The fulfillment and distribution operations of e-commerce, which represents over a quarter of retail activity, are afflicted by a shortage of drivers and packers. There simply aren’t enough people willing or able to do these jobs.

Packaging Today

While it has its complexities, many of the jobs on the line can be repetitive and boring. They are often performed under considerable pressure, are low-paid, and involve working hours that are less than ideal. Retention for such jobs is low across the board, and training new hires is time consuming and expensive. No matter how good or bad the employee is at their job, the resulting package is the retailer’s principal touchpoint with the customer. A poorly packaged product in an oversized box with an ineffective void-fill can leave a bad taste in a customer’s mouth and discourage repeat business.

The box must be erected, filled, sealed, and labeled accurately and securely. This sequence of operations is an obvious candidate for automation but even in distribution centers that have made significant investments in automating storage and retrieval, packing is often still a largely manual process. This is likely because this operation seems too complex for automation, but this is a misconception. There are many automated packaging solutions that are sophisticated enough to get the job done this holiday season.

Packaging for the Future

The right automated packaging solutions create “right-size” boxes in seconds by scanning and measuring goods - whether they be single or multi-item orders - cutting to size and erecting a box, sealing, weighing, and labeling automatically. With this technology, one or two operators can pack over 1,000 parcels in a short amount of time. On average, it can replace up to 20 manual packing stations, which, in times such as these, means savings on labor, recruitment, training and HR costs.

The benefits of automated packing can be felt on the road as well. Less wasteful, more compact packages mean a higher density of commercial goods on vehicles. Ideally, a vehicle out for delivery would leave the warehouse with all the packages to be delivered in a full shift. But too often, the driver must make several trips back to ‘restock’, making a significant part of the driver’s day unproductive. Right-sized boxes through automated packaging systems can reduce the volume of goods by around 50 percent on average, potentially doubling the driver’s productivity and halving the vehicle’s impact on the environment.

Automated packaging solutions can help solve the labor crisis both now and in the future. With these systems, we can reduce waste, save on operating costs, and boost efficiency. The world of e-commerce is suffering, and the holidays will only make things harder. With automated packaging solutions, we can truly keep up with holiday demand and save Christmas.