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Learn how optimizing your packaging for your product’s journey through the supply chain not only helps your company, it helps us all.

What Does Packaging Optimization Mean?

In simple terms, “packaging optimization” is a process that utilizes smart packaging. This refined method of packaging is designed to safely contain, protect and communicate the specific contents of your packaging as your products travel through the various handling processes within the supply chain.

The product’s journey starts with the manufacturer, then may go on to a warehouse or in-store fulfillment centre, and ultimately wind up being delivered at its final destination. This  last mile of delivery could be a consumer’s home, an office building, retailer or other end point.

At each step along the way, there are factors which determine in what condition your products will ultimately arrive. Optimizing your packaging for the rigours of your product’s journey can make all the difference in the world.

Optimized Packaging Costs

Start by Choosing Optimal Packaging Materials

The first step in choosing optimized packaging for your product is in fully understanding its vulnerabilities .This involves going the testing stage (if applicable), then determining the best packaging materials.

Once your product has gone through testing using established protocols for its shipping class, the next task is developing the the proper packaging to help protect the product as it navigates through all supply chain environments.

This packaging system is broken down into three levels:

  1. Primary Packaging – The packaging directly in contact with the product itself and is often designed with the “unboxing” experience in mind. Other considerations are product protection and perhaps store display.
  2. Secondary Packaging – Packaging that’s just outside of the primary packaging and typically used to create a stock-keeping unit or SKU. Also part of the unboxing experience, this protective layer also helps guard against moisture and humidity.
  3. Tertiary Packaging – Referred to as transit or bulk packaging which often forms a group quantity of SKUs. This level of packaging is the final layer used to protect the products in transport, safely and securely, from point A to point B. For example, this could be from a manufacturer’s loading dock to the final point of sale.

How Much Packaging is Just Enough for the Environment and Supply Chain?

In order to save on costs, many products wind up being under-packaged. This results in avoidable damage that sends the product into reverse logistics. This also produces product waste along with associated fees and other costs.

Conversely, there are some products which are over-packaged using far more material than is necessary. This excess is not only wasteful in its own right, but has an impact on our environment. Not just in terms of landfill or limited recycling, but in transportation costs due to size and weight issues. These overages in turn lead to excess fuel and energy consumption, along with higher transportation fees throughout the supply chain.

The sweet spot in optimal packaging should be designed to fit the requirements of your supply chain with these key points in mind:

  • The right type and thickness of packaging films or rigid plastics
  • Effective thickness and properties of foam or protective packaging
  • An appropriate strength and flute of corrugated board used
  • An efficient use and amount of winds of stretch wrap
  • An efficient use of packaging tape or adhesive in the right location

Supply Chain Factors Packaging Optimization

Optimize Package Design

Whether you’re designing a package from the ground up or updating an existing design, there is value in following best practises within your industry, along with taking cues from consumer feedback.

Some considerations may include using fewer materials or lowering packaging weight. For example, modern packaging materials may include a dissolvable bag-in-container for non-solid or semi-solid products such as cereals. Or a bio-degradable rigid container might offer the right benefits for transport and storage space for other products.

Now with the right packaging and materials selected, it’s on to actually designing and engineering the packaging. Keep in mind this can impact different sections of not only the supply chan, but you own general packaging operations:

  • Manufacturing & Operations – Your package design should ideally work within your current manufacturing processes and automation equipment. Additionally, these optimized packaging requirements should enable your systems to run at their optimal speeds.
  • Material Vendors – Is your current material vendor able to produce the package to your specifications, and are they in line with your packaging objectives? Upgrading design factors can affect material vendor capabilities, as well as your own manufacturing systems. Therefor, make sure your provider’s equipment capabilities, material competencies and visions for the future are up to the task.
  • Supply Chain CostsUnique or non-standard shapes can impact your transportation expenses. Your packaging is truly optimized when all systems and touch points are maximized – or minimized as in the case of wasted air space. Shipping air, unless it’s absolutely necessary and relevant to the product, is wasteful.

Optimize Product Counts for Better Cost & Efficiency

End-users and customers often dictate the order quantities and case counts – that is, with the exception of the number of hot dogs in a package with respect to the number of hot dog buns  – a mysterious mismatch. Regardless, this demand is true for not only consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers, but B2B manufacturers as well.

Fitting more product on a pallet without compromising product safety can improve your overall cube or product shipping density. This is an important part of transportation optimization especially when you use less-than-truckload (LTL) freight extensively. Similarly, fitting more product on a retail shelf or within storage can also help reduce inventory and storage requirements.

What is the Right Amount of Packaging Protection?

The right level of packaging protection will ultimately mitigate or at least minimize damage during transit or stacking. Effective packaging protection designed for specific products can have a wide array of requirements. For example:

  • Protective barriers for pharmaceuticals and food products to help extend and maintain shelf life. This industry-specific packaging protects against environmental damages and penetration from oxygen, moisture or other contaminants.
  • Fragile products require additional shock protection. This helps keep products from suffering damage due to mishandling and impacts.

Standardize Your Product Package Designs

Consider standardizing package sizes and dimensions across multiple products. This lets you increase efficiencies by streamlining manufacturing, reducing system changeover times, and improving line utilization. The added benefit is less risk of wastage as excess packaging can be redirected to other products with minimal loss in time, effort and materials.

Build Sustainability in Your Supply Chain

Baking in energy-efficient production will not only help reduce stress on the environment, it can also help your bottom line. Choosing to use energy-efficient machines and forward-thinking packaging materials with lower manufacturing temperature requirements, can produce very real and tangible savings.

Incorporating sustainable practices, recyclable materials and reusable packaging helps keep your packaging agile, adaptive. and generates goodwill towards the public’s growing awareness that environmental problems indeed need to be addressed now more than ever.