10 Tips for Improving Packaging Performance

The packaging used throughout the supply chain, and its management, plays a crucial role in optimizing your operation. Reusable packaging can’t be considered on its own, and it must be evaluated in the context of the entire supply chain system.

1. Evaluate packaging for user engagement. Reusable packaging solutions aren’t always the right fit. Ensure your packaging interfaces well with everyone it will encounter along its supply chain journey before implementing a reusable program. For example, if you ship your reusable packaging to suppliers, make sure they agree to ship it back. Similarly, if forklift truck drivers often handle your packaging, they must do it properly to reduce damage.

2. Work with An expert. A specialized packaging partner helps ensure you maximize returns and optimize packaging. Some suppliers may tell you that their manufacturing process minimizes your costs. While you may save on the packaging, you could miss out on the long-term benefits of converting to reusables over time. An expert can help identify the best packaging to reduce costs in other areas and find opportunities to increase productivity.

3. Design for automation. Make sure your packaging fits your automated systems ahead of time. It can be more costly and time-consuming to retrofit your packaging to your automated systems. When selected before implementing an automated system, your packaging can be designed to reduce your startup and overall system costs.

4. Optimize for logistics. Space considerations are an important factor when selecting packaging. How do you ensure you’re maximizing the number of units per truckload? Do you need a solution that’s stackable to save space? Will nestable or collapsible products help reduce return-trip costs? Certain packaging solutions allow you to increase pack density to ensure you minimize your freight costs per piece.

5. Look at innovative material streams. Explore incorporating recycled content into your reusable plastic packaging to meet supply chain sustainability goals. For example, some packaging suppliers can incorporate different sources of recycled content into returnable packaging solutions. If your company makes plastic products that have scrap left over, some packaging providers will incorporate that material into reusable packaging for your supply chain. Some companies also recover and repurpose ocean-bound single-use plastic waste.

6. Manage packaging for long-term benefit. Maximize returns by collaborating with a packaging provider that will continue to evaluate your system for added benefits. They can provide services or best practices on how to track your packaging and ensure that the system is providing the right amount of packaging, at the right place and at the right time.

7. Evolve with new trends. Don’t be the last to adopt. Consider how your packaging supports trends such as automation, e-commerce, and sustainability. When adopting new technologies, pick the optimal packaging for that system.

8. Address diverse packaging needs. Working with a provider that offers a variety of packaging solutions, from standard pallets and totes to custom options, can give you the solutions for every point in your supply chain.

9. Have one point of accountability. Use one supplier to not only best manage your packaging and how you’re being serviced, but also your time. For example, using one supplier ensures that all components of your packaging are compatible.

10. Allow time to adapt. When implementing a new packaging program, a period of change management needs to occur. Since new packaging also introduces new behaviors and processes, train early and often to effectively manage change and ensure program success.

SOURCE: Norm Kukuk, Executive VP of Sales, ORBIS Corporation

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