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Optimize Cartonization and Lower Shipping Costs with Shipium’s Packaging Planner API

Packaging is a critical aspect of your fulfillment process, impacting operational efficiency, profitability, and customer satisfaction. But getting packaging right is easier said than done — vast (and constantly growing) product catalogs, disparate systems, and massive scale all make it difficult to optimize.

We built Shipium’s Packaging Planner API to help you overcome those challenges and make packaging inefficiency a thing of the past.

In this article, we’ll explore how the packaging process impacts key areas of your business, and how you can use Shipium to automate and optimize package selection.

When packaging goes wrong

A useful way to explain the importance of packaging efficiency is to examine what happens when items aren’t packed efficiently. 

There are three major consequences for your business when you ship items with the wrong packaging: lower overall supply chain inefficiency, excess shipping costs, and negative customer experience. 

Let’s look at each one in more detail.

Inefficiencies, across the board

Poorly-sized, inconsistent packaging causes inefficiencies throughout the fulfillment process, including key aspects like warehouse management and transportation. 

For example — larger packaging means that fewer items will fit on a delivery truck, which is fine if they’re large, high-value orders, but not if the packages are mostly filled with air. More trips need to be made to compensate for the fact that less packages are being moved per trip, which is both costly and wasteful.

When the same items are shipped using different packing — whether because of fulfillment center differences or changing availability of materials — there are real implications at the warehouse level, particularly in terms of space utilization. Variance in packaging means that a broader range of box sizes and packaging materials must be kept on hand, and that warehouse staff can’t standardize or optimize space usage — consider, for example, that uniform package sizes allow for stacking and a greater use of vertical space in a way that inconsistent sizes don’t.

Excessive (and avoidable) costs

The inefficiencies created by oversized packaging lead to excessive costs in a number of different areas — think higher Dimweight charges, increased waste and corresponding cost of materials, and higher storage costs driven by an inefficient use of space.

With a scalable, comprehensive system in place, there’s no reason why an organization should vastly overspend on shipping costs due to poor packaging. Unfortunately though, this is the reality for many companies who are still stitching together point solutions.

Lower customer satisfaction & negative brand perception

Poor cartonization doesn’t just negatively impact shipping efficiency and costs — it can also negatively impact a customer’s experience and perception of your (or a customer’s) brand. 

The most obvious way poor packaging can damage the customer experience is by damaging the product itself. For example, if a package is too big, and the item inside isn’t properly secured, it’s much more likely to shift around in transit and arrive damaged or broken.

Additionally, with a growing number of shoppers becoming aware of their impact on the environment, using excessive packaging can go so far as to damage brand perception and consumer trust.

package-selection Just think of the Dimweight charges.

Conversely, if a package is too small, it may not offer enough of a cushion to protect the item from damage during transit. 

In either case, the result is that the customer needs to (best case) exchange the product, simultaneously increasing costs while undercutting your initial delivery promise.

How Shipium’s Packaging Planner API helps

Packaging Planner API Blog Image

If you’re looking for a more efficient and scalable way to handle cartonization and overcome the challenges above, you’re in the right place. Using Shipium’s Packaging Planner API, you can automate & optimize the selection of package sizes, leading to:

  • Greater efficiency: Using the right-size packaging helps to ensure that you’re using your warehouse space and transportation resources as efficiently as possible.
  • Reduced shipping costs: As a result of enhanced efficiency, you can increase profitability by avoiding excessive Dimweight & storage charges, as well as by reducing the chance of a return.
  • Improved customer satisfaction/brand perception: By offering well-fitting packaging, you can ensure that customers’ purchases aren’t damaged in transit and proactively address sustainability/environmental concerns that could otherwise get in the way of brand loyalty.

Who should use the Packaging Planner API?

It's worth noting that in many cases, this is a problem best solved by the cartonization module available from your WMS. If you are using an industry leading WMS like Manhattan or Blue Yonder, we suggest always using that module first. There are a few simple reasons why:

  • Those modules are internal to the WMS and typically don’t require an API call, thus eliminating the round trip time of a request/response.
  • There are more robust features that can be linked to your specific inventory setup, and thus can be customized to your operations.
  • The module can be customized to your specific pick-and-pack workflow so that it’s the most optimized for associate pathways, which is a critical component of warehouse efficiency.

We always recommend going with your WMS’s cartonization product if available. Where our API comes into play is when you haven’t yet been able to select a leading WMS who offers this tool, or decided to build your own WMS and are looking to bring in a tool to help with this use case.

This has been a decent share of Shipium customers, which is why we built our Packaging Planner API. It’s most useful for the three following types of customers, which you may be one of:

  • You’re a third-party logistics (3PL) provider operating on a custom-built WMS, and looking for better cartonization options for your customers.
  • You’re an up-and-coming DTC brand without a robust warehouse management system (WMS) like Manhattan, and are looking to improve shipping performance while you grow to the point that you can invest in one.
  • You’re happy with your current WMS’s cartonization solution, but need similar functionality at the OMS level that your vendor doesn’t offer.

