< The Pace Logistics Lab

My Life as a Parcel

Hi. I’m a parcel 😊. This means I’m a small package – typically under 150 lbs. In most cases, I can be reasonably lifted without assistance.  Thanks for tuning in because I’m about to tell you the story of my life.  Right now, I’m waiting with other parcels in a brightly lit retail stockroom.  We're all just bursting with excitement and anticipation. Soon, our entire life's purpose will be realized.

Let me start from the beginning. I was created from a corrugated box with customized branding. I’m a proud example of corrugated packaging, which is like a souped-up cardboard box. Did you know cardboard boxes have been around for almost two hundred years?!  Think of the old Kellogg’s Corn Flakes cereal boxes.

But corrugated paperboard – the stuff I’m made of - was patented in 1856 with the invention of a layer of curved or fluted cardboard to reinforce other cardboard pieces.  This improvement made us parcels much stronger and helps us provide greater resistance to pressure and impacts.  Now, we can provide a great customer experience when our contents arrive safely at our destination!

I mentioned I have customized branding on the exterior.  I feel like I’m on the runway!  Shippers all over the world design parcels to draw attention to their brand.  Adding extra value like this always makes my day.

One day, an order was transmitted by a retailer to a big distribution center where all the goods inside me were inventoried.  The distribution center’s voice-picking system* helped a warehouse associate use voice commands to pick the order, using detailed information about the location and piece counts within the warehouse.

On my exterior, I also have a barcode that helps everyone keep track of where I am when they scan me. I've also heard of parcels being scanned with RFID, which is short for radio frequency identification.** Amazing stuff.  RFID uses a small, printed antenna sticker on the exterior of a parcel.  Often, no scanning is necessary.  Identification information can be automatically scanned by a reading device when parcels enter and leave the warehouse! Just imagine!

Not long after the warehouse associate picked the order, I was put in a special holding place inside the DC just for me and other parcels who were headed to a place called Pace. I couldn’t wait to continue my journey!

Soon, I was floor-loaded onto a trailer with my neighboring parcels.  The trailer left our DC and was driven to the Pace pool point where the Pace warehouse associates unloaded us onto a conveyor system. It's such fun! Too soon, they pulled me off the conveyor belt and put me on a pallet with more parcels.  We greeted one another with excitement, realizing we were all headed to the same store.

Soon, my barcode was scanned as I was stacked and shrink-wrapped on a pallet. Guess what?! The warehouse associate was wearing a scanning glove! Wearables like scanning gloves and ring scanners are smart devices that allow workers to keep both their hands free for other activities and help maintain worker safety.

Our pallet was then scanned and loaded with other pallets onto a Pace box truck. Our truck was routed dynamically, taking into consideration all destinations and volumes for the day to drive cost-savings for customers and maximize efficiency.  When our driver arrived safely at the store, an employee inspected the pallets and gave the go ahead to unload.  Our driver cut off our shrink wrap and placed us at the designated place inside the store.  Then, he scanned us in. Guess what? Ring scanner! Yep, I spotted it.

Looking around with anticipation, I could see bright overhead lights and lots of other parcels and packages just waiting to be opened and put on racks and shelves in the store! Despite my anticipation, after such a fun and busy morning, I couldn’t help but doze off. 

I awoke with a start! A store associate started to open me and remove my contents. He carefully counted all the inventory inside of me and made notes.

And this is where I am now.  Telling you my life story because it’s the moment I've been waiting for.  My contents will finally be styled attractively in the store, ready for purchase and bound to make a customer happy!  

At last, my job is done, and I am happy, too.

A recent post in The Pace Logistics Lab, Warehousing Wearables: The New Reality in Logistics, explores many of the technological advances mentioned in this post.  

*A growing trend in the logistics industry is voice-picking technology. Wearable headsets allow the logistics professional to issue verbal commands to AMR assistants and to receive information from centralized dispatchers or computerized databases. Consider a wearable headset that connects the worker to an administrator who can relay instructions, redirecting labor flow to respond to changing priorities. 
 
**Both RFID and barcode scanners are available from several manufacturers in wrist, ring, or glove-mounted models, leaving both hands free to work. Scanners can send information using the internet or Bluetooth to either local or cloud-based servers, providing decision-makers the instant, real-time data they need. Scanners can also tell the logistics professional what items to pick, whether they picked the correct item and amount, and where the item needs to go.

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