How to Automatically Select Packages for Orders in ShipStation

Entering what package to use for every order into ShipStation can be a time consuming task. In this post, I'll show you how to automate this process with ShipStation automation rules.


Tyler Douglas

This guide walks you through setting up ShipStation automation rules to automatically select a package for each order.

But first, a quick note. Automation rules in ShipStation are finite, static, and can’t do true “Cartonization” to determine a package size. 

Cartonization is an algorithm that takes in all of the items in an order to find the smallest package based on volume and dimensions of the combined items. You can learn more about cartonization here

This means to apply a package to orders in ShipStation, you must create simple rules that are based on assumptive logic. Something like, “if 3 products, use box X” or “if item ABC, use package Y”. 

If all of your items are the same and you only have a few boxes, this can work well!  But, if you have many SKUs or packages, automation rules probably won’t work for you.  

If you’re in this situation, I recommend checking out String. String integrates directly with ShipStation to determine the optimal package for each order.  By using AI to intelligently find the smallest way to orient items together, String determines the best package option for every order with extremely high accuracy. 

But, If you think automation rules might work for you, let’s talk about how you can set them up! 

There’s three things you need to know in order to have ShipStation automatically apply a package to orders. 

1. How to add custom packages to ShipStation.

2 How to apply a custom package to orders.

3. How to apply package dimensions to orders without using a custom package. 

It’s important to note that #3 is something you should know because ShipStation only lets you apply a custom package if you also apply a carrier and service for that shipment. 

The advantage of a custom package is that it puts the name of the package into the ShipStation order. This is relevant if you’re using the package name to print onto the packing slip for your fulfillment team. 

Alternatively, if you just apply the package dimensions to an order, you don’t have to apply a shipping service and carrier. 

How to Add Custom Packages to ShipStation

Step 1: Accessing Your Custom Packages 

In ShipStation, Navigate to the 'Settings' gear icon in the upper right corner, then select 'Shipping' and choose 'Packages' from the dropdown menu. Finally, select the ‘Custom’ tab underneath the 'Packages' headline and click ‘Add Custom Package’.  This is where you'll create your new custom packages to be stored in ShipStation.

Step 2: Add Custom Packages

Enter the name and dimensions of each package option you have. 

Apply a Package and Service to Orders

If you want to apply a custom package to an order in ShipStation, you must also apply a shipping service to it. It’s a bit of a disappointing bundle, but you can use other automation rules down the line to override the shipping service. To learn more about using automation rules to select a shipping service, read here

I recommend doing this in two ways. The first is for single unit orders, and the second is for multi unit orders. 

Single Unit Orders:

To automate package selection for single unit orders, you can apply a rule directly to the product. 

Step 1: Accessing Products Rules

Navigate to the 'Products' tab in the upper navigation bar.  Then select a product and click on the “Shipping” tab on that product pop-up. 

Step 2: How to Create a New Rule

Under “Shipping Defaults” you can select the shipping service and package type. 

Step 2: Alternative Option 

Alternatively, you can just set the package dimensions if you don’t care about having the name of the package displayed in the order. This will not utilize the custom package you created earlier but it will apply the proper dimensions and weight for the purposes of getting a shipping label. 

Multi Unit Orders:

To automate package selection for multi unit orders, you must apply automation rules.   

Step 1: Accessing Automation Rules

In ShipStation, Navigate to the 'Settings' gear icon in the upper right corner, then select 'Automation' and choose 'Automation Rules' from the dropdown menu. This is where you'll create your new rules.

Step 2: How to Create a New Rule

Click on 'Create a New Rule'. This opens a setup window where you can define the conditions and actions for your rule.

Step 3: Defining Rule Conditions

To apply a custom package to an order based on certain conditions, you must first create the “Order Criteria” for when to apply this rule. 

To do this, you’ll select the option under “if orders match the following criteria” called “Orders match these specific criteria”. The criteria you’ll select are “Total Quantity” and/or “Item Sku”. Here you can determine what mix of items and quantity should result in a specific package being used.

Step 4: Setting the Rule Action to Apply the Selected Package

Similar to applying a rule to a single unit order, the only way to apply a custom package to orders in ShipStation is to also apply a shipping service and carrier. Alternatively, you can just set the dimensions of the package. Again, the limitation is that the name of a custom package won’t appear in the order. 

Option 1:

To apply a custom package, you’ll select the ‘Action Type’ ‘Set Carrier/Service/Package’ and then select the corresponding options under ‘Service’ and ‘Package’.

Option 2:

To apply package dimensions only, you’ll select the ‘Action Type’ ‘Set Package Dimensions’ and then enter the length, width, and height of the package you expect to ship with. 

The Results

Now that you have automation rules set up, your orders in ShipStation will start populating with the packages you have set up. Keep in mind that automation rules are rudimentary and do not adapt on the fly to any configuration of items in an order. 

You can even have the package option populate on your packing slips to save your order packers time finding the right package when fulfilling orders. To learn more about how to create a custom packing slip built for efficiency, read more here. 

If you have more than a couple SKUs and want to have the optimal package selected for every order, consider integrating String. It will automatically find the right package for any configuration of items in an order and save you time by eliminating the need for automation rules. 

Get your free savings analysis from String!