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5 shipping hacks to get you out the door by 5

Man at shipping station prepares boxes for pickup

Despite seemingly never-ending orders to fulfill, you still want to get all your packages shipped before the 5 o'clock hour hits – and get home in time to eat dinner, help the kids with homework and squeeze in an episode of Stranger Things before bed.

We asked the experts in the trenches to share their tips for doing more work with fewer hours and, more importantly, staying sane.

1. Plan and prep ahead. If you have a busy day ahead, get a jump on it before it even arrives. Kim Scott, owner of The Great Gourmet in Federalsburg, Md., has her team prep the company's wholesale seafood orders and store them in coolers in the freezer in advance. On the actual shipping date, they just add dry ice and lids before sending the packages out the door. She also asks her customers to send shipping label information early. "Then we can prelabel all the lids and have the file ready to be uploaded to UPS," she says.

2. Streamline your stations. Have everything you need – boxes, filler, inserts, tape – within arm's reach at your packing station, and keep your fastest-moving products closest to your shipping area. "Even if something is two steps away, that impacts productivity," says Scott Hayes, area manager with UPS Global Customer Solutions."You're taking those two steps dozens, maybe even hundreds, of times a day. And when shipments are ready to go, get them out of the way. Walking around a full pallet as you prep more packages kills your efficiency."

3. Help new team members. Does your company hire seasonal workers to tackle peak-time workloads? Make sure to provide a simple, easily digestible handbook of instructions for them. "When the process is simple, fewer errors tend to occur," says Hayes. "Having the processes displayed makes it a lot easier for new workers to follow, whether they're picking, packing, shipping or receiving."

4. Slow down. Putting labels on packages with incorrect or insufficient information can suck up time for shipping-room employees. "You can get so busy trying to get stuff entered in so fast that typos and errors are made," Hayes says. For example, if you're shipping to a large office tower, you have to have the suite number on the address label. He advises that shipping room employees should double-check labels and even consider integrating their company's systems with UPS's so key information doesn't go missing. Integration saves time later, too. Your customers can get their tracking numbers automatically, helping to avoid those "Where's my order?" phone calls.

5. Talk to your teammates. During hectic shipping weeks and days, it can be hard to take your focus away from the tasks at hand. But according to Shane McCarthy, senior vice president of supply chain for Lawson Products, an industrial distributor based in Chicago, talking to your team is critical. Increasing communication between sales, marketing and management departments can help businesses understand what's working and what can be improved. "We have frequent meetings where we're constantly challenging each other, sharing lessons learned and figuring out what we can do more efficiently."

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