell Intelligent Interface, which can track metrics such as material use, throughput, and other valuable KPIs.
Sharp® Poly Bagging systems can drastically improve throughput by semi or fully automating the packing process more efficiently than labor and without human error. Performance metrics can be tracked with the Maxwell Intelligent Interface, too. It’s worth noting that poly bags have the benefit of reducing DIM weight and being more cost-effective than shipping in cardboard boxes.
The Pregis Approach
For more than 50 years, Pregis has helped customers protect their packages from warehouse to doorstep. We put customers first, with a flexible and holistic approach to packaging and fulfillment that meets the demands of the market with fully customized solutions for specific products and challenges. We pride ourselves on long-term partnerships with our customers, helping them through the many stages of growth.
To begin your journey or realign your packing processes for the e-commerce era,