We often talk about the growth in rest mail, but what exactly is rest mail? Which products are included? Why is this category so important? Let's take a look at this hyped term in the parcel market.
Rest mail is known by many names. Small parcels, China mail, e-commerce parcels, Alibaba flow, tiny packets, and many more. It all comes down to small e-commerce orders that are wrapped as tight as possible. We often like to think all our e-commerce orders are packaged with great care and love, but the reality is much harsher. The rough competition in some E-commerce markets has led to a cut down on their packaging costs. The small electronic parts that are often shipped from the Asian market are a good example. These are often packaged at as low costs as possible as the order value is so low. They are also packaged as small as possible to lower shipping costs.
The typical rest mail parcels
- Wrapped tightly in plastic foil, tape, or bubble wrap
- Small parcels packaged as tightly as possible
- Items packaged with black shrinkwrap
- Put in (bubble wrapped) envelopes
Where does the term rest mail come from?
Rest mail used to be a small portion of all parcels and letters. Therefore it was handled and named as a leftovers category: rest mail. There were letters and there were parcels. Everything that fell in between these categories was considered rest mail. These could either be letters that were larger or heavier than the standard letters or parcels that were too small to be within the defined scope of parcels.
The challenges in automation for this category
- The items are often irregularly shaped and their movements are unpredictable on conveyors or belts
- The items could still contain fragile items, without having sufficient packaging, bubble wrap, or air buffer to prevent damages
- They could fall in between or off of systems due to their small size and unpredictable movement
- There's a high number of no-read items due to low-quality barcodes
- Barcodes are often wrapped around the item with the packaging, making it difficult to read for scanners
- Barcodes are often wrinkled due to the rushed packaging
These items can be handled automatically, but require a system that is designed to handle smalls. The unpredictability of these items affects a lot of technical parts of the systems, such as the infeed, carriers, sorting method, and destinations. We always advise using a tray sorter with a closed tray for these items, as the tray design must prevent the item from exiting before their destination. With our slide tray, we offer a proven design that is also capable of handling fragile items. This tray design is used in our slide tray sorter and LR-sorter.
Then we still have to tackle the barcode challenge. With folded, wrinkled, or damaged barcodes, a good camera is a must. In the past years, there have been massive improvements in this field. By using AI to read partial barcodes, cameras are becoming smarter every day. This provides opportunities to read the damaged or wrinkled barcodes.