Expert Advice

The great shipping room makeover


At one company, revamping the shipping area meant a 64 percent increase in efficiency. Can a strategic layout deliver time and money savings to you, too?

Getting the right product to the right customer at the right time is fundamental to success in any business. The way you lay out your shipping room is key to that formula.

"Even companies that are experiencing 20 percent growth can extend the life of the existing facility by two or three years," says Scott MacDonald, director of Customer Solutions.

Just ask Brushy Mountain Bee Farm in Moravian Falls, N.C. "We had a three-week backlog of orders," says Shane Gebauer, the company's general manager. Then a UPS Customer Solutions team identified bottlenecks and developed a plan for improving the facility's layout.

The redesign doubled the number of packing stations, added a trailer staging area and incorporated motorized rollers, resulting in a 64 percent increase in Brushy Mountain's order processing efficiency.

That kind of payoff is not uncommon, says UPS's Scott MacDonald, director of Customer Solutions. "At a small company you can get twice the throughput with the same number of people, without having to expand," he says. "Even companies that are experiencing 20 percent growth can extend the life of the existing facility by two or three years."

Shave off steps

UPS first looks at steps you can take to speed things up. "Not only how many steps a person must take to pick a product off a shelf, but the pick methodology as well," MacDonald says. He cites this example: At a lot of companies, workers place the orders into a tote and carry it back to the packing station. "To save time, you can pick right into the final shipping container – and have it prelabeled."

Ergonomics play a role as well. People shouldn't be twisting and turning. Fast-moving merchandise should be placed at waist height to eliminate unnecessary reaching or bending.

At packing stations, staff shouldn't need to swivel. "If staff members have to turn around to print a label and then turn back to put it on the box, that takes time and can lead to repetitive motion injuries."

Create more space

Use space well. For example, put your fast-moving "A" products closest to the packing stations. Merchandise that hasn't moved in months falls in the "D" category and could be liquidated to free up space – or stored far from the loading dock.

"Customers often have 20 percent more capacity than initially perceived, and strategic layout makes that space usable," MacDonald says. He provides detailed layout ideas in our blueprint for a smooth-running shipping operation [JPG]. [Download it as a PDF.]

Contact your Account Executive to learn more about UPS Customer Solutions.



Reader Comments

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Jeff Pickerill
Great article! We're just in the process of expanding our e-commerce & drop shipment department and the layout of the packing stations make perfect sense. Keep sharing ideas and best practices! Thanks!
Tom Wible
Thanks for posting this article! Several good points are made in this article - many I we will implement at
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