How to optimise the packing of a lot of packages? The benefits of using packing algorithms in the e-commerce industry

It is the shipping cost that counts most when you start the checkout process in an online store. Although it is usually very low compared to the value of the ordered goods, free or reduced price delivery may result in placing an order or abandoning the shopping cart. That is why it is so important to be able to calculate the courier fee immediately. This can be achieved through the use of packing algorithms.

Do you run an online store and sell clothes, shoes, books or electronic equipment? In this article, you will learn how to optimise shipping costs. The Single Container Packing and Multi Bin Packing algorithms have proved to be of greatest use in e-commerce. Which one of them to choose depends on what kind of packaging you have at your disposal.

Use the single container packing algorithm when you want to place your order into one package

Do you sell goods of very different sizes in your store? Do you have one or many different types of containers, but you want your orders to be shipped in one package? Thanks to the Single Container Packing algorithm, you can compare how all the containers you have may be packed. In this way you will find out which of them is best suited for packing the goods to be shipped. That means the one in which you can fit all your items and leave as little void space as possible, etc. You will also receive information (visualisations) on how to arrange the goods in the containers.

Similarly to using a container, the Single Container Packing algorithm allows you to quickly determine if the goods to be shipped will fit on a pallet or in the cargo space of a truck. Calculations take place in next to no time and the goods are arranged in the optimal way. You can see this best while packing pallets, where the algorithm selects the arrangement that ensures the greatest stability of the stack of goods.

The multi bin packing algorithm selects the optimal set of containers

Using the previous example again, you have several packages of different sizes. However, this time you do not try to pack the ordered goods into one container, but you want to use the smallest possible number of the smallest containers you have. In practice, this means that the Multi Bin Packing algorithm may point to one package or several different packages.

Of course, the Multi Bin Packing algorithm can be used to determine the number of cardboard boxes, containers, van or other cargo spaces needed.

The benefits of using algorithms in e-commerce

If you combine the results of the single container packing and multi bin packing algorithms with courier rates, you will obtain the following benefits:

  • quick estimation of the shipping cost of the order – both the customer and the owner of the online store get information about the real cost of a specific shipment at the shopping cart level, avoiding the use of an average fee, which is either insufficient or significantly exceeds the real cost of shipping and someone (the customer or the store owner) must pay for the difference (pay or collect a fee without real justification),
  • visualisation of the arrangement of goods  – the owner of the online store receives information about the arrangement of the goods – ready instructions for the packer,
  • time saving opportunities – with the use of algorithms, the processes of selecting a container or containers and the way the goods are arranged inside them takes a split second – entering data and doing calculations in a spreadsheet takes several dozen, or even several hundred times longer,
  • better use of space in containers – the use of packing algorithms allows you to avoid transporting air and, as a result, reduces the real costs of courier services, which may improve customer satisfaction,
  • easy grouping of products – you can conveniently define goods that should be in one container.

Another useful calculation option is an algorithm adapted to packing pallets, i.e. pack a pallet. As a result, you get information about the optimal arrangement of goods on a pallet – taking into account the maximum weight or height of the stack.

In conclusion: the use of packing algorithms allows you to leave behind the rough, imprecise estimation of the delivery price of an order. By using automatic planning, you can apply fully transparent and precise shipping cost estimation for every order. At the same time, the algorithms allow you to speed up the packaging processes and, as a result, also to shorten the whole order process, which is crucial for the store’s ratings provided by the customers. In addition, the use of algorithms allows the optimisation of  the number of shipments sent and packaging used, which may result in waste and pollution reduction.