Common use cases

When exploring some of the common use cases for our Packaging Planner API, it’s helpful to distinguish between retailers selling directly to customers and 3PLs/logistics providers who execute fulfillment on behalf of their customers. 

As a retailer/DTC brand, you can leverage our Packaging Planner API to:

  • Minimize the air in a package: By right-sizing package types and sizes to fit one or more SKUs, you will reduce the possible amount of air, and thus put yourself in a situation to select a cheaper rate. It’s a key step in lowering shipping costs.
  • Cube out your trucks: Use uniform, efficient packaging to fill your trucks to 100% capacity, every time. 
  • Maximize warehouse performance: As mentioned above, optimizing and standardizing package sizes is a great way to ensure strong space utilization, efficiency of movement, and enhanced packing productivity at the warehouse level.
  • Reduce product damage: When items have enough room for protection, but not so much that they can be jostled in transit, they’re less likely to break — which is good for both you and your customers.

As a logistics solution provider, you might use this API to:

  • Automate package selection: When you’re managing fulfillment for many different enterprise retailers with thousands of orders each, it’s critical to eliminate as many manual processes as possible. By calling the Packaging Planner API and providing the necessary product details, you can completely automate the process of configuring boxes.
  • Adapt to dynamic and changing inventory: Your customers are constantly introducing new products and changing inventory levels to keep up with shopper preferences. Using the Packaging Planner API, you can simply provide the dimensions, quantities, and other relevant characteristics of new items, and Shipium will configure the boxes you need — enabling you to respond to changes rapidly.
  • Keep costs down: Optimized packaging leads to greater storage and transportation efficiency, less waste, and a lower chance of returns — all of which impact your bottom line.
  • Optimize warehouse performance: Gain more oversight of the packaging process at the warehouse level by using this API to ensure efficiency.

How it works

There are three ways to call this API: 

  1. Provide the full linear dimensions of the packaging and shipment contents in your API call.
  2. Define packaging IDs for your most common box types by providing the dimensions, weight, and material of each type, then pass the packagingId values in your API call. It’s worth noting that you also have the ability to define unsupported product types, such as lithium-ion batteries or is_ORMD.
  3. Group common box sizes into packaging sets, then include the packageSetId values in your API call.

If you choose option 2 or 3, you’ll need to configure your account to be able to call this API using packagingId or packageSetId. This is a straightforward process that involves adding package dimensions and weights directly from the Shipium Console (pictured below) — for step-by-step guidance, see our documentation.

packaging sets

For our purposes, let’s walk through an example cURL request and response if we choose option 1 — providing the full dimensions of packaging and shipment contents. Note that to do this, you’ll need to authenticate via API key or OAuth 2.0, as outlined in our documentation.

To retrieve packaging guidance from the API, send a POST request to the packaging planner endpoint with necessary information like item dimensions, weight, and product IDs. Here’s how that request might look:

curl --request POST \   --url \   --header 'accept: application/json' \   --header 'Authorization: Bearer YOUR_AUTH_STRING' \   --header 'content-type: application/json' \   --data '{   "packaging": [     {       "linearDimensions": {         "height": 1,         "length": 1,         "linearUnit": "in",         "width": 1       },       "maxContentWeight": {         "weight": 50,         "weightUnit": "lb"       },       "packagingMaterial": "box",       "packagingSizeName": "1x1x1",       "packagingWeight": {         "weight": 1,         "weightUnit": "lb"       }     },

Shipium will then calculate appropriate package sizes for the items you provided, and return a response with an array of objects representing packages and their contents.The response will include the number of boxes used, dimensions & weight of each box, items packed, and the packaging efficiency.

{    "packageCount":1,    "unpackableItems":[],    "packages":[       {          "linearDimensions":{             "linearUnit":"in",             "length":5.5,             "height":5,             "width":5          },          "maxContentWeight":{             "weight":100,             "weightUnit":"oz"          },          "packagingWeight":{             "weight":2,             "weightUnit":"oz"          },          "packagingMaterial":"box",          "packagingSizeName":"5x5x5",          "packageEstimatedWeight":{             "weight":3,             "weightUnit":"oz"          },          "packageContents":[             {                "productLinearDimensions":{                   "width":1,                   "length":2,                   "height":1,                   "linearUnit":"in"                },                "productId":"item2",                "productWeight":{                   "weight":2,                   "weightUnit":"oz"                },                "quantity":2,                "productDetails":[                                   ]             }          ]       }    ],    "volumetricPackEfficiency":46.55 }

As you can see, you can boost the efficiency of a shipment in just a few quick steps.

It’s worth noting that the Packaging Planner API is available across the Shipium platform, and isn’t tied to a specific solution.

Wrapping up

Packaging efficiency has a huge impact on your overall shipping productivity, costs, and customer experience. By leveraging Shipium’s Packaging Planner API, you can quickly automate and optimize cartonization — ensuring that you’re making the best use of space within your warehouses and trucks, avoiding excess shipping costs, and sustainably delivering on the promise you make to your customers.

If you’re looking for a more scalable way to manage packaging, feel free to schedule a call with our team of experts to discuss your use case.