Paccurate: A mathematical approach to reducing shipping waste

  • Hi everyone, my name is James and I'm new here. 👋 This is my first post, so I figure there's no better subject than the one I spend day and night thinking about anyway...

    SHAMELESS PLUG: You know that feeling you get when you receive a huge package in the mail and all it has in it is a tiny item like a pen or a bar of soap? Paccurate is an algorithm engine that helps shippers ensure that doesn't ever happen. Picture 3D Tetris, but weaponized to fight wasted shipping material in the supply chain and logistics space.

    Here's what it looks like.

    In some ways, we're just beginning our journey with Paccurate, but we've found some exciting trends among our users, including a 16-20% reduction of corrugated and plastic fill. Perhaps more encouraging than the material saved is the truck capacity impact. Imagine 20% fewer trucks on the road!

    Feel free to grab an API key and play with it, if you are technical and so inclined. Would love to hear what you think. We've given free access to tinkerers in the past, so if you can think of an environmental application for Paccurate that you want to experiment on, let me know. Thanks!

  • @James-Malley welcome and thanks for sharing about Paccurate!

    Honestly, this issue is my pet peeve. I can't stand ordering things online anymore because of the insane amount of material waste that is generated. I've long thought that there was an opportunity for improvement here so kudos to you for taking action 💪

  • Thanks @Sam-Hughes. Our most effective method of lead generation is taking pictures of bad packages we get at home, and then sending them to the offending company. Shaming a company into being a customer maybe flirts with unethical maybe a tad, but receiving a box like that in 2020 genuinely makes me mad.

  • @James-Malley and I spoke about Paccurate recently. They have a super interesting model which allows you to plug into their API in order to achieve material savings (pun intended?)

    Keep up the great work!

  • @James-Malley without giving any trade secrets away, I'm really curious how Paccurate actually works? What magic are you able to apply to consistently reduce packaging?

    Product and site look great btw

  • Thanks @Cali-Johnston! Paccurate is actually a class of software called "Narrow AI," which basically just means a set of algorithms oriented toward a specific goal or set of goals. We tend to avoid calling it AI because that conjures images of Skynet for some people, or just a meaningless buzzword for others. For reference, IBM Watson is Narrow AI- Watson is just a bunch of data scientists feeding data into algorithms.

    In practice, the material savings are almost always sporadic- many shipments we don't find savings, but then a minority we find huge material savings. For one of our biggest customers who already had some cartonization logic in place, we save ~13%, or one square foot, of just cardboard per order (averaged out across all orders). And we probably actually only find those savings in 1/10 of their orders (EDIT: multi-item orders).

    It only seems like magic because there's a vast amount of data the engine is crunching through to find packing solutions, including material and labor costs, type of packing fill, fragility constraints, negotiated rate tables, etc. All those factors make it too difficult to "eyeball" the optimal packing solution, for even an experienced warehouse worker.

  • @James-Malley just wanted to say keep up the great work - I know I'm not alone in looking forward to the day that I can order something online and not have to stress about how much waste I'm creating. If more and more companies follow your lead, we'll be in a much more sustainable place

  • Thanks for the encouragement @olliej. We're trying our hardest to get this out there. If you want to help with the name-and-shame tactic, next time you get an embarrassingly bad packing job in the mail consider sending the offending company a note along the lines of:

    "I'm sorry to report my recent purchase was packed so carelessly that it made me feel guilty for being a customer of yours. Please consider implementing Paccurate or another solution that reduces excess packaging waste."

    Amazon might not listen, but other companies might. It's worth a shot anyway!

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