Cartonization is the method of determining which box you should pack an item or series of items in. If you're new to fulfillment technology, or are thinking about optimizing your packing process, there are some key things to understand about modern cartonization.
Traditionally, when a shipper took steps to make their supply chain more cost-efficient, the focus was on picking in the warehouse, and/or negotiating carrier rates. The actual packing step was trusted to those in the warehouse with experience. Over the past few years however, as technology has caught up to the need for better packing, many firms have turned to cartonization solutions to maximize efficiency.
The truth is, no matter how effectively you negotiated your rates, your costs are still based on a rate table that represents an incentive to pack a certain way depending on the circumstances. Even if your deal-making prowess or shipping volume gives a great discount, your rate table penalizes you for packing the wrong way.
So what's a shipper to do?
Let's back up for a moment and look at cartonization solutions currently available in the wild. They typically fall under one of the three categories:
Volume Comparison: The most rudimentary strategy for determining "will it fit," comparing the collective volume of items against the volume of a box makes sense, but can lead to real world problems. Imagine trying to fit a 3 foot shovel inside a 2x2 box just because the shovel has a smaller total volume.
Rules of Thumb: Accumulating historical packing data and referencing a "rule of thumb" database to make packing decisions. This can work in many simple cases, but when the system encounters a new product or product combination, there is no previous reference to use as a guide, and it doesn't scale well. This strategy also presupposes that your historical packing is optimal.
AI/Algorithmic: Usually after trying variations on the first two options, a shipper will upgrade to true 3D cartonization. Paccurate is in this category!
If you've setttled on a cartonization approach that uses algorithms, great. You're on the right track. But what about the aforementioned incentives to pack a certain way based on costs? For an overview of the most important cost factors that your solution needs to consider, read our post on cost-aware cartonization.