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Redesign Your Shipping Department for Optimal Workflow

If your shipping room isn’t set up for smooth, efficient transactions, you may end up with a costly bottleneck.

Industrial engineers have been studying shipping room challenges for generations, and they’ve come up with some highly dependable techniques to make sure that staff can get every order out the door on schedule, shift after shift. The Japanese discipline of 5S organization is particularly useful for this task, and all it takes to implement is a little time and determination.

Here’s a five-step process to improve shipping efficiency based on the 5S methodology.

    1. Sort.

    If your shipping room is cramped and disorganized, staff will lose time on every order as they rummage around for the right shipping container or squeeze past each other in narrow aisles.

    To get your shipping room humming along smoothly, start by sorting different areas into three categories: value-added, non-value-added, and non-value-added but necessary. If you have a shelf full of unusable spare parts, for instance, that’s an obvious non-value-added space. Keep your value-added and necessary spaces; clear out the rest. BHS Shipping and Receiving Desk

    2. Streamline.

    The next step is to arrange work materials for quick access. Store your most-used shipping materials in the easiest-to-reach places, and separate orders by type, with clear labels on every shelf.

    Shipping desks with adjustable steel shelving, like the BHS Shipping/Receiving Desk from Solus Group, help you streamline your order packing stations. Set up each desk for its precise purpose; not only will work get done faster, staff will enjoy valuable ergonomic benefits.

    3. Sanitize.

    Regular deep cleaning provides benefits that go way beyond aesthetics. Staff can use the daily cleaning ritual as a chance to inspect equipment as they go, and tidying up reduces time-wasting clutter. Plus, orderly workspaces have been shown to improve job satisfaction.

    Steel shelving and powder-coated steel desks are easy to keep clean and organized. The Global Wall-Mount Desk from Solus Group, for instance, provides a smooth, nonporous steel surface for all shipping room tasks.

    4. Standardize.

    Once your team determines the best practices for each job, managers should standardize those operations. Employees should follow specified routes for each order type and keep a standard flow of goods.

    Of course, efficiency isn’t the only goal. Ergonomic improvements like variable-height workstations reduce musculoskeletal disorders and keep staff comfortable throughout the whole shift. For some common tasks, like building or unloading pallets, a BHS Scissor Lift Table fitted with a rotating tabletop will improve efficiency and ergonomics simultaneously.

    5. Sustain.

    Now that you’ve got your workspace organized and your procedures down pat, it’s time to keep the improvements working. Including floor staff in the decision-making process will help with compliance, but managers may want to complete periodic workplace audits to make sure everyone sticks to best practices.

There’s an added bonus to implementing a 5S process in your shipping department: it brings together staff from every level of your organizational hierarchy, fostering team cohesion. Managers may supervise the process, but engineers offer detailed analysis, while front-line workers provide crucial real-world experience.

An organized workplace is an efficient workplace, and that goes double for the shipping room. With a little forethought and a well-trained team, you’ll drastically improve your order-filling process — and overall shipping efficiency.


Ergonomic Guidelines for Manual Material Handling.” CDC. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2007. PDF. 1 Nov. 2015.

Irani, Shahrukh. "Savvy Students Help Shipping Department Move." Industrial Engineer: IE 45.7 (2013): 30. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

5S Comprehensive Training, Education and Resource Center.” Creativesafetysupply. Creative Safety Supply, 2015. Web. 1 Nov. 2015.