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Focus on the “Last Mile” to Optimize Fulfillment

1May 2021

E-commerce consumers’ “order it now—get it pronto” preferences have transformed the world of retail. This increased demand for speed is prompting companies in the Twin Cities area and worldwide to rethink their final steps of delivery—the “last mile.”

Meeting consumers’ expectations can mean repeat business—yet this is just one benefit for companies that focus on their fulfillment practices. Improved processes, smarter materials-purchasing and packaging automation help e-commerce brands save time, reduce costs and improve safety, too.

Jewelry retailer Stauer in Burnsville, MN, is preparing for its busiest time of the year—the 2021 holiday season when online buyers shop 24/7 and with high expectations. Stauer is working with Veritiv to leverage automation, streamline packaging material purchases and improve its fulfillment area’s workflow.

Veritiv’s Enterprise Account Manager Kenneth Walker and Equipment Specialist Tony Todd share three fulfillment optimization strategies.

Consolidate packaging materials

To have the right packaging materials on hand, many facilities end up over-ordering and wasting valuable warehouse space on packaging instead of products. Walker says smaller, just-in-time deliveries can combat this problem. He recommends reducing the types of packaging materials on hand and using smaller packaging that requires less storage. Both improvements decrease material and shipping costs, too.

“We often suggest getting away from boxes and going to mailers, flow wrappers or priority packs,” Walker says. “Companies want their packaging to be custom and branded. But if you only need 500 boxes, how can you do that cost-effectively? One solution is to use custom labels instead of custom-printed boxes.”

Automate for speed, safety and savings

Walker and Todd share several examples that leverage automation and other technologies to increase fulfillment velocity and consistency, reduce labor costs and improve safety, including:

  • Robotic packing and palletizing
  • Automatic label applicators for shipping, hazmat and other information
  • Automatic stretch wrap machines
  • Smart glasses that give workers useful visual cues as they pick and sort products

While some workers may at first resist automation, Todd says technology can win them over. “Repetitive motion is taxing on the body, and it’s a health risk,” he says. “Plus, automation doesn’t necessarily need to replace employees. It can be used to reallocate resources so people can do more complex tasks while robots and equipment take care of the repetitive work.”

For faster delivery, focus on fulfillment

Streamlining packaging materials and using automation can lead to impressive results, with businesses recouping their initial investment in months, not years. Todd says this is possible when e-commerce sellers look at all fulfillment steps that lead up to delivery—not just the last mile. “Everyone wants their order on their doorstep as fast as possible,” he states. “To deliver quickly and efficiently, you need to sort, pick, package, palletize and ship quickly via automation.”

Veritiv is committed to helping businesses optimize the last mile of e-commerce fulfillment. Contact us to learn more.

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