What Is a Packing Slip?

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Gina Payton - ShipNetwork
Gina Payton
Director of Client Services
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If you have any involvement in order fulfillment or inventory management, you have likely come across the term "packing slip." What exactly is a packing slip, and what specific pieces of information must be included on one?

Continue reading to learn everything there is to know about packing slips, understand what information and details are included in packing slips, and why they're so crucial for your business.

About Packing Slips

A packing slip is a document that contains an exhaustive list of all of the items that are contained within a package. Shipping departments can identify what inventory needs to be shipped out to accurately complete an order by using the SKU numbers, weights, dimensions, and number of units that are included on a packing slip.

At this point, the buyer or recipient of the transaction will compare the products they have received to the packing slip to ensure that they have gotten everything that was purchased.

What Goes Into a Packing Slip?

1. Order information (date and order number) and customer billing/shipping address

As on an invoice, these fundamental pieces of information, such as the purchase order number, contact information, and an indication of whether or not there were any issues with the shipment while it was en route, are useful for filing purposes.

The shipping label is the primary option for shipping carriers; nevertheless, having a packing slip as a backup alternative can be handy just in case there are any problems with the shipment while it is en route.

2. Itemized list of shipped items

A significant number of buyers verify that they are getting everything that they paid for by comparing the products they have received to the list of items that were originally ordered. They can also refer to the confirmation email that was sent to them, but having the packing slip inside the package in their possession might be more convenient for some people.

3. Itemized list of out-of-stock or back-ordered items

Along with the invoice, you will receive a packing slip that details the line items of any items that were ordered but not sent, allowing you to place new orders for those items. It is quite unusual for there to be no communication before an order is either filled or fulfilled, but, if it does take place, the circumstances will be spelled out.

4. The quantity of each item

Because many vendors buy several copies of the same item, simply knowing the product name or the SKU is not sufficient for checking in each item that is listed on a packing slip. With the help of a quantity column, the length of the list may be cut down, which means that a packing slip won't take up multiple pages even if a large number of the same item is ordered and an order should not contain multiple packing slips to ensure efficiency and clarity in the order.

5. SKU/UPC for each item

Customers may not place much importance on stock-keeping units (SKUs) or universal product codes (UPCs), both of which are unique identifiers or codes. However, sellers rely on these numbers to accurately track their inventory. It is what will be referred to if you need to contact the seller, and it is what they will utilize to determine what the underlying problem is if there is one.

6. PO number

Shippers and purchasers can cross-reference the PO number with the packing slip number to check that the correct order was sent and received. The number of reference numbers that you have for your orders will determine how many times this step can be performed.

Types of Shipping Documents

Different Types of Shipping Documents 

After going into further detail on packing slips and shipping labels, it is clear that both of these documents are distinct from one another. This is because every one of these documents was created for a unique reason. 

Packing Slip vs. Shipping Label

A packing slip is designed to provide the consignees with the information necessary for them to be aware of the order and consignment specifics. They can view both the items they ordered and those that have been completed for them. Packing slip templates are available to streamline the process of creating a packing list for a shipment, and it's important to include only one packing slip per order.

The document known as the shipping label adheres to the package, and its presence enables the carrier to identify and keep track of the shipment. As a result, it comprises all of the pertinent shipment facts, such as the information regarding the shipper and the consignee. 

A barcode or QR code would also be included on a shipping label to make day-to-day tracking of the shipment as simple as possible. Because the packing slip primarily carries information on the order, this is not essential for a packing slip.  

In addition, a shipping label is affixed to each carton, and a packing slip is typically either attached to a pouch or positioned within the box itself. As the packing slip typically comprises the entirety of the order, there is typically just one for orders that involve numerous cartons.

The packing slip and the shipping label share some of the same data fields. These fields include:

  • Shipper
  • Consignee
  • Weight
  • Delivery address

Aside from the fact that they are both involved in the shipping process, this is the only thing that these two documents have in common with one another, other than the fact that they are both paperwork. A shipping API integration can help streamline shipment processing and tracking with customized options for eCommerce companies.

Packing Slip vs. Invoice

Both a packing slip and an invoice for a purchase order serve distinct functions despite their similarities in form (and their ability to appear almost identical at first glance). An invoice is financial paperwork for an order, whereas a packing slip is used to represent the physical products that are being received. An invoice will contain information such as the amount of money that each product was sold for, the payment conditions, the payment method, and the date.

