How To: Optimise Your Packaging Processes

optimise a packaging process
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In an increasingly competitive market, anything you can do to gain an edge can make a huge difference. That means keeping your prices as low as possible and planning your warehouse procedures and logistics to ensure more of your orders can get processed each shift.

In both cases, the packaging you use can make a significant difference. Here, then, are a few tips on how packaging can help your business work faster, work more efficiently and work better.

Using customised packaging
These days, online packaging suppliers are able to supply a vast amount of choice in terms of packaging straight off the shelf. That can clearly have a benefit, because it means you can respond quickly to your orders by taking advantage of fast delivery, so you don’t have to fill up your precious storage space with bulky items.

On the other hand, getting packaging custom made to match your ideal specification means you can make sure it’s working best for you. If you’re worried that will entail more expensive boxes or a need to order thousands at a time to meet minimum order requirements, then you really don’t need to, because those days are mostly gone.

In fact, many suppliers will more than happily do less than one hundred, although that will depend on the size of your box (some smaller ones need a special tool to cut the board, which means a larger minimum will usually be imposed).

The main advantage to packaging specially designed for your product is that you can make sure that there is no more spare space inside than is absolutely needed, so your need for filler packaging will be reduced. And if you’re using less filler, you’re logically spending less time putting it in. That may not sound like much of a saving, but you’ll be surprised how quickly those little differences can add up to something considerably more substantial.

Faster packaging
Speeding up your packing and dispatch – or, to put it another way, increasing your output – can be easily achieved by adopting certain smart packaging solutions.

Crash-lock, or self-erecting, boxes are cartons which, although delivered flat-packed as standard, have pre-glued bases, so that when you unfold them, the bottom automatically takes shape, without the need for tape or glue. In fact, it can take less than half the time to construct one of these boxes than it would a standard one.

Over the course of a full shift, that’s a lot of time saved and potentially a lot of extra orders processed.

Another time-saving packaging solution is perforated rolls of bubble wrap. Like a normal roll, but quicker and easier to tear off a specified amount – ideal when your packing the same product time after time. Sourcing custom versions is also relatively easy, with minimum order quantities as low as ten rolls available from some suppliers.

Flexible packaging
Custom packaging is great when you’re dealing with products the same size, but about when you have lots of different products? Getting custom packaging for each could be not only expensive, but also cause logistical nightmares, as your operators try to source the right packaging for each order.

Packaging that can adapt to its contents could well be the answer for you.

Adjustable boxes have been designed with creases in the sides so that you can quickly cut them down should the contents not reach the top. That can make them suitable for a range of products, without increasing your void fill requirements, and still allow you to take advantage of the quantity discounts most suppliers offer when you buy a lot of the same product.

Layflat tubing, meanwhile, is a roll of polythene that you can cut to the length you need – that makes it a sensible way of packaging different amounts of the same product. Rather than buying bigger bags, you just cut a longer one!

Test alternative protective packaging solutions
Once you’ve found a bit of protective packaging that you like and you trust, it can be easy to stay with it. But things do change, and it may be that you can get more economic and effective alternatives to old favourites like bubble wrap and packing peanuts.

When you think about it, both are made up mostly of air, and that makes them bulky and expensive to transport and to store. Air cushion packaging is a clever new approach to this problem.

What you get are rolls of flat film and a small machine which fills them with air as and when it is needed. The machines can be programmed to prepare the next one immediately one is removed, so there should be no loss in time – on the contrary, it will usually be quicker. And you can also get film with different ‘profiles’ to do protective tasks like void fill, interleaving and protection (like bubble wrap).

Even better, if you’re working with even only relatively large quantities, it can quickly start to save you money. Research has suggested that even if you’re only using ten bags of packing peanuts a month, by the second year (assuming you’ve paid off the cost of the machine in the first), your annual financial outlay could be reduced by around 55%.

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Rick Stanford

Rick has been a salesman in the packaging supplies business for more than thirty years. Now semi-retired, he divides his time between tending his allotment in north Devon, getting depressed at the continuing travails of his home-town football club Macclesfield Town, and sharing his considerable experience and knowledge with the readers of the Davpack blog. Davpack

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