An innovative approach can reduce supply-chain costs by up to 40 percent, while enabling sustainability gains and greater brand assurance.
Headlines tell us that we are entering an era of extreme uncertainty regarding international trade. As a result, U.S. and European companies with Asian-based manufacturing operations are looking for new ways to mitigate and control costs as they navigate these choppy waters.
Ideal solutions enable these companies to do just that, while continuing to improve sustainability scores, protect goods to prevent product waste, and streamline efficiency. A frequently overlooked strategy involves a holistic assessment of the ways that packaging can more effectively protect goods being shipped between these markets.
Too often, companies working with multiple packaging suppliers in Asia find it difficult to account for their discrete needs and true packaging requirements. One cost-effective approach is to consolidate package-material sourcing under the expertise of specialized partners, who can help brands customize transport packaging to optimize navigation of their specific supply chains.
Especially in these uncertain times, a strategic approach to packaging promises some assurance. To date, more than 3,000 brands have been able to reduce their shipping costs by between 15 and 30 percent through the adoption of strategically managed retail and transportation packaging.
Enhanced brand protection and equity, coupled with significant cost savings, also lead to the triple bottom-line benefits — social responsibility, economic value, and reduced environmental impact — that are especially coveted by 21st-century companies.
A Sustainable Start
Brands can achieve these cost savings and benefits by taking a closer look at how they package products.
Take a visit to your warehouses and distribution centers, and open boxes received from Asia. Chances are you’ll see extreme uses of expanded polystyrene (EPS) and dunnage that has been inserted to make up vast pockets of air space. Redesigning packaging so that air space is minimized saves material costs and also reduces container footprints, so that more boxes can be added to cargo shipments.
Considering the number of boxes shipped per year, these savings aggregate to significant increases in profitability.
In addition, it’s important to take a more strategic approach to corrugated material selection. Key considerations include fluting designed for maximum compression strength, to protect shipments subjected to challenging temperature, humidity, vibration, and other transit conditions. This is important in preventing master outer cartons from collapsing during shipment, particularly when they are stacked to increase product volume. In addition, stronger materials combined with optimal structural design translates to lighter boxes, reduced freight costs, and improved sustainability. Many brands find that they can replace double- or triple-wall corrugated boxes with stronger single-wall alternatives.
With a strategic partner exerting greater scrutiny in examining the liner quality of the corrugated board — especially for shelf-ready and point-of-sale applications — brands can achieve higher-performance packaging. Specify corrugated materials that will consistently deliver excellent printability, beautiful color reproduction and low washboarding — that wavy look on corrugated containers when inferior liners are used to mask fluting. Working with such an expert will ensure that the most appropriate corrugated board is specified and used in applications where strength, brand integrity and sustainability matter.
Reduced Environmental Impact
On average, brands can reduce their material usage by between 15 and 30 percent. The beneficial ripple effect translates to greenhouse gas emission reductions, due to moving more goods more efficiently, and maximizing space on crowded shipping vessels.
As consumers demand more sustainably advantaged products, smarter material selection and centralized guidance on material sourcing and design ensure that a brand can favorably leverage these sustainability benefits into their own assessments.
Brand Protection and Assurance
The demands of apparel, footwear, consumer electronics, automotive parts, hardware manufacturers, and outdoor and DIY retailers vary widely. With a holistic approach to package design built around supply-chain needs, design specialists can drive more value with and within each corrugated case, adjusting their caliper, size, and configuration to maximize space and minimize material.
Reduced costs and enhanced sustainability would be meaningless if they compromised the actual products being shipped and delivered. Whether at points of sale, distribution centers or industrial clients, damaged goods can quickly erode brand confidence at key points along the supply chain. The combination of durability and design expertise ensures that brand protection and assurance is strengthened regardless of product line.
Beyond Commodity Containers
The external challenges facing U.S. and E.U.-headquartered brands with manufacturing facilities in the Asia-Pacific region are increasing and volatile. The intelligent application of a supply partner’s material and package-design expertise are important factors in the ability to better manage and control costs.
While the short- and long-term effects of new international trade disruptions are difficult to assess, a company’s comprehensive assessment of how it packages its products to the E.U. and the U.S. leads to easily demonstrated benefits: significant cost savings, sustainability gains, and enhanced brand protection.
Robert Testa is sales director of America corrugated solutions at BillerudKorsnäs.