The importance of packing verification is growing. Packing accuracy is a challenge all shippers must address. It helps you remain competitive and keep your customers happy. Add up the full cost of a packing error: customer service time, product and packaging costs, re-shipping, estimated impact on future sales, etc. In most cases the full cost is $10-$12 per error. If you’re shipping 50+ orders a day, you’re likely spending a bundle on human error and upsetting a number of customers each month. But what if you could make packing accuracy foolproof?
What if every item packed was passed across a barcode scanner, simultaneously verifying it’s correct and checking it off a digital pick list for the order? The technology to do this is not new, nor is the concept. In fact, some of your competitors are likely already using a system like this to assure accuracy and remove human error from the packing process.
It’s called packing verification. It’s easier (and less expensive) to add than you think. Almost nothing about your current process will change. Here’s a quick how-to on implementing a scan and pack system for your business.
Packing verification starts with the barcode. You may already have barcodes on your items. Many sellers are now adding barcodes as they start selling through Amazon’s FBA program. Once you have a system for barcoding a SKU, the rest go quickly. Some packing verification software includes the option to generate and print the barcodes for you.
If you have items too small for barcodes, consider polybagging. If you have a large number of un-barcoded items in inventory, we recommend starting with the highest volume items and working your way towards the clearance items. Make sure your biggest sellers get coded first.
Barcodes can be printed in a variety of ways, but often a thermal printer that can handle 3″x1″ label stock is the right tool for the job. Most printers that use rolls of 4″x6″ stock for creating shipping labels can also accept 3″x1″.
Consider what barcode format is best for your business. Code 128 for internal use tends to work best. It is read by nearly all scanners, supports one of the largest character sets, uses check digits for accuracy, and is reasonably dense so barcodes do not need to be overly wide. If you’ll be using registered barcodes (purchased from GS1 or resellers) you may use UPC-A which is often used in U.S. Retail. 2-D barcodes, like QR codes, allow you to encode a great deal more data into the code. However, they are overkill for most barcoding applications. By sticking to 1-D barcodes (the one made up of vertical lines) you can save money on your scanning hardware.
Most scanners support a variety of 1-D barcode formats. High-end models tend to read faster and are able to successfully read slightly damaged or poorly printed barcodes. This saves you time and time is money. But money is also money, and some scanners are available for as low as $20 if your budget is tight. These scanners can get the job done initially, but they often die after a couple of drops. Anything used by hand a lot will eventually be dropped. Getting a desk-mounted scanner will lessen the likelihood of drops.
If moving around is a requirement, wireless bluetooth scanners are readily available. Some of them work well with IOS like these Socket scanners. As long as the scanner is able to read your barcode format, it should have no trouble sending the data to the computer you’re using for scan and pack verification.
Get Scan and Pack Terminal and Software
First of all, you’ll want a terminal with a screen. The packer can benefit from visual prompts and feedback as well as audible feedback during the packing process. Use a computer that is up to the task of running the software. System requirements will vary depending on the packing software you’re using. If the software is web-based, the terminal simply needs a connected scanner, reliable internet access, speakers or headphones, and some free ram.
The Chrome web browser works well for web apps and a Chromebook is an excellent option for adding a packing terminal. They are inexpensive and essentially built for running web apps. Their light weight makes them very portable. They also have a full keyboard as well as USB ports and bluetooth support.
The software is our specialty. GroovePacker offers a cost effective software option. Plus, we’re integrated with ecomdash, allowing our web-based system to run alongside their shipping management solution. This gives you the ability to add GroovePacker without retraining or reworking your existing processes.
Adding a packing verification system to your ecommerce business saves you time, money, and wins you customers. Happy customers are repeat customers and great salespeople via word-of-mouth marketing. Making sure your orders stay accurate is a key component of your financial success.