Considering the heat we’ve felt across the U.S. this summer, I’m certain that most of us are eager for fall—what I’ve always called “the season of traditions.” And one of our favorite traditions at Modern is our annual Packaging Issue designed to coincide with PMMI’s Pack Expo, the association’s trade show that this year will run Sept. 11-13 in Las Vegas.
Many years ago, we launched the monthly Packaging Corner column to make sure we were keeping up with the latest developments in what Warren Hausman, a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University, once famously called “the final frontier of supply chain optimization.”
And since that time, we’ve seen the explosive growth of e-commerce uncover many inefficient processes in packaging operations. In turn, the pressure is on to upgrade packaging and palletizing as a necessary part of streamlining the modern fulfillment operation, and we feel our annual packaging issue puts the spotlight on how solutions providers and operations managers are working to meet this challenge.
This month we go inside the operations at Crutchfield to see how this leader in home audio distribution is using on-demand packaging to save on labor and packaging costs; we reveal the findings of our annual Pallet Report; we share an update on how automated packaging and carton right-sizing providers are delivering on labor and parcel shipment savings; we take a look at how a couple “mega-shippers” are making the transition as paper-based autobagger suppliers bring on new machines; and we look at cutting-edge pack stations.
Executive editor Bob Trebilcock struck gold with this month’s System Report on Crutchfield—an ideal example of a company that’s used advanced packaging to improve internal and external operations. “I’m a long-time Crutchfield customer,” says Trebilcock. “One of the things that kept me coming back was their customer service, both before and after delivery. With that in mind, it was a treat to write about their distribution operations to understand how they fit into taking care of the customer.”
On-demand, right-sized packaging is a central component to their process. Orders are initiated at the box-making systems, which are now highly automated. “The approach not only minimizes the amount of labor used in packaging, but also minimizes the amount of corrugated and void fill Crutchfield requires to protect its deliveries, saving millions of dollars and advancing its sustainability efforts,” adds Trebilcock.
While productivity and cost improvements are key, sustainability is what drives many operations to step up their packaging game. Starting on page 32, senior editor Roberto Michel dives deeper into the evolution of automated packaging and carton right-sizing solutions as providers work to incorporate new materials and create what they refer to as a “box-first” workflow.
“It’s good to see more packaging automation vendors that do carton right-sizing looking to offer lighter materials to create a stronger sustainability case for shipping lightweight items in cartons rather than bags,” says Michel. “Meanwhile, some autobagging solution vendors now offer machines that produce curbside recyclable bags—another positive move.”