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How often do you review your packing procedures? For far too many warehouses it's about once a century. And for most it's the same old problem – we haven't got time to stop and review our packing procedures, we're too busy packing.

Actually you may well be far busier than you need to be, employing outmoded or unnecessarily time-consuming packing practices. Stop, stand back and have a look around. What needs have changed? And how much faster would you pack stock and send it if you gave your whole packing operation a face lift? Let's find out.

Are your packers pros?

Let's start right at the heart of the process. Packers are like anyone; they take pride in their work. They're also judged on the accuracy of orders sent and the state of orders received by customers. Broken or damaged goods reflects badly on them. The danger then is over-fastidious packing that over-compensates.

Fragile items don't need to be individually wrapped in an entire copy of Saturday's newspaper. Set standard packing guidelines for all your stock and make sure packers follow them. Also train your packers in fast, effective packing techniques. Remind them that it's not a work of art, it's a work of action.

Is your floor plan plotting against you?

How much time do your packers spend wandering about the packing area retrieving things and placing things? How far from the packing bench are picked orders? Are all packing materials within easy reach?

Is the packing area right beside the outwards goods dock to minimise distances packed goods travel onto transport? These are all critical time in motion studies you need to do regularly.

Is your warehouse a train wreck?

No joke, busy people cut corners and in a busy, untidy warehouse, most of those corners will be obstacle-filled accidents waiting to happen. Yes, it takes a bit longer to put everything where it's supposed to be, but obstruction-free aisles are fast, user-friendly aisles.

Also get clever with what goes where. Put all your popular, regularly picked items at the front near the packing area. Put all your slow items at the back. If boxes are emptied onto shelves prior to picking, make sure your fast items have twice the shelf space so you're not running out all the time and constantly restocking shelves.

Are pre-packed items needlessly unpacked?

Often new stock arrives in your warehouse in a neat, pre-packed form that is immediately ripped apart so the stock can be stacked on shelves. Are you missing a trick here? If you have orders requiring the same amount of stock (or multiples thereof) to be packed up again, don't unpack it in the first place.

Create a system with inwards goods whereby such pre-packed goods can go straight to outwards goods, have postage slapped on them and be shipped straight out the door. There's a massive time saving right there.

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