As a successful business owner, you’ll find that you never quite have enough time. Whether it’s making changes to your site, taking care of customers or just taking some time for yourself, there’s always more to be done. Today we’re helping you get back some of your time by showing you how to pack and ship more efficiently.
1. Identify bottlenecks
The first step to improving any process is identifying bottlenecks. A bottleneck in this context refers to any activity that operates at a slower rate than all other activities in your operation. These slow-downs are generally easy to identify in warehouses because of the accumulation of orders that occur around that operation. Depending on the complexity of your business activity, you may not have any bottlenecks or many!
If you don’t see any bottlenecks right away, try spending a few days observing how orders are processed. You’ll be able to spot any inconsistencies in the process that could use improving. If after a few days, you’re still unable to identify a specific bottleneck, consider ways to improve your entire operation instead.
2. Refine the process
If you have multiple bottlenecks, prioritize them from major to minor issues. You can choose to prioritize them by cost spent or time wasted. Organize it in the way that makes the most sense for your business. We’ll tackle the large issues first, because resolving larger issues may also clear up the smaller ones.
Find ways to remove the first bottleneck by improving the time it takes to complete the associated action or limiting the number of errors created. Ask yourself:
- What part of this step isn’t necessary? What can I remove?
- Can part of this step be completed later in the process?
- Can part of this step be completed earlier in the process?
- Can part of this step be combined with another task?
- Is there a faster way to execute this task?
- What additional resources can expedite this process?
Keep this basic warehouse process in mind as we run through a couple of examples of how you can improve your business processes.
(1) Print packing lists → (2) pick orders → (3) print orders → (4) pack orders → (5) weigh package → (6) print shipping label → (7) off to the mailman
Removing a step
If you’ve been with the company for a long time, this is generally the hardest solution to find. All tasks, even those that seem obvious to you, must be evaluated. For a new perspective, consider having a new trainee make these suggestions.
In the example listed above, consider the 1st task, print packing lists. If packing lists are not needed for your company, you can simply print orders forms and pack customer orders using that document. This cuts down on both the time and resources spent on printing the packing list.
Moving parts of a step
There are some parts of your process that can be grouped with other tasks to maximize efficiency. Consider any action that takes away from the seamlessness of a process. For example, when a product runs out while you’re packing orders, do you have to go and pull more inventory from storage? This is fine when you don’t run out of inventory, but if you run out of inventory multiple times during the day, it disrupts the flow of the process. Each time something runs out, the pack order process is paused so the inventory can be restocked.
To make the order packing process more seamless, you create an inventory restocking process and move it the to the beginning of the day. It appears to add a new step to your overall process, but you’re simply defining a substep that is done regardless. By doing so, you clarify the overall process and make the order picking step more efficient.
Refining a step
Sometimes it’s about improving upon a process that you already have in place. Sometimes you need to take a step back to see how you can make your process better. In our example, look at the “weigh package” step. If you already have the products on hand, you can weigh the product in advance and enter them in your PrestaShop store so that labels are automatically generated with the corresponding weights. This may not completely eliminate the “weigh package” step because you’re still weighing each product, but your order packing process is now more efficient.
Your last resort improvement is to call upon additional resources. This option should be considered last because it is not only more expensive to implement, but it’s bit like cutting corners to improve your shop’s efficiency. However, once you’ve exhausted all your options, it can be the only improvement left to make. If you find that all the steps are running as efficiently as they can, yet you’re still not able to fulfill orders on time, consider hiring another employee to help with the overall shipping process. Additionally, you can acquire new tools to expedite specific tasks. This can be anything from purchasing better printers to expedite the printing to or new carts to expedite order picking.
Once you know what you want to improve in your shop and how you want to approach the task, it’s time to implement. However, to know how well the changes are or are not working, you have to put some type of measurement tool in place. For example, you can measure the amount of time each step takes to complete. Additionally, you can count the number of orders processed each day. Either way, be sure you have something to compare your old process’s effectiveness against the new.
In a nutshell
Improving your shop’s operations is a continual process. There’s always new technology or ideas that can help you improve the way your shop works. All you need is a little time, some patience and a drive to want to be better. To make your business more effective:
- Define your bottleneck, or problem
- Refine that process and make it better
- Measure your changes
What changes do you plan on making to your shop before the crazy holiday season? Let us know in the comments below. Already made some changes? Share some of the results you’ve found.