5 Signs It’s Time To Automate Your Packaging

How do you know your packaging process would benefit from automation? Is it costing you money to package the way you do now? Could you be saving more capital you’d invest elsewhere in your business for future growth?

Take a look at some signs your company would benefit from automating your packaging process below:

  1. Your Cost of Labor

How much does labor cost you to package your products? If your costs are driving your profit margins down, you may be ready for automated packaging. It has an up-front cost. But the machinery costs much less to maintain than it does to pay employees over the long haul.

  1. The Type of Product You Package

If you package a similar product with the same size and shape repeatedly, you may be ready for automated packaging. However, it doesn’t make sense if you have different-size and shape products because that boosts machinery costs. Manual labor makes more sense if you routinely package products that vary in size.

  1. You Can’t Meet Customer Demand

Have you lost customers because you can’t keep up with what they need? Do you have difficulty training and managing temporary workers so you can continually meet what your customers order?

If keeping up with customer demand feels like an impossible task, you may be ready for automation.

  1. It’s Been Too Long Since You Last Audited Your Processes

You use manual labor to a great extent now. Your company has grown rapidly in recent years. When that happens, it’s easy to make snap decisions just to meet demand and keep the customer happy. You keep doing this for some time so you continue to grow.

It’s a good problem to have. Once things settle down, consider auditing your own processes. You may be running quite inefficiently, and especially so with your labor costs. And automation may make more sense at this point.

  1. Your Packaging Line Can’t Keep Up with Manufacturing Output

Whether you’re the manufacturer, or if you purchase the product from someone who makes it more cost-effectively, if you can’t package fast enough to keep up with the product you receive, you have a problem. You can hire more staff. But then it costs more time and money to manage everyone. It also adds more stress too.

Consider investing in packaging automation at this point instead.

Concerned about the cost and efficiency of your packaging processes? Call Pollock at 855.239.5153 today.

4 Top Reasons to Assess Your Stretch Film

Stretch film breaks a lot, somewhere around 3 to 7 times per average roll. Because the employees who stretch wrap your product are so busy, they don’t have the time to figure out the true cause of the break. So, the problem continues happening. And when manufacturing and packaging are so hyper-competitive and focused on efficiency, every little problem adds up.

Most employees simply turn the wrap force down so the film no longer breaks. But that may or may not solve the real cause of the problem.

So let’s cover in detail why you want to assess your stretch film:

  1. Save Time and Money

When you use your time and money in the ideal way, you’re as strong of a competitor as you can be. Your position in the market is never secure, even if you are a larger company. So, any little way you can find to save time and money counts.

Your competitors may not do this, minimizing the importance it has. So, it can be a nice little boost to your market position, keeping you slightly more secure.

  1. Solve the Problem with A Simple, Cost-Effective Solution

What type of stretch wrap do you use? HDPE, LLDPE, LDPE, PVC, or PP? Get supplier data sheets on them all. Say you find out that you’re not using the right type of stretch wrap for your applications.

All you need to do is switch the type. You may also find an alternative like rubber bands, plastic straps, or glue that works even better.

Problem solved.

  1. Reduce the Chance of Incurring A Number of Expenses

If your stretch film isn’t quite doing its job, a couple of bad (and costly) things can happen. Boxes can fall down and injure workers. You immediately take a dip in productivity, and you may face a civil lawsuit or have to pay worker’s compensation. Your products may get damaged.

In both cases, they’re otherwise unnecessary costs. You could eliminate them with either the right stretch wrap, or a different solution.

  1. Boost Your Revenue

Take a look at this realistic example to see how much revenue you can produce with stretch wrap. A realistic figure is about 3.5 cents per pound of stretch wrap. Multiply that by using 200,000 pounds of stretch wrap annually, and you get $7,000 in gross revenue.

Employee training costs about .5 cents per pound ($1,000 annually). Special containers cost about .375 cents per pound ($750 annually). Baling labor and wire strapping cost about .750 cents per pound ($1,500 annually). Labor costs for transporting the stretch wrap from the dock to baler run about .01 cents per pound ($2,000 annually). Those costs total $5,250. Subtract that from $7,000, and you get $1,750 in additional revenue per 200,000 pounds of stretch film used.

Stretch film may not seem like a huge consideration. But it is, and especially so the larger your company gets.

Overwhelmed on calculating the expense and optimizing your efficiency? Call Pollock at 855.239.5153 today.

