Packaging Corner: Dunnage and the total packaging picture

Companies shipping thousands of boxes a day should examine their protective packaging process as they seek to reduce overall cost of ownership.

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When considering the costs associated with protective dunnage materials—such as air pillows, paper pads or flowable foam peanuts—it’s important to think out of the box, says Daniel Wachter, president of Storopack. However, he adds, it’s also important to think in the box, into the box and around the box, too.

“All four dimensions contribute to the total packaging picture,” Wachter explains. “Many companies want to reduce their dunnage costs, but they have to evaluate those costs as part of the whole process.”

For any company shipping direct-to-consumer, it’s not feasible to stock an infinite number of boxes sized to best fit every item in inventory or every picked order. That’s where void fill materials come in, filling empty spaces to brace or cushion a box’s contents to prevent damage during shipping.

“It’s essential to select the packaging material that is effective and efficient in terms of material consumption so that just the right amount is used ‘in the box’ to protect the items,” says Wachter. “Further, it’s important that the package recipient is not inconvenienced by excessive waste. Their ‘out of the box’ experience should be positive.”

Companies shipping thousands of boxes a day should also examine their protective packaging process as they seek to reduce overall cost of ownership. “Packaging is very manual. Ensuring that this ‘into the box’ process is conducted in the most ergonomic way enables packers to be as effective and efficient as possible,” he explains. “That means supplying them with the correctly sized box, the right amount of protective packaging at the right time, and the correct labels while minimizing travel or movement.”

Advances in software, Wachter notes, have made it possible to better synchronize packaging into all other warehousing processes around the box.
“Packaging software works with a facility’s warehouse management software (WMS) to analyze the volume and dimensions of every product. That helps optimize the assortment of box sizes necessary to ship each order, and the amount of void fill packaging needed to protect those shipments,” he says.

The software can recommend the best-sized box to contain a shipment, as well as calculate the amount of packing material needed, freeing a packer from making a decision that could waste either time or materials. “Studies show that packers tend to choose a bigger shipping box than they need, and therefore use more materials to fill the void,” adds Wachter. “The software eliminates that waste.”


About the Author

Sara Pearson Specter
Sara Pearson Specter has written articles and supplements for Modern Materials Handling and Material Handling Product News as an Editor at Large since 2001. Specter has worked in the fields of graphic design, advertising, marketing, and public relations for nearly 20 years, with a special emphasis on helping business-to-business industrial and manufacturing companies. She owns her own marketing communications firm, Sara Specter, Marketing Mercenary LLC. Clients include companies in a diverse range of fields, including materials handing equipment, systems and packaging, professional and financial services, regional economic development and higher education. Specter graduated from Centre College in Danville, Ky. with a bachelor’s degree in French and history. She lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley where she and her husband are in the process of establishing a vineyard and winery.

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