A “parcel” defines a packaging type used to transport small items such as products, replacement parts, or documents, typically by mail or a parcel delivery service. Small parcel shipping refers to the delivery service of small, lightweight parcels or packages that typically weigh less than 70 pounds but, depending upon the carrier’s service offerings, may weigh up to 150 pounds.

Small parcel shipping comprises a large percentage of e-commerce and omnichannel B2B and B2C deliveries. The process of picking, packing, and shipping parcel shipments can be labor-intensive in manual fulfillment operations but can be efficiently managed by an automated warehouse system.

Parcel Shipment Packaging

Parcel shipment packaging types include cardboard boxes, envelopes, and soft pouches. The shipper usually provides the packaging for small parcel shipping, although the carrier may offer it. For example, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) provides a range of small USPS-branded boxes and pouches in multiple sizes to shippers at no cost. If the shipper provides the packaging, it must meet specific requirements, such as weight and size limits and other requirements defined by each carrier.

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Parcel Shipping Services

Small parcel shipping services are offered by a range of global, national, regional, and local carriers, including the United States Postal Service) UPS, FedEx, or DHL. Parcel delivery services include a broad range of service levels, such as standard ground, two-day, next, and same-day delivery.

Additional services include insurance, package tracking, and other accessorial services. The cost of shipping a parcel depends on factors such as the dimensions and weight of the parcel, the distance it needs to travel from the origin point to the delivery point, the required delivery date, etc.

Parcel shipments are not typically palletized, although in cases where a company is shipping large enough volumes of identical goods to a single destination, it may be possible to consolidate them onto a pallet and them via freight for a more economical cost.

Parcel Shipping Compared to Freight Shipping

Package delivery differs from freight shipping in the following ways.

Parcel Shipping

  • Parcel shipping is a service offered by numerous commercial carriers such as USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL. Small packages, such as parcels, are the main contents of a package truck, which may contain anywhere between 50 and 100 parcels, depending on the average package size. Examples include direct-to-consumer orders, e-commerce shipments, and documents.
  • A parcel delivery truck follows a delivery route that includes multiple daily stops, delivering orders to residential and business locations.
  • Rates are based on package weight dimensions, delivery requirements, and additional services.
  • The orders carried are typically less than 150 pounds.
  • The trucks are usually no longer than 28 feet.

Freight Shipping

  • Freight shipments are delivered by numerous commercial freight carriers such as Yellow, ABF, and Pilot.
  • Freight shipments may be a single stop, from point A to point B, or as part of a multi-stop shipment.
  • Freight shipments are generally large loads, such as multiple products or orders consolidated and palletized on freight pallets. Examples include large industrial products, wholesale deliveries such as consolidated large furniture shipments to a retail store, and bulk products such as chemicals.
  • Freight shipments may be less-than-truckload (LTL) or full-truckload (TL) orders.
  • LTL freight rates are based on weight, dimensions, distance traveled, and additional services. TL rates are based on mileage.
  • A typical large haul freight shipment can weigh from 5,000 to 70,000 pounds.
  • Oversized loads can weigh well over 110,000 pounds.

Parcel and freight-based shipping modes are important for omnichannel order fulfillment operations companies. One best practice to maximize pick, pack, and ship efficiency and ensure lowest cost shipping on all orders is to integrate a multi-modal shipping system into your overall automated warehouse platform.

Learn More

Numina Group’s RDS™ is a modular and scalable software suite for warehouse automation software solutions optimized to streamline the entire pick, pack, and ship order fulfillment operation. Contact us for a complimentary onsite consultation.

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