5 Tips for Storing, Replenishing, and Managing Your Cleaning Supplies

Managing your cleaning supplies seems to sometimes be a full-time effort in itself. When you do it right, it’s hard work.

So, make sure you get the most out of your effort with these tips:

  1. Remember, Safety First

Don’t store your cleaning supplies in temperature extremes. Consider checking your storage room’s temperature from time-to-time to make sure it’s ventilated like you expect. Stock everything so it stays out of the reach of children, if that’s a potential concern at your organization. Also, keep your cleaning chemicals away from your HVAC ventilation so you don’t spread the fumes throughout your entire building.

  1. Proactively Order with Software

Managing your cleaning supplies with software takes a little bit of work up front. Entering the data and checking to make sure it’s accurate is time-consuming. However, it saves you lost of time throughout the year. So, it can be a viable solution for more effectively managing your inventory.

  1. Consider Outsourcing This, Or Asking Your Current Vendor to Do the Management for You

If you have a vendor maintaining the cleanliness of your building already, consider asking them to manage your supplies too. If they’re already experienced, they’ll know how to do this more effectively than you, which saves you more time and money. Plus, you already have a known vendor you trust so you don’t have to go through the research and selection process again.

  1. Understand OSHA Regulations

The government has a bit of a hand in the storage of your workplace’s cleaning supplies too. Make sure you know what OSHA wants to see so you keep your workplace safe – and OSHA happy. It’s easy to forget their standards when you get caught up in other business operations.

  1. Coordinate Your Team and Establish Standard Processes

Will you have just one person in charge of managing your cleaning supplies? If you have a large amount to manage, they may need some help. Regardless, it’s a good idea to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Your employees need to understand that they should promptly notify the manager when a certain cleaning product will be gone. They should be able to easily identify unsafe use or storage of your cleaning supplies. When everyone works together, it’s so much easier to manage it all – and fewer mistakes are made.

Follow those five tips, and you’ll find it much easier to effectively manage all your cleaning supplies.

3 Top Types of Safety Gear and Strategies for Cleaning Pros

Cleaning doesn’t sound like a dangerous profession to most people. But as an experienced cleaning professional or team manager, you know that’s not the truth. Many severe injuries, and even deaths, happen annually because of cleaning accidents.

And many of those happen because of mistakes in how employees wear (or don’t wear) their safety gear. Here’s some tips for your cleaning team to stay safe in 2017:

  1. Your Team Members Must Know Their Body

This one gets overlooked often. Awkward position, using force to do a task, staying in the same position for long periods of time, and continuous pressure on any part of your team member’s body can lead to injury. “Continuous pressure” could mean things like kneeling for a long time on a bathroom floor.

You and your team members must be aware of these situations, and you should develop strategies to minimize the harm they cause. Knee pads, for example, could be used to nearly eliminate pain, discomfort, and potential injury from kneeling.

  1. Using PPE For Safe Handling of Cleaning Chemicals

You should have a policy in place, regular training, and incentive for using PPE. It’s so easy for your cleaning team to get out of the habit of using it when necessary. If they have to handle cleaning chemicals, safety glasses (with side shields), splash goggles, a face shield, nonslip shoes, gloves, and a rubber apron should be worn.

Not only does this keep your cleaning team safe, but it nearly eliminates the threat of your company getting involved in a lawsuit.

  1. Remember to Use Ergonomics To Minimize Your Risk of Injury

There’s a safest way to do nearly everything. In fact, there’s so much to go through we can’t cover it all here.

However, here’s some things your team can do to use ergonomics to their advantage so they don’t get injured:

  • Distribute cleaning materials evenly around waste barrels as you push them to minimize the chances of it tipping over
  • Never assume office or workplace trash cans all weigh the same. Always lift them with your back straight and knees bent
  • Whenever you need to move furniture, use harnesses, rolling carts, and other equipment whenever available
  • Wrap padding around bucket handles to minimize pressure on your hand
  • Use mop heads that aren’t known to shed threads so you minimize your risk of slipping and falling (or causing the same for your customers)s

Again, there’s dozens more we could go through. But, this gives you an idea of what to look for.

Safety First Always Wins the Day

When you put safety first, you build the respect of your cleaning team. They avoid injuries. Your company avoids civil lawsuits and worker’s compensation claims.

It’s a big win for everyone involved. So make safety a priority at your organization today.

