Maximizing Packaging Efficiency

Your packaging strategy and processes can significantly impact your ability to maintain a smooth and efficient supply chain.

1. Collect relevant product data at the outset. Get all relevant product information—size and weight, shipping mode, and safety requirements—up front to help develop and execute an efficient, compliant packaging strategy. This information will help ensure you use the appropriate packaging and train your employees properly.

2. Know each step and material needs. The packaging process and the materials needed can vary by product. Know each step of the operation, the materials needed (from box type to inserts to seals), and how to properly use those materials to ensure personnel have the right items when and where they need them and won’t have to halt operations to get unexpected items or ask questions.

3. Learn the regulations. Stay up to date on packaging and labeling requirements for each item you ship—from materials to warning labels to employee training. Understand how they impact your operations.

4. Make packaging part of budgeting decisions. Understand your budget from the beginning to design the best packaging for your needs without having to make last-minute design or material changes to stay within budget.

5. Work withan expert. A partner that specializes in areas relevant to your business—custom design or hazardous materials for example—can help you design packaging that fits your needs while considering ease of use, regulatory compliance, and other factors.

6. Minimize waste. Understand specific packaging, labeling, and testing requirements for the items you ship to better identify opportunities to eliminate waste. Reducing unnecessary steps and overpacking will help streamline operations while reducing costs.

7. Eliminate last-minute decisions. Know your products and their packaging requirements up front, communicate relevant information with internal personnel and supply chain partners, and proactively plan for potential disruptions.

8. Use the right tools for the job. The complexity of the packaging process can vary depending on the product you ship—especially if it is classified as "dangerous" and therefore highly regulated. Consider what tools could streamline the operation—for example, assembly/closure instructions or shipping software to automate processes.

9. Leverage advanced packaging. Some solutions have been engineered so the box provides adequate protection and meets regulations without the need for gel packs, heavy liners, pellets, or fillers. These advanced solutions reduce the need for additional protective materials.

10. Stay innovative and think outside the box. Don’t do things just because that’s how you’ve always done them. Refine packaging strategies and tap innovative solutions to further improve efficiency. Whether it’s using specialty materials instead of standard cardboard boxes to ship high-risk items or simply evaluating the steps in your procedures, changes big or small can make a huge difference.

SOURCE: Bill Barger, senior packaging product manager, Labelmaster

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