Once a function of sales and marketing, product packaging today is increasingly seen as a strategic issue, with involvement by the executive team "to ensure that packaging is optimized and the benefits are shared across all departments," says Tom Blanck, principal and practice leader at CHAINanalytics.
"Sales and marketing have a history of driving packaging decisions because of the customer's interface with packaging, but the manufacturing side has a better line of sight on what really happens in getting products to the consumer," Blanck says. "Breakthroughs in packaging often are identified by people in operations and manufacturing who are keeping their eyes on the lookout for ways to improve packaging performance in the supply chain."
Things to look for include excess air in packaging and unused head space in trailers and containers, says Blanck. Additionally, managers should keep an eye out for packaging that is over-engineered because this will add unnecessary weight.
Blanck also encourages companies to eliminate pallets in favor of slip sheets and clamp handling, where appropriate. "This works in some operations and is a good way to get more payload on trailers and more space in the warehouse," he says.
In addition to reducing the cost of materials used in packaging, optimization also helps lower freight costs, distribution costs, warehousing costs and handling costs, Blanck says. All of those benefits, in turn, produce positive sustainability results, he says. "That's something the entire corporation can get behind."
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