How to Maintain Strong Relationships with Your Vendors

Running a successful retail enterprise takes strong relationship building skills. You’ll have numerous vendors you must work with.

How do you stay on good working terms with them? It’s not easy, even if you have good vendors. Conflict and mistakes are simply a normal part of human relationships.

Here’s some ideas for building and maintaining strong relationships with your vendors:

  1. Reward Desirable Behaviors Rather Than Punishing Ones You Don’t Want

You’ll have to decide how this actually looks in your relationship. But, the general idea is that in your vendor compliance program, you aim to offer rewards for goals met while avoiding punishing undesirable behaviors.

Why?

Because punishment leads to anxiety and stress, and vendors simply trying to avoid your punishment. They don’t necessarily aim to provide you with better service.

When you incent the behavior you want, that causes vendors to look at what they can do, rather than avoiding what they shouldn’t do at all costs. They’ll feel more relaxed. They’ll like you better. And you’ll have a stronger relationship.

  1. Treat Your Vendor with Respect, Even If They Don’t Deserve It

Sometimes vendors behave poorly. It happens. Even when they do, treat them with respect. It’s going to get you the best response from your vendor.

Pay them on or ahead of time. Always be polite in your communications. Only discuss your concerns when legitimate, instead of nit-picking.

The old saying “what goes around comes around” holds very true in vendor relationships.

  1. Share Your Vision and Goals for Your Relationship

Your vendor may not fully understand what you really want to get out of the relationship. Make sure you share that with them from the start. If they have a change in management, make sure to articulate this to the new manager. Suggest things your vendor can do to help them improve their service to you even more.

  1. Be Willing To Let Go of Some Vendors

Finally, not all relationships are meant to be. Sometimes you can’t get on the same page. Others, you have vendors more interested in profit than your relationship. This happens.

When it does, it’s time to end the relationship. If your current vendor isn’t doing their part to make your happy, you’re better off finding another one who will.

By implementing these four tips, you’ll have strong relationships with vendors that bear dividends for both you and them. It’s a natural win-win-win for you, your vendor, and your customers. And that’s something every business appreciates.

5 Best Practices to Cut Costs in Your Warehouse or Distribution Center

In retail, every little edge counts. The biggest companies all have their warehouses and distribution centers (and their supply chains too) monitored and optimized for greatest efficiency. That’s how they keep their market-leading positions.

What are some things you can do to optimize the efficiency and reduce the costs, at your warehouse or distribution center? Here are a few:

  1. Make Sure You Have a Vendor Compliance Program in Place

How should your vendors work with you to give you the best service and most efficient shipping? Create a compliance program that sets standards every vendor should follow.

Labeling, standard quantities, product identification, how trucks are stocked, and tracking should all be a part of these. The most effective vendor compliance programs avoid punishing vendors for non-compliance where possible. Instead, to get the greatest cooperation from your vendor, incent vendors with rewards for remaining in compliance.

  1. Eliminate All Unnecessary Steps in Your Processes

Where possible, have your employees pick directly to a shipping carton instead of a bin they use to move product to where it needs to be shipped. Not a huge thing, but it all adds up when you focus on the small things. In our experience, most warehouses have at least a handful of unnecessary steps in place, so it’s worth your time analyzing every step in your processes to see what you need, and what you don’t.

This could also include analyzing the layout and storage of product in your warehouse. You may want to optimize it to minimize wasted employee movement, for example.

  1. If You Have A Big Warehouse or Distribution Center, Consider Cross-Docking

With cross-docking, you completely bypass unloading, storage, and then reloading the product. You simply take the product from your existing transportation container and move it onto the next one.

It’s hard to set up at first. But once you have it in place, you get significant cost and time savings.

  1. Optimize Your Usage of Vertical Storage Space

Taller containers can make a big difference in how much product you can store in your warehouse or distribution center. Combine bins with shelving to optimize your storage space closer to the floor. When you optimize all your storage, you can keep more in the same amount of space, without having to consider an expensive expansion.

  1. Streamline Picking

Ideally, you’ll use warehouse management software to do this. You’ll have to look at how you use materials in your warehouse.

A couple of examples for optimizing your picking operations include storing frequently sold items near the front of your warehouse and storing items sold together next to one another. This minimizes picking delays and wasted movement. Using these examples, you’ll likely have a good idea of where you can make efficiency gains.

