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SLAM and warehouse automation

eCommerce Automation

A Guide to Automating the Last 100 Feet

Part 1: Package Size

When rising customer demands and labor shortages put warehousing and fulfillment operations squarely in the middle of an uncomfortable pinch, automation can be the key to meeting expectations and keeping your clients happy. Just as importantly, however, it can save both time and money in ways that go far beyond supplementing your existing labor force.

The last 100 feet of your operations—scanning, labeling, application, and manifesting (SLAM) of outbound customer shipments—is a significant area of opportunity for improvement. We’ll start by looking at the impact package size can have on your shipping costs, and ways in which automation can help keep those costs under control.


The Importance of a Right-Size Package

The first consideration in packaging items for shipment is, of course, is having the right size and material to ensure that items arrive to their recipients intact and undamaged. Beyond that, however, the picture becomes more nuanced. Carriers charge to ship based on either the weight of the package or the dimensional weight (DIM), whichever is higher. In addition, larger packages mean more money spent on packaging materials, especially if you’re shipping small items in boxes that must be stuffed with additional packing materials to protect their contents. Thus, packages should optimally be only as large as they absolutely need to be and no larger. 

Automation can be a good solution for consistently matching products with the correct size packaging. Using a variable sized package in particular is a good defense against paying to, in effect, ship empty space unnecessarily. However, this isn’t the only way automation can lower your shipping costs.


Do You Know Your DIMS? The Shipping Carriers Do

The major shipping carriers know that it isn’t in their best interest to let customers get away with paying artificially low rates on light packages that take up a disproportionate amount of cargo space. Both FedEx and UPS use a DIM factor of 139—dividing a package’s cubic dimensions by that number gives you its DIM weight. If that number is larger than the package’s actual weight, that’s what determines the charge. The divisor used can vary by carrier and class of service, so determining which rate applies to each package can be time-consuming if you’re trying to do it manually.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an area in which you want to just guess and hope you get it right. Both UPS and FedEx have introduced new scanning technology that measures each package received to obtain more accurate weight and dimensions, which has resulted in higher shipping rates. Further, in cases where incorrect shipping details have been provided to the carrier, you may be hit with correction fees in addition to the actual adjustment of shipping costs.


Tension’s SLAM line can not only help eliminate nasty surprises in your shipping invoices, but also allow you reduce those costs from the outset while increasing your throughput. Each package is scanned and weighed as it goes through, correctly identifying the dimensions to enable rate shopping as well as accurate manifesting. Because the system automatically captures this information, you eliminate potential errors that can creep in from manual manifesting and prevent costly adjustments in shipping fees.


Finding the Right eCommerce Automation Partner

If you’re considering automation, you’ll achieve the best results with careful planning, clear goals, and the right automation partner to help implement your vision. It starts with examining your current processes and capabilities and deciding whether you want to replace your existing systems completely or augment them with new equipment.


Tension Packaging & Automation is a leader in packaging equipment and automation solutions, designing, building, installing, and supporting warehouse automation solutions for eCommerce order fulfillment. We can help you identify the right solution for your needs and provide training, service, and responsive ongoing support to ensure that you realize the full value of your investment. To learn more about the benefits of automated packaging or a SLAM line in your business, contact us today.


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