How to deal with general cargo? The assembly and packaging for the transport of the small-sized goods

When you offer a wide range of goods, you are not able to predict the decision of a specific customer. You cannot anticipate the number and size of items that might be ordered. Consequently, it is difficult to choose the optimal size of the box which will serve to complete and dispatch the order. You can, of course, rely on the intuition and experience of packers and assign them the responsibility to choose the size of the cardboard box, pack the goods in the optimal way, as well as check the weight of the package. You can also optimise all these processes by using the packaging planning algorithms.

When goods for self-assembly (usually furniture, but also various types of equipment and machinery, as well as bathroom fittings) are delivered, you can see how carefully the packages are selected to fit the goods in, and how all the items (including the smallest components) are logically arranged in the package.

The optimal packing could have been achieved only thanks to somebody who, knowing the exact dimensions of every item, has had enough time to plan their perfect arrangement.

But, how can we manage to achieve the optimal packaging under the time pressure when you have to pack an order into a single package, however this order consists of dozens of objects of various sizes and weights?

One package, one format

Online stores selling, for example, clothes or shoes, implemented the use of soft packaging as the solution to the problem. Such packaging consists of a sealed bag made of appropriately thick foil which offers enough protection for these goods to be delivered safely to the customer. The space of a bag can be easily adjusted to the size of a specific order.

The same one-format system can be applied to the cardboard boxes (e.g. for selling shoes). The box size is determined by largest shoe size offered by the store. Each pair is packed separately, and thus the problem of arranging goods in the package is eliminated.

Such a solution can also be used for any other “general cargo”. Like in the case of popcorn sales, three basic formats of the box are sufficient. To decide on the specific dimensions of a “large”, “medium” and “small” box, one must firstly analyse the most frequent orders at the shop, and the spaces these orders usually take up. Secondly, the optimal (the cheapest and at the same time meeting your expectations) size of a parcel which can be handled by the courier company.

Enter the size and the weight, the rest will be done by the algorithm

When the range of goods you offer, and consequently their sizes, is not only very wide but also changes very often, the mentioned solutions may turn out to be both ineffective and very problematic to apply. In the case of a few dozen packs a month, you can plan it “manually” and rely on staff experience. When there are hundreds of packs a month, you may face a significant increase in the labour costs, due to more staff being required and a rise in the error rate.

The actual optimisation requires the automation of the packaging planning process. If you have the dimensions of the goods the customer has just ordered (specifically, the dimensions of their packages), you can enter this data into an appropriate planning application and receive feedback on the size of the box you need, together with the optimal arrangement of the goods in the box. The perfect outcome of the algorithm calculation should be presented in a form of an intuitive instruction for the packer.

It is also easy to determine which of the box sizes you have available will be the best for the packaging of this specific order.

Additionally, if we enter the weight of all individual products, the algorithm will keep monitoring whether the weight of the whole package is within our limits  (usually below the “magic” limit of 50 kg, which once is exceeded means the need to use the pallet).

A good customer is an informed customer

An effective way to make the completion of orders easy is to inform the customer that the delivery will be charged by weight and size of the package. You may discreetly influence the customer ‘s decisions (upselling) by showing examples of orders (sets of products) or recommending additional items which will fit in the package within the same delivery cost. And the purchase may become game changing. Gamification in e-commerce yields good results. It helps to achieve better customer loyalty and more frequent interaction with the store website, as well as increases the value of one-off purchases. This game leads to a win!