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Make Every Second Count: 5 Ways to Increase Packaging Productivity

Anyone who says, “Don’t worry, it’ll just take a second,” clearly hasn’t worked in the fast-paced world of fulfillment or eCommerce. Sure, a second in and of itself isn’t very valuable, but over the course of a day, a week, a month or an entire peak ordering season, wasted seconds quickly add up, magnifying even the smallest inefficiencies and cutting into margins in the form of lost productivity, employee wages and lost opportunity.

Here are five ways retailers and manufacturers can reclaim those precious seconds and keep their packing stations humming.  

1. Measure Packing Costs the Right Way

In tracking their order-fulfillment expenses, many look at the cost per linear foot of packing materials, but that is only one data point in a larger equation. One major big-box retailer learned this the hard way by having workers use crumpled-up paper as void fill, figuring that since the paper was inexpensive, the retailer was saving money. However, workers had to crumple up each piece of paper by hand, which significantly slowed down the packing process and limited throughput, ultimately hurting the retailer’s bottom line.

By taking into account factors such as the average packing time per order, retailers and manufacturers can get a more accurate picture of which packing materials make the most sense for them.


2. Implement Proper and Uniform Training

With turnover high in warehouses and distribution centers, getting workers up to speed quickly is paramount. Having a new hire work with an experienced packer might seem like a smart move, but in reality, it means that new workers are being trained inconsistently and overall productivity can take a hit.

Instead, each worker should complete the same streamlined training program to encourage package uniformity and quality. With immersive virtual-reality training programs that help new hires retain more information and pack parcels the right way, retailers and manufacturers have a reliable and consistent method to expedite the training process – thus getting workers up to speed quickly without compromising overall productivity.  


3. Consider the Benefits of Automation

Automated packaging equipment allows retailers and manufacturers to streamline the packing process, increase productivity and make the most of available labor.

Something as simple as putting products in mailers, sealing those mailers and printing shipping labels over and over can quickly add up to a lot of wasted time. Automated systems give productivity a shot in the arm with applications such as outbound inline bag and machine systems, and shipping label integration. 


By taking into account factors such as the average packing time per order, retailers and manufacturers can get a more accurate picture of which packing materials make the most sense for them.


4. Properly Maintain and Service Systems 

Following a maintenance schedule for equipment can limit machine downtime and help keep packing stations up and running. The time spent inspecting equipment and performing routine maintenance pales in comparison with the lost productivity of a system that hasn’t been properly maintained. Having to wait several days for a technician to visit, order parts and make repairs can severely hamper throughput.


5. When in Doubt, Keep it Simple

In an effort to reduce packages’ dimensional weight and the need for void fill, some retailers and manufacturers order boxes in a wide variety of sizes and shapes and use many different kinds of packing materials. But this practice of over-customization can ultimately leave packers overwhelmed with too many options, especially if they are new to the job.

Instead, it's best practice to select only a handful of box sizes and packing materials that suit product offerings – limiting the options and streamlining the process. Keeping it simple will cut down on the time packers spend evaluating each order and will increase package uniformity and quality, leading to a more consistent, satisfying experience for customers, while guarding profits with smarter, more-productive practices. 


Pregis can help any operation streamline productivity with its full line of solutions, services and expertise. Learn more at