In rare instances, the printed packing slip and the invoice will be addressed to two separate individuals. The individual who is liable for payment is the recipient of an invoice, whereas the person who receives the package is the one who should fill out the packing slip. Both sets of documentation will be sent to you if you place an order for something for personal use. If, on the other hand, you are purchasing anything as a gift for another individual, that person will be the one to receive the packing slip rather than you.

Both the packing slip and the invoice come from the same eCommerce store, but the shipping or fulfillment system generates the packing slip, whereas the payment platform generates the invoice.

In addition, each firm needs to have invoices, but not every business needs to have packing slips.

packing slip vs invoice

Who Sends a Packing Slip?

Packing slips are sent by eCommerce businesses to their customers with an order. Packing slips are normally required for any company that ships high-demand products or physical objects. This need applies to most businesses. Although it is technically possible to ship orders without using packing slips, doing so significantly increases the risk that errors will occur. 

Before boxes are labeled and sealed, packers and pickers can check and double-check the orders using a packing slip. Customers are also able to confirm that all of the components of their order have arrived in good condition.

Do You Need a Packing Slip for Returns?

Packing slips can also be helpful when filing returns. If a product is lost or damaged while being shipped, or if a consumer is dissatisfied with what they have gotten, packing slips might be of assistance. They can quickly determine which item has caused the problem and contribute to a streamlined returns management process.

When the packing slip is accompanied by an RMA form, the return process becomes significantly simpler. To protect yourself against any additional costs that may arise as a result of the aforementioned problems, you need to make sure that your eCommerce firm is insured.

Why Packing Slips Are Important in eCommerce

On the packing slip, a record of everything that the buyer requested is included. Because you are not acquiring the things from a traditional store, purchases placed through eCommerce make use of packing slips for a variety of reasons. These packing slips help connect the digital world to the actual world by functioning as crucial shipping documentation. It is vital to have packing slips because:

1. Check to see that everything ordered is included in the shipment

In the process of accurately fulfilling orders for online retailers, it is critical to examine and recheck everything. Warehouse picking is the process of making sure that the contents of a box are exactly what a customer has purchased, including accurate counts of various SKUs, before the package is sealed and labeled.

A packing slip is a record of the physical objects that are included on the shipping list as well as a reflection of all of the items that were ordered. After it has been validated, they will be able to immediately place the printed packing slip into the box and send the order on its way.

2. Easily monitor the status of each item in the order

It may be necessary to break an order into multiple shipments to accommodate the size of the order and the products, as well as the distribution of different SKUs among the various warehouses to streamline the shipping process.

Out-of-stock items that will be shipping at a later date can also be accommodated and it's important to create packing slips that match each shipment's contents. This would mean that certain things would be packaged and sent in their boxes. When an order is shipped in many boxes, both the sender and the recipient may find it helpful to keep track of the contents of the order using a packing slip.

3. Locate the items that have been damaged

Whether the damage resulted from the breaking of a fragile item or the destruction of the entire package during shipping, a packing list helps find and organize damaged items. There are times when deliveries do not go as planned, but if you have a packing slip on hand as a backup, it can help speed up the process of obtaining a refund or resending the delivery.

4. Verify that each item was brought in

Packing slips are used to determine which goods are missing from an order and to verify that all of the things that were ordered have been delivered. One way to think of it is as a paper trail or a record of the items that should be included in the shipment. You will have a much simpler time keeping track of any discrepancies in your order if the eCommerce order monitoring indicates that it has been delivered in its entirety, even if your order arrives in more than one package.

5. Give customs the ability to determine an estimate of the shipment's worth

Customs officials could use the packing slip that the shipper provided to determine the value of an international shipment. To pass a box through customs, you will need a commercial invoice, which must contain the following information: a description of the products, their value, the shipping destinations of both the seller and the shipper, as well as the terms for delivery and payment.

Get Order Fulfillment Right With Packing Slips and ShipNetwork

order fulfillment

Your success as an online retailer depends on your ability to provide prompt and reliable shipping. Because the modern consumer expects more from a company than just getting a product from your warehouse to their doorstep, they also want it to arrive in a secure manner and at an affordable price.

Because of this, likely, you're already on the lookout for methods to improve the effectiveness and precision of the systems you use to manage your inventory and transport your products. In our increasingly digital environment, a printed packing slip may appear unnecessary; nevertheless, it is a crucial component of the overall customer experience.

Get expert support with quick order fulfillment and accurate packing slips when you partner with ShipNetwork. Get a quote today to learn how we can provide your customers with expert support.

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