What is Warehouse Shipping Automation?
Modern warehouse shipping spans tasks that include preparing, packaging, and loading products onto an outbound truck for delivery.
The shipping process additionally includes selecting a carrier, preparing the correct documentation and manifest entries, printing the shipping label, and many tasks in-between. Due to the number of variables involved in the shipping process, many decisions must be made before a package can leave the warehouse. Without a means of handling all of these decisions and variables, chaos can quickly ensue.
Automation can place most of these decisions onto an automated shipping system, freeing workers up to manage other tasks. A worker no longer needs to find and order, scan the order value, and purchase the insurance, that too can be automated based on predefined parameters such as product or total package value, product DIM weight, product fragility, or other readily quantifiable factors.
Why Warehouse Shipping Automation is More Efficient
Automated shipping systems dramatically accelerate delivery turnarounds. Time-consuming tasks such as packing, printing shipping labels, address verification, and counting stock levels are now automated. Your business can rely on technology to perform them faster than previously possible. Having a streamlined shipping process enables you to accelerate production and sales, meaning you can execute more orders in less time.
Using barcodes can further enable your business to automate fulfillment processes. Associates can walk around with mobile barcode scanners that automatically update a warehouse management system as soon as the barcode is scanned. Similarly, shipping labels provide real-time tracking data access. These tracking and tracing details are automatically sent to customers in the form of shipping updates.
Stores of all sizes stand to benefit from adopting warehouse automation, including ecommerce shops, dropshipping sites, and direct-to-consumer (DTC) sellers. Shipping automation empowers businesses to reclaim substantial swathes of time alongside a tidy sum of cash. These two types of saving empower businesses to scale without penalties.
When automating your shipping processes, you reclaim time that can be spent focusing on high-impact tasks and decisions, rather than wasted on the impending stacks of shipping paperwork, including picking slips, customs forms, and shipping labels.
Don’t want to lose any more of your life to those mundane tasks? We don’t blame you. You could deploy a simple solution that looks at predefined criteria and pre-set rules to manage it for you. This sort of system could even manage deciding how to ship orders, which carriers to use, and more, for each package individually. If this sounds like a much-needed reprieve, keep reading.
Benefits of Warehouse Shipping Automation
Shipping automation allows businesses to rectify productivity bottlenecks and remove systemic variables, such as sick time and shift attendance rates. When these variables are pressed out, employee advancement opportunities open up and attract new talent. The benefits of automation include consistent knowledge of stock and inventory levels, easier business scalability, and reduced shipping errors and delays.
Remove the bottlenecks from your shipping and receiving operations
When you automate shipping tasks, you no longer invest employee time, meaning the operations are no longer depending on shift attendance or timing, they don’t get sick, and you can upskill employees to scale further, faster.
Outscale your competitors that save money by lowering headcount
Scaling without penalties allows you to move employees into new positions. Potential for advancement has been listed as one of the highest priorities when hiring millennial and gen-Z workers.
Never question your stock levels
You’ll always know exactly how much you have at-a-glance. You’ll be ready to predict trends, avoid overstock, understock, and charge into your market.
Prevent processing delays due to human error
While we all make mistakes, many of the customer-supportive roles in shipping just don’t need humans to intervene anymore. In fact, customers prefer shorter delivery times and absolute packing accuracy. The best way to accomplish these things is by automating your shipping processes.
The benefits of shipping automation, such as consistency, accelerated shipping turnaround, reduced labor costs, and employee advancement opportunities, bring substantial profitability opportunities alone. When combined, these factors create business scalability that simply hasn’t been possible before.
Learn how to increase ROI, attract top talent, and eliminate shipping errors within your business.
How Do You Automate a Shipping Process?
Before implementing an automation system, you must ensure that your organization has a person or a team that will be accountable for the implementation. This task force would be responsible for selecting functions that will be needed. This person or team should be involved in all aspects of planning and process creation. Companies that delay at this stage may struggle excessively with hiring decisions—resulting in undertrained personnel or underdeveloped decision-making readiness.
Another key step of the process is creating a plan for training staff and providing reliable technical support. Three of the most prominent barriers to developing a support plan are:
- Understanding how data, or other resource migrations will happen
- Figuring out how long the implementation phase will take
- Pinning down exactly how much support (and what types of support) will be needed
Each of these factors should be discussed at length with the automation provider prior to purchasing the solution. Without understanding these factors, it will be nearly impossible to pin down the true ROI of the automation solution.
Warehouse automation only requires one-time configuration and minimal amounts of setup in many cases. The final decision when choosing whether or not to automate should, like most other important business decisions, rest with reasonable expectations for return on the investment.
When Is It Time to Automate Warehouse Shipping?
