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Data-Driven Packaging Solutions: Prepare for Success with the Right Directions

Packaging Cost Reduction

Using only hard data for these kinds of projects can seem adequate. After all, it’s easy to pick the most expensive packaging component and target it for a cost reduction. However, the component may be an essential element of an engineered packaging system. Changing one part may have unforeseen consequences during implementation without proper testing and analysis. The packaging system may alter the natural frequency, leading to a more significant vibrational input into the product. Or perhaps the system may not be strong enough to support triple-stacking during over-the-road transport properly. Understanding a product’s weak point and the supply chain that it travels through is critical to evaluating the damage/cost/opportunity trade-offs that companies must consider for a successful project outcome.

For example, a supplier of muffler clamps to a major motorcycle manufacturer decided to make a simple change in their packaging. They replaced the strong, threaded sealing tape on their boxes with less expensive sealing tape. Unfortunately, the supplier conducted no testing before making the change.

As a result, the packages failed when the muffler clamps inside made contact and cut the new tape. That often happened during manual handling on the client’s manufacturing line, spilling 200 muffler clamps across the factory floor and halting production each time.

Product Damage Reduction

Reducing product damage can be achieved by optimizing distribution handling methods, improving packaging system designs, re-engineering products, or changing transit modes. Focusing on any one of these areas with only hard data is going to create a scattered approach. The easy thing to do is blame the carrier. So the company will switch to another carrier for the sixth time in two years – not comprehending that if all the carriers are damaging the product in a similar way, it’s most likely not a carrier problem.

Soft data can enable a comprehensive approach. The company can conduct root-cause analysis and expose the sources of the damage. A conversation can then be had about the cost/benefit trade-off between improving packaging, improving the product, and/or improving handling risks in the distribution network. Often, this becomes a multi-tactic approach, with damage reduced by addressing the root cause or causes. Different priorities are then determined based on ease of implementation, cost of change, and impact to the end consumer. This approach evaluates the problem from a supply chain perspective and looks at the total cost of ownership and not just a single element of the problem, making sure the fix isn’t based on “knee-jerk” reactions.

New Product Introduction Support

Product development that includes innovative packaging design helps to ensure an optimized system. Hard data may drive a company to ship their products without the castors installed to allow triple stacking within a sea container. Soft data will reveal that the bottom deck board must be precisely spaced to prevent a pallet from bouncing down a warehouse’s conveyor. Other soft data may drive the implementation of a pallet with four-way access to satisfy a large customer’s material handling requirements.

For example, Chainalytics worked with a major fitness equipment manufacturer who wanted to ship a weight bench and associated parts via small parcel carriers. By adjusting the packaging system design, the manufacturer stayed within FedEx and UPS girth limits and avoided a $150 surcharge per shipment. A minor re-engineering of the product – allowing the end-consumer to do some at-home assembly – reduced package size, thus avoiding the surcharge.

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