How many staff members does it take to ship a single package in your warehouse? Does every order go through the same process? Does many of your packages have the same weight and dimensions. If so, you may be able to streamline the process with pre-manifesting to ship faster and free up staff to focus on other important work your warehouse.
A faster, more cost-effective approach is pre-manifesting. This process is very similar to “batch processing or “shipping from a file (See CLS Glossary for more information). About 70% of all shipping is called pick and pack. Items are exactly that – they are picked and packed, typically randomly, into a one or many boxes that make up a shipment.
The First Step: Rethinking the Order-to-Shipping Workflow
Following is a generalized fulfillment workflow that is commonly followed by many companies:
- First, a picker gets the item from the warehouse.
- Next, the item is packed at a packing station and then sent to a shipping station
- At the shipping station, the package is weighed, and a shipping label is printed and applied.
In this scenario, all packages are handled in the same way, with the same amount of “touches” to pick, pack and ship the order, even if many of them are identical in every way except for the customer address. For some shipments (particularly those with known weights and destinations) there may be more efficient ways to handle these “standard” packages.
Pre-manifesting, for example, can deliver considerable time and reduce the labor to process shipments.
What is Shipment Pre-Manifesting?
Pre-manifesting is the process of creating order-specific documents, such as packing lists, invoices and shipping labels, prior to creating the pick order. The shipping label is typically applied at the beginning of picking process, particularly if you are shipping full cases or items of known weights, rather than at end of the process at the shipping station.
If you can ship the item in its existing carton, this pre-labeled package can then skip the packing process and the weighing stage of the shipping process, reducing the number of touch points needed by your packers and shippers. In effect, the packer adds the label to the package, and it can bypass both the packing the shipping station, resulting in far less labor and faster fulfillment.
Pre-manifesting yields two significant savings in the labor required to process shipments:
- Labor is reduced by 2 out of 3 traditional shipping steps because placing the label on the package at the pint of picking eliminates both the packing and shipping steps. The time savings are dramatic.
- Pre-manifested packages can also bypass the pick, pack and ship workflow, removing the need for additional packing/shipping stations or packing and shipping stations.
Which Orders Are Best for Pre-Manifesting Benefits?
Again, pre-manifesting works very well on orders in which you already know the weight and destination of a package at the beginning of the shipping process. For example, your company sells dinnerware.
- You receive an order for 40 dinner plates.
- Your fulfillment system stores exact item weights for every product and can transfer this data the rest of the order details to your shipping system.
- The shipping system should be able to calculate out the total package weight and print a shipping label before the package has even been assembled.
- The label printing process takes place upstream, and the shipping label is printed and applied by the packer.
- This process eliminates the need for order to go to the shipping station for weighing and labeling.
- Several touches are eliminated from the process, for faster, more efficient fulfillment.
Pre-manifesting, and “ship from a file” and “batch shipping” all work well where clients’ addresses, package weights and package contents are known in advance. It works well in cases when a particular product being such has standard weight items to fulfill back orders, such as DVDs that all need to be released on the same day (pack and hold), as well as many other standard packed items.
The key to successful pre-manifesting lies in the right combination of technology and workflow. At a minimum, it requires:
- Order management of inventory system that can capture product items, weights, etc.
- Ability to monitor inventory levels to ensure the order can be fulfilled.
- Well-defined integration for two-way communication between the order, WMS and shipping systems.
- Multi-carrier shipping software that can be configured to put pre-manifesting in place.
Your process will require flexible multi-carrier shipping software that can be integrated to receive order and item details, calculate weights, determine the optimal delivery method and a variety of carrier labels and release these orders on command.
Can Pre-manifesting Deliver Time and Labor Savings for You?
If you know the weight of the majority of the items you ship, pre-manifesting can yield huge cost savings in your shipping process. By moving shipping document and label production to the beginning of the order fulfillment workflow, you can reduce steps for staff at the shipping station, since they will have to weigh and label fewer of the packages coming down the line. It does not work as well in operations that require significant post-picking activity, such as repacking, inspection or special handling.
If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of pre-manifesting, Creative Logistics Solutions can help. Please contact us today.
Rick Williams is a transportation management expert with 40 years of experience in shipping and supply chain operations and technology. CLS has worked with many companies to streamline workflow and improve productivity in the warehouse through the combination of streamlined workflows integrated with multi-carrier shipping software, integrated pack/ship stations, data collection solutions and more.
CLS has worked with many companies to streamline workflow and improve productivity in the warehouse through the combination of streamlined workflows integrated with multi-carrier shipping software, integrated pack/ship stations, data collection solutions and more.