Looking at supply chain management from a bird’s eye view, packaging appears just a small step -– often lumped in with sourcing, or preparing items to ship. However, this step has the power to significantly improve (or hamper) overall fulfillment efficiency.
Let’s unpack the purpose and power of product packaging to fully understand its role in the supply chain.
The Four Attributes of Great Packaging
A lot of ideas go into designing a package for a specific product. At its core, there are four main purposes a package must fulfill:
- Appeal to consumers. The package should match the marketing efforts of the brand and be pleasing to the customer receiving it. Packaging plays an important role in advertising the company to customers, so the user experience of opening the packaging should be carefully considered.
- Protect the product. Equally as important as being visually appealing, the package should also protect the product from external objects that could contaminate or damage the product. Endurance is another factor here, as the protection must be able to hold up until the product arrives on the customer’s doorstep.
- Be easily stored. Ideally, your product won’t be stored for very long because it’s being shipped out to customers, but throughout its journey it may be temporarily added to warehouse inventory. The packaging should facilitate easy stacking and storage while optimizing the amount of space available. Packaging that can’t be easily stored is more likely to be damaged during its stay at the warehouse, which makes it more difficult to maintain healthy inventory without eating into warehouse capacity.
- Be transport-friendly. Products are frequently handled by people (and machines) as they make their way to customers, so the packaging needs to easily facilitate movement. If it’s easy to move, it’s less likely to be dropped or damaged during transit — plus you’ll save on shipping costs by fitting more products into one truckload.
When a package fails to check these boxes, performance metrics drop as damaged and returned products slowly eat away at your company’s profits.
Getting the Most Out of Your Packaging
There’s power in packaging something well — and it all starts with using the right materials. There likely will be different steps for the specific procurement and processing of raw materials depending on the product, but in every case material weight and the amount of material needed to create each package should be reviewed closely before making a decision.
The less material you use to create reliable packaging, the lower your production costs will be. It also promotes sustainability and reduces environmental impact, which influences more than half of consumers’ opinions about your company.
In some cases it’s worth considering reusable packaging options, which can mitigate shortages and support areas of your supply chain that may still be recovering from disruption. Look at waste as an asset instead of a liability, and be creative about repurposing.
The weight of the material is key to lowering your total shipping costs. Lightweight packaging can be shipped in greater amounts using fewer truckloads — heavier packaging requires more pallets and truckloads to move, upping fuel and transportation costs. The goal should be to have the lightest weight package possible without compromising structural integrity.
Remember to optimize packaging for easy identification with any barcodes, hazard warnings and other identifying markers printed in clearly visible, easily accessible areas. Clear identification is like grease in a machine; it keeps the entire production and shipping process operating smoothly.
Packaging Changes and Trends
The supply chain as a whole is still feeling the effects of COVID-19, resulting in shortages and disruptions years after the pandemic began.
According to the GEP annual report, companies may experience longer than normal lead times as well as rising demand for pulp and paper. They also predict fears of economic recession may force raw material prices to remain high, but they should cool off as demand from other industries like automotive and manufacturing decreases.
What does this mean for your packaging future?
Primarily it means collaborating closely with your suppliers and service providers. One of the best things you can do is share a rolling 12-month plan and maintain open communication about needs and shortages. It may also mean adopting a more holistic approach to package design by considering how each part of the supply chain may be affected.
Don’t hesitate to contact a First Call Logistics expert for more on product packaging and other practical ways to streamline your supply chain — we’d love to help you partner with reliable warehouse facilities and trusted carriers to ensure your products are delivered intact and on time.