Choosing the Right Product Packaging

With today’s complex supply chain and compliance requirements, manufacturers have a lot to consider when making packaging decisions. Here are some tips on choosing the right packaging for your product from Michael Smyers, CPSM, business development manager, and Matthew Paul, supply chain consultant, of Fort Myers, Fla.-based supply chain management and customs firm Allyn International Services.

1. Review relevant regulations. If you are shipping overseas, familiarize yourself with regulations such as the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures. Non-compliance can result in product returns, shipment delays, and extra costs for inspections and/or repackaging.

2. Ask for customer handling, receiving, and inspection requirements. Shipping departments should be aware of typical packaging requirements, such as labeling specifications.

3. Consider the transportation mode. Each transport mode subjects shipments to different levels of environmental exposure, physical forces, and re-handling. Also, security and cargo liability regulations are usually mode-specific. If shrink-wrapped or banded shipments are opened for examination, cargo may be damaged later in transit.

4. Look at the product’s physical traits. To reduce cargo damage from transport, storage, and handling, determine susceptibility to water, sunlight, temperature, and physical stress such as compression, impact, vibration, and surface contact. Perishable, hazardous, and high-value products may require special packaging.

5. Know if the product is subject to inspection. Products are often inspected upon delivery for quality conformance and accurate ship count. When receiving more than one item, the end customer may prefer a bulk package that can be easily opened for inspection, then resealed for movement to the warehouse, factory floor, or store shelf.

6. Reduce the packaging profile. Freight rates for less-than-containerload ocean and air parcel shipments are typically structured on a weight/measure basis. Dense cargo is billed at the actual shipment weight, whereas lighter cargo is billed according to the volume displaced. Reducing the packaging profile can cut freight costs.

7. Build in visibility. No matter how lean the supply chain, most products will be stored or handled multiple times. To increase visibility and chain of control, incorporate bar codes, radio frequency identification tags, and GPS technology into the product’s packaging.

8. Consider reusable designs. Reusable packaging can achieve lower total costs and improve sustainability. A reverse logistics program and committed supply chain partners are prerequisites to initiating a reusable packaging program.

9. Be conscious of extended producer responsibility (EPR) initiatives. EPR reforms, which several governments have instituted, make manufacturers responsible for a product’s entire lifecycle. Some companies are including return packaging and incorporating reverse logistics with their products, so consumers can easily return items such as electronics devices for recycling, instead of discarding them.

10. Use eco-friendly materials. Choose sustainable packaging materials such as recycled corrugated cardboard and cornstarch-based packing peanuts.

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