If you follow these five best practices, you’ll find yourself with more efficient operations and lower costs than ever before.

How to Choose the Right Industrial Packaging Partner

What differentiates one industrial packaging company from another? As you talk to them, you’ll notice they generally offer similar products to one another. So, why would you choose a particular one instead of the least expensive one?

The truth is that there are many ways industrial packaging companies differentiate from one another. How do you find that out?

Here’s a few tips on that:

  1. What Results Have They Actually Delivered?

Any good salesperson should have a number of stories they can tell about problems they’ve solved for customers, and the precise results those customers have gotten from their services. Ideally, they have a customer story/case study to discuss that matches the problem you’re facing right now.

They should be able to communicate the amount of money saved in clear, understandable terms.

  1. They Know How to Help You Rethink Your Operations

Experienced and qualified industrial packaging companies don’t just understand your company and how you operate. They can look at your current operations and provide immediate suggestions for improvement in new ways you hadn’t considered before.

Industrial packaging companies can do this because of their own experience in your industry. Others cannot because they don’t have as much skill at solving the problems you face.

  1. Comprehensive Service Offering

Highly experienced and successful industrial packaging companies know how to solve a long list of problems. Their expertise may even extend well beyond industrial packaging. The longer their selection of solutions, the stronger the company they are.

  1. Grill Them During Your Free Assessment

The best way to find out if an industrial packaging partner really is a good fit for you is by asking them tough questions. You have to know they’ve solved the problem you’re facing for companies exactly like yours in the past. Ask them for examples of how they’ve done so. If they don’t have a good one, ask them to walk you through how they might solve the problem you have now.

You’ll be able to understand if they have the capability to provide the solution you need.

  1. Check for Industry Recognitions and Awards

Awards can be highly political, or earned through true excellence. See if the company you’re considering has been recognized by any authoritative bodies. Research how the distinction is chosen, and give the company a call if you can’t find accurate information online.

Finding the Right Industrial Packaging Partner Is A Process

When all’s said and done, choosing the right industrial packaging company takes hard work. Only by comparing all the vendors after talking with them and researching them can you get to know which one makes most sense for you.

4 “Smart Shifts” Your Industrial Packaging Partner Can Help You Make

 

Here at Pollock, we have something we call “Smart Shifts.” What are “Smart Shifts?”

Simply put, it involves making the right shifts in operations so you make the biggest measurable gains in productivity, yield, speed, and quality. They can vary somewhat by industry.

Regardless, when you make a “Smart Shift,” your company experiences some cool benefits. Take a look at a few examples of Smart Shifts some companies can make:

  1. Re-Analyzing and Optimizing Your Processes

When you do the same thing day in and day out for years, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. This isn’t just true in production lines. It’s true for nearly everything human beings do.

So, your processes are one of the first places to look to get measurable results. With your processes, the best things to check are equipment, process bottlenecks, and opportunities for automation. Typically, manual labor processes that require large amounts of such labor have the biggest opportunity for savings and efficiency gains.

  1. Using Automation to Reduce Your Dependency on Temporary Labor

Temporary workers cost less to hire and give you the flexibility you need when you need it. However, the hidden cost of temporary labor has long-term repercussions when you rely on it too much.

You constantly have to train and supervise temporary staff. You can’t always rely on temporary labor to be there when you need it. And you never know the quality of the workers. Automation has a higher up-front cost, but it can put an end to these problems and others presented by temporary labor, giving you a nice long-term ROI.

  1. Optimizing Packaging Design and The Systems Used to Package Your Products

There’s no doubt that changes in packaging design, and the systems you use for packaging, seem small. But, you have to remember to multiply the changes by the number of products you produce over a given time frame to see your true ROI. Many companies easily rationalize and minimize small changes that add up to massive savings.

  1. Protecting Your Pallets

Does your company store large amounts of product on pallets? Then you may have some big savings opportunities available. The greatest inefficiencies in pallet protection come in how you wrap your pallets.

In some cases, employees don’t wrap them properly, which later leads to the goods on board being damaged. Also, wrap that is too thick may be used, which drives up your costs unnecessarily.

These are some possibilities for “Smart Shifts” you can make to increase your efficiency. There are many others too. Now, you have an idea of what can be done to boost your savings fast.

9 Benefits You Get When You Choose the Right Industrial Packaging Partner

Choosing the right industrial packaging partner takes extensive research and hard work. But, once you have the right company in place, you get a number of benefits you didn’t have before.

