When you’re thinking about order fulfillment operations, your obvious first consideration is how effective your processes are in getting orders out the door and safely on the way to your customers. This is one of the reasons companies adopt automated solutions, as outdated systems that rely heavily on manual labor can turn into business-killing bottlenecks during surges in demand. Increasingly, however, sustainability—or how you can reduce the environmental impact of your operations—is taking on growing importance in order fulfillment. Why should sustainability matter for your shipping, and how can automation help?
With eCommerce making up a significant portion of US retail sales (15.6% of total sales for the 3rd quarter of 2023, according to the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce), consumers are taking notice of wasteful packaging practices and judging companies accordingly. Sustainability isn’t just about public perception, however. More importantly, companies are realizing many sustainable practices save money, benefiting their bottom line while burnishing their image.
A SLAM (Scan, Label, Apply, Manifest) line offers opportunities to improve the sustainability of order fulfillment in multiple ways, all while optimizing labor and increasing package throughput. What are some key areas to look at? Here are a few:
Low Energy-Consumption Conveyors
An automated system that isn’t energy efficient can become increasingly expensive to operate as energy costs continue to inexorably rise. Our conveyor system isn’t merely easy to customize, expand, reconfigure, or repurpose as your company’s needs change. This precision modular conveyor is also engineered for lower energy consumption, keeping your utility bills down.
Better Sized Packaging
Packages that are needlessly oversized relative to the items being shipped don’t just waste packaging material. Shippers have begun to assign rates based on package sizes, not just weight, so distribution centers have a clear incentive to create a better sized package to keep shipping costs as low as possible. Our SLAM line automates scanning and weighing packages so you can rate shop to find the least expensive shipping option for each package, saving on your freight costs. However, a SLAM line can also be combined with variable sized packaging equipment to increase those savings.
For example, our HPS Variable Length Polybagging Machine determines the optimum length of package for each item, making it possible to reduce the use of excess packaging material. On its own, this produces cost savings and creates a more sustainable approach by lowering the amount of packaging needed. In combination with a SLAM line, it also helps to further reduce shipping costs, as variable packaging ensures that you’re never paying to ship empty space.
In addition, we’re working an exciting, innovative new packaging equipment option for 2024 that will feature right-sized packaging, amplifying the potential for lower shipping costs and even better sustainable packaging solutions when incorporated into a SLAM system. Stay tuned!
The types of packaging you employ in your SLAM line are another factor to consider in your sustainability efforts. Both corrugate packaging and paper packages can be recyclable and may be made with a percentage of recycled content. If you’re using polybags for order fulfillment, however, you can still make choices that result in increased sustainability by selecting options that include post-consumer recycled content (PCR) and/or post-industrial content (PIC). These polybags can also be recycled in turn (as a low-density polyethylene or number 4 plastic), appealing to conservation-minded customers and demonstrating your commitment to environmentally friendly practices.
Your Partner in Automation Solutions
Sustainability initiatives can be a win-win in terms in order fulfillment if they’re done right. If you’re not sure how to integrate potential options so they produce the most savings and impact, Tension Packaging & Automation can help. We design, build, and install automation solutions that are not only customized to achieve your goals for improving fulfillment now, but that can also grow with your business for years to come. We’re also here to provide the service, support, and training you need to get the most out of your automation investment. To learn more, contact us today.