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Taking the Air Out with Package Optimization

Companies continue to lose money by shipping air as a result of packaging that doesn't fit the product, says Tom Blanck, leader of the packaging optimization practice at Chainalytics. Blanck discusses optimization techniques that can save money and improve productivity.

The role that packaging plays in supply chain optimization and excellence is getting a lot more attention today than in the past, says Blanck. “The right packaging supports supply chains that are truly optimized and naturally sustainable,” he says. “We see companies particularly focusing on improving density by taking the air out,” he says. “This leads to reduced transportation costs, smaller storage footprints and less handling.”

The benefits of packaging optimization are cumulative, Blanck says. A case that is a little too large or extra head space in a trailer may seem like a small thing, “but when you multiply that inefficiency by the number of cases that go through the supply chain, it snowballs very quickly. Small changes can add up to really big reductions in waste.”

A main source of packaging waste comes from companies having to limit the number of packing boxes they stock, he says. “Frequently companies want to stock as few boxes as possible. If they wind up with too few boxes, however, they will have a lot of void space. There is no magic number of boxes to carry, but companies need to understand their product profiles and the nature of their products to get an optimized box mix.”

It also is important to do an analysis of your products and typical shipments to determine the best box sizes, once you know the number of different sizes you want to carry, Blanck says. “This is just standard good analytics.”

There also is exciting new technology available that allows companies to create the “right” size box on demand. “You key in the dimensions and weights of products being shipped, and a box will be sized and built on demand. This will drive logistics efficiencies, but it still is costly, so it’s not for everyone.”

Nothing has come along in terms of packaging materials that beats cardboard, says Blanck. “It is renewable, sustainable and durable. The future for corrugated looks good.”

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