ShipWorks recommends automating processes that can create a bottleneck for inbound and outbound warehousing operations. There are a few factors that should guide your decision-making for automation decisions. We’ve aggregated these factors from clients who have successfully implemented our ShipWorks WMS solution and achieved fantastic business scaling with solid ROI.
High volume orders and rapid transfer of products.
Businesses that ship several low-cost goods to a large customer base must often prepare a huge number of packages per day. Similarly, businesses that rely on shipping process efficiency to deliver products very rapidly will also benefit immensely from warehouse automation.
One or more warehouses provide a wide spread of products and variants
When your warehouses hold a large number of different products or variants of specific products, warehouse automation can offer substantial gains in operational efficiency. Benefits under these circumstances are often derived from inventory management, picking efficiency, and shipping process optimization.
Order picking and cargo consolidation rely on product sorting and categorization
When your shipping processes, such as picking and order consolidation, are managed categorically, your business can often reap further benefits from warehouse automation. A warehouse management system can enable your staff to carry out drastically more efficient operations for other tasks, such as cargo staging, and batch label application.
Further, your workforce can be upskilled once they are no longer taking care of these logistical responsibilities for the warehouse.
You maximize floor space by using vertical storage solutions
Warehouses that depend on high ceilings and high-stacked shelves can benefit from a WMS due to the complexity of some picking, packing, and stocking operations. A highly accurate warehouse floor plan is invaluable when working with shipping operations that may require specialized equipment.
You want an inventory control system that supports “just-in-time” logistics
Just-in-time logistics allow businesses to downsize overall inventory while still continuing to deliver the same products. This process minimizes KPIs such as time on the floor (TOF) and inventory shrinkage. This can cause long delays, however, if orders aren’t delivered on time. When managing logistics in this way, real-time stock counts are absolutely vital to success.
Reasonable projections show 48 months or less to break-even on the purchase
Businesses generally rely on profitability when they consider opportunities such as a warehouse automation system. The Net-Present Value (NPV) is a way of comparing dollars today to dollars in the future. If the NPV of an automation system shows that it fails to pay for itself within 4 years, most businesses will not buy-in. If the NPV shows an ROI that exceeds other options, however, and the system can pay for itself within 48 months, many businesses are able to clearly see the value of the system, so they tend to buy-in rather than throw away free money.
When these factors aren’t present, you may experience pushback from internal stakeholders. Often, profitability is only one of the primary concerns for decision-makers in manufacturing and logistics companies. Operational efficiency is a common factor when seeking out bottlenecks.
Automate Your Warehouse Shipping with ShipWorks!
Shipping operations for ecommerce businesses benefit greatly from implementing ShipWorks software. There are several reasons that ecommerce operations are able to reap sizable operational efficiency gains with ShipWorks. Data sources such as cart software providers, auxiliary marketplaces, and separate sales channels are customer favorites among ShipWorks’ integration capabilities.
Customers are able to build online stores that their customers love without fearing a lack of interoperability. Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) integrations empower businesses to import orders, carry out accounting responsibilities across multiple marketplaces, and even connect resource stores such as DropBox to execute regular cloud-based file back-ups. Customers can also integrate with newsletter services, such as MailChimp, to inform customers of shipping status changes automatically.
ShipWorks Integration Features
ShipWorks provides a robust set of integration features, many of which are based on OBDC connections. Services such as Magento, FreshDesk, FedEx, WooCommerce, and MailChimp integrate with ShipWorks by default at this stage. We believe that our customers should benefit from our integration opportunities in one or more of the following ways.
Through our integrations with carriers and third-party logistics vendors such as FedEx, UPS, and USPS, we are able to offer our customers the best rates on shipping. Smart rate shopping empowers companies to automate the shipping and fulfillment processes.
Consolidate Channels & Systems
Especially for companies that sell across multiple channels, consolidation of core services such as accounting, order importing, and address verification is vital to achieving scalability without sacrifice. Amazon, Ebay, Magento, Shopify, and WooCommerce are just a few example ShipWorks integration partners.
ShipWorks provides carrier-grade shipping insurance for as much as 64% less than UPS, USPS, and FedEx. Cost reduction avenues include labor savings for mundane tasks, reduced product return rates, lower customer support usage, and time lost to warehouse planning inefficiencies.
White Glove Customer Support
ShipWorks provides customer support that gives our users the ultimate peace of mind. They know that a real person is waiting on the other end of the support line. Trained customer support staff members are able to support technical issues, purchase or account struggles, or nearly any other type of support request.
Businesses of all sizes can benefit immensely from ShipWorks warehouse automation solutions. Shipping automation drives efficiency while companies that seek to maintain the status quo push it away.
Learn more about how your business can save time and money while scaling up cash flows through warehouse automation!