Optimize Operations

UPS sizes up – and down – a shipping challenge for Cabela’s


A right-size packaging process reduced costs on shipping and packing materials. 

Cabela's, the world's largest direct marketer of outdoor gear and merchandise, had a challenge. It needed a more efficient shipment packaging process to reduce waste and lower shipping costs on its online orders. Although 80 percent of Cabela's sales are through retail stores, online orders are significant. Cabela's fulfills some $170 million in outdoor recreation merchandise annually from its 1-million-square-foot distribution center in Wheeling, W.Va.

"By reducing void fill and creating the smallest possible box for each order, we had achieved our savings goals." – Tim Roberts, Cabela's operations director.

Working with Cabela's leadership team, UPS and its packaging partner, Packsize®, assessed Cabela's full packaging and shipping operation.

The team's implementation helped Cabela's dramatically reduce its packaging/shipping spend for labor and materials, improve productivity, open new space in the distribution center, and enhance its image as "The World's Foremost Outfitter."

"We ship a huge variety of order sizes," says Cabela's Operations Director Tim Roberts. "Prior to UPS, we stocked 34 box sizes at each of our 60 pack stations. It was a complex packaging operation that required a higher level of training."

The right sized box every time

UPS and Packsize set out to simplify and streamline Cabela's fulfilment process. Sales and engineering teams collaborated with Cabela's to design a 'box last' (or post-order) On Demand Packaging® process, and they integrated several EM7™ automated packaging machines into Cabela's pack stations.

"It made a lot of sense to have the box made for specific orders vs. having a multitude of boxes at every pack station," says Roberts. "We needed to get the orders out the door, in the right box, and with the least amount of 'void fill.'"

On-Demand Packaging rewards Cabela's with boxes of smaller sizes, allowing more to be loaded on each truck and saving on transportation costs. From a sustainability perspective, less corrugated material and filler signals to customers that Cabela's cares for the environment and wants to reduce the amount of waste going into it.

Bottom-line benefits

Cabela's also benefits from a simpler, faster training process that trims two weeks off previous training periods. Cabela's now ships the same volume with fewer workers. This productivity matters – Cabela's distribution center operates in a remote area where extra staff can be hard to find in peak seasons.

Roberts notes, "Because our direct channel workforce doubles during peak sales periods, the new system's ability to increase order throughput with less labor was especially attractive."

The bottom line? A better bottom line.

"Cabela's customers now receive exactly what they ordered in the right-sized box, streamlining the process, reducing cost, and improving the customer experience," says UPS Vice President of Customer Solutions Michael Cannizzo.

Roberts agrees. "By reducing the amount of void fill and creating the smallest possible box for each order, we achieved the savings goals we set out to gain," he says.


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