Check out just some of those:

  1. Reduced Packaging Cost Without Sacrificing Quality

Cutting costs is always good, but they’re even better when you don’t have to give up anything to get those reduced costs. An experienced industrial packaging partner knows how to help you decrease your packaging costs without negatively affecting the package itself in any way.

  1. Lower Labor Costs

An industrial packaging partner can help you improve the efficiency of your processes, eliminating many of the man-hours needed with your packaging. Not only do you free up additional capital, but you also reduce the time necessary for supervising and managing these employees.

  1. Greater Staff Productivity

The employees that remain on your team will be more productive with the help of the right industrial packaging partner. Because of their higher levels of productivity, they’ll also be happier workers.

  1. Faster Time to Market

With the right industrial packaging partner, you’ll have your product packaged faster. That means you can get your product onto the shelves of stores faster. And, if you have a new product, or if you’re in intense competition, you’ll have an edge for winning.

  1. Clear Understanding of Your ROI

The right industrial packaging partner helps you accurately understand the ROI you get from their services. You’ll know exactly what you’re getting back, and how much capital you have available to invest in other business ventures.

  1. Reliable Technical Support

No implementation or optimization of any process goes perfectly. Every company faces challenges. The right industrial packaging partner minimizes these in the first place, and also provides excellent technical support for resolving these issues when they do happen.

  1. Using Environmentally Friendly Materials Where It Makes Sense

Making your packaging green is a nice side benefit. It helps build trust and confidence with your employees. And you can market the fact you do this to your customers too, which also improves their opinion of your product and company.

  1. Your Reputation at Work Improves

Do all these benefits sound good? They make you look good too! When you choose the right industrial packaging partner, they not only deliver your company some nice benefits, they improve your status at work too because you made a good decision.

  1. Nearly Instant Access to All These Benefits

The right industrial packaging partner gets you all these benefits basically right away. They’re ready to implement new processes and help you solve your most pressing business problems. If you choose to do the same in-house, you may have to wait many years and suffer several setbacks before you finally get them.

Packaging Tips For 3PL Companies To Make 2017 Your Best Year Yet

Mis-picks, mis-packs and general shipping errors are the quickest ways to drive profitability out of operations. This becomes a bigger problem when unhappy customers start questioning why they ever started doing business with you and might never do business with you again. There’s absolutely no doubt that logistics and supply chain issues are critical to any 3pl’s success. But you don’t always need large-scale overhauls that require months to implement to get dramatic improvements.

Below, we’ve listed 6 smaller, less overwhelming ways to improve your packaging and shipping processes in 2017.

  1. Inventory should be positioned strategically. 

If your company ships from more than one location, place D movers in just one location, but A & B movers in both to reduce inventory carrying costs. It can also reduce your inbound shipping costs too. If you need a hundred D movers, put them where the labor costs and warehouse space are lowest.

  1. Packing materials and boxes should be kept close at hand.

It is important to reduce the steps in the warehouse. Keeping packing materials, tapes and boxes, at the shipping workstation will help reduce the steps your employees will have to take to go somewhere else to pick up the bubble wrap or a box.

  1. Pick into the actual shipping box.

Have employees pick into a pre-labeled shipping box whenever possible to save time processing orders. This option is particularly helpful when almost all orders fit in boxes of a standard-size.

  1. Wireless mobile printers. 

Companies should outfit their warehouse staff with wearable label printers that can merge 2 steps into 1. When they pick ready to ship, prepackaged items, these printers are programmed to print shipping labels when these items are scanned.

  1. Try on-demand packaging.  

Now that dimensional weight is an industry standard, rightsizing packaging is more critical than ever. This will enhance sustainability and reduce shipping and packaging costs.

  1. Work with a packaging and shipping systems professional
    Finding a balance between meeting merchandising demands and satisfying customers is no simple task. When you team up with experts, your company will avoid expensive decisions that obstruct fulfillment operations. However, working with a packaging and shipping systems professional will help you reach profitability goals. Having someone help you reduce costs by eliminating non value added steps and automating packaging processes will be invaluable to your company.

By partnering with a packaging and shipping systems professional at Pollock, you’ll get the best packaging solutions that’ll save money and time on your packaging and shipping processes.

How have efficient packaging methods helped your company?  Have you increased output or saved money or time?  Let us know below.