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Smart Cartonization: Automating Savings on Every Order Fulfilled

Geoff Whiting

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Smart cartonization is one of the few processes that everyone in your eCommerce supply chain can get behind because it saves them, and you, money. The drawback to smart cartonization technology is that the term can be unclear. Some brands use it to discuss pure AI selection. Other companies may limit it to inbound freight or ocean freight discussions. We view it as a best practice to apply to all fulfillments.

So, let’s take a look at the concept, current technology, and what it might mean for your eCommerce business. Red Stag Fulfillment can use it on every order we ship. So, we’re big fans of its potential and the real-world savings it generates.

Smart cartonization explained

stack of cartons

At its core, smart cartonization uses software and Artificial Intelligence to put any given order in the best box or container for shipping. Algorithms analyze every SKU in an order. Based on each item’s size and weight, they recommend which box to use. The systems consider each product individually as well as shipping them together in as few boxes as possible.

Smart cartonization not only helps reduce the size of the box you need, but it can tailor recommendations based on in-fill and other elements. Say you use shredded cardboard filler and ship rigid goods with minimal risk. Then, tools will recommend a box close to all the SKUs’ dimensions in the order.

In warehouses like Red Stag’s, smart cartonization is applied at the pack station. It tells our packers the correct box to use for any given order. Our systems also use this information to choose the most suitable carrier and shipping option to reduce your costs further. Pre-selecting packaging materials helps us control material and labor costs, ensuring we stay an affordable option for small and growing eCommerce companies.

Automatically consider standard and DIM weight

DIM Weight v. Actual Weight

In general, smart cartonization creates the most considerable benefits for multi-item shipments. Selecting the optimum box size reduces shipping spending and reduces the cost of the boxes and filler material used for each shipment. It’s especially useful for managing costs related to subscription boxes and kits.

At RSF, we consider both traditional and dimensional (DIM) weight for every shipment. Our smart cartonization technology reviews both to optimize box selection for product size, shipping cost, and product safety. By automating this process, you get the best rate for safe, on-time delivery of your orders. Carrier selection is still chosen based on your preferences — such as choosing the most affordable carrier to meet a specific delivery date — ensuring that you still meet business objectives while pursuing these packaging-focused savings and optimization efforts.

For freight, the tools help you avoid surprise costs. Pre-determined box selection for a shipment means you’ll have accurate LTL shipping measurements and costs. The DIM weight understanding virtually eliminates the risk of chargebacks and other carrier fees that can erode margins.

A note on greening your supply chain

green energy supply chain

Smaller boxes reduce the void space that you ship. If your business prioritizes going green, you’ll be happy to learn that this means you’re shipping less air and ultimately relying on fewer trucks on the road to move your products. Controlling box size also reduces the overall use of corrugated cardboard and in-fill. These are among two of the most significant material wastes in any supply chain, making every reduction a positive step for the environment.

Smart cartonization a positive step for your carbon footprint in multiple ways and helps you stay true to company promises and cultural values.

Learning and updating to keep products safe

DIM weight pricing

Using the data provided by customers and carriers, RSF also learns about packaging options over time to help ensure product safety upon delivery. It’s an extra step beyond something like a ‘fragile’ label.

We work with existing company packaging data to determine if products need a certain amount of space or in-fill to be secure. If a carrier or customer reports potential damage, we review box selection and institute changes to ensure more room for package security. Shipping bulky items like furniture already requires attention and stronger boxes. We apply smart containerization to these and all other shipments to further improve the reliability and security of selected packaging.

Every SKU has its own requirements. Smart cartonization can keep these in context and address your company requirements, ensuring safe transit and reliable customer experiences. Allowing automation tools to make some of these determinations reduces the risk of product harm or incorrect selections. It’s a reliable AI application that you can easily follow and measure to determine cost savings and improved margins when you make the change.

The Red Stag Fulfillment approach to smart cartonization

Red Stag Fulfillment packaging machine

Every shipment from every RSF location is eligible for smart cartonization. As our systems learn more about your packaging successes, we reinforce correct selection to keep you and your customers happy. We’ll continue to work together to optimize shipments to your preferences and consider advanced techniques such as determining when to split an order into multiple packages to reduce shipping costs.

Our team checks every order throughout the pick and pack process. But, smart cartonization provides one final check to avoid mis-picks. Packing stations validate the goods selected for an order. Our warehouse team can tell if there’s too little or too much space for the SKUs and pre-determined filler. Integrating it with our in-house warehouse management tools adds an extra layer of revenue and product protection.

Many eCommerce brands want their packaging as well. Red Stag makes this easy by using any provided materials. Our experts can work with you to understand cartonization options. Those discussions help eCommerce companies provide the best box sizes for our team to use. Together, you’re getting the best option and customer experience.

Learn how you can save with optimized, smart cartonization.

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