Why packaging is at the heart of logistics
According to Per Engelseth’s paper on ‘The core role of packages in a logistics network’, “the basic objective of logistics is concerned with the provision of goods to an end user and four main activities are involved in this provision of goods. They may be classified as materials handling, transport, storage and production.”
Packaging has a key role in all these processes; indeed, none would be able to be effectively carried out without giving serious thought to the type of packaging used. Further, choosing packaging as part of a well thought out logistics process should seek to cut costs, improve supply and support marketing functions.
Well chosen packaging allows products to be packed, moved and loaded easily, safely and effectively. It also allows for accurate and rapid inventory management.
For safe handling, you need packaging that can be easily lifted by hand or forklift. It also needs to let anyone know if it requires special handling, if for example, it is very heavy, contains fragile items, or is being used to transport hazardous goods of some kind.
Choosing the right packaging is essential to the safe and economic transport of goods.
If you’re sending out parcels individually, you need to pick cartons that are strong enough to protect their contents; if you’re sending them abroad, you’ll want to allow for a stronger outer box, and preferably packaging that will provide protection against damp, cold, condensation and humidity as well.
When you’re dispatching large volumes of parcels at a time, you can make best use of your pallet space by selecting cartons that will fit most effectively into your available space. Choose cartons that match the footprint of your pallet as closely as possible (without going over the edge where they might get damaged), and check how much vertical space there is in the lorry or container in which they are dispatched.
When the goods in question have a high value attached, using packaging which helps prevent pilferage and/or makes it clear if the parcel or pallet has been tampered with can save money and give you peace of mind.
Suitable pallets need to be selected based on the final destination of the load. If you’re sending abroad, you’ll need to use heat treated, plastic or presswood pallets – ordinary wooden ones will be subject to international phytosanitary regulations designed to stop the spread of tree pests and be held or even destroyed by customs officials.
Of course, manufacturing isn’t just about shifting the next order out the back door. Many things will need to be stored and, again, packaging can play a vital part in ensuring this is done safely and effectively. Most storage will be done on high racking or shelving, where it can be kept out of the way until needed.
To ensure this is done safely, palletised goods need first of all to be stackable and stacked as closely together as possible, with the minimum amount of space between each item. This will reduce the possibility of items shifting when being moved and stored. Applications of plastic strapping and polythene stretch film will ensure they stay safely on the pallet should it be accidentally tipped while being placed on high shelving.
Packaging your products faster has the simple result of allowing you to process more orders in less time, without necessarily increasing your costs (as you would if you were to allow allocate extra staff to the function). There are any number of solutions that can speed up your packaging and production processes, from crash lock boxes and perforated bubble wrap to extra-long rolls of tape and automatic box taping and strapping machines.
In all the above processes, packaging helps the operator carry out his function by clearly delivering key information such as delivery and handling instructions and warnings. Standard ‘Fragile’ and ‘Handle With Care’ labels should be enough to ensure careful handling, but it is also now possible to affix labels which will tell the recipient if the parcel/load has been dropped or tipped beyond a set angle while in the care of the courier.