On average, more than 10 percent of packages arrive at distribution centers with some type of damage. The very nature of transportation creates risk for damaged products, and in an effort to avoid this costly damage, some companies go to extreme measures to protect the contents of their shipments. Sometimes, this level of caution is warranted; sensitive medical or technological devices, for example, cannot withstand some of the rough handling that comes along with shipping.
In many cases, though, the goal of reducing damage results in overpackaging. Some companies use excess packaging for the sheer purpose of protecting the items inside; for example, using excessive amounts of shrink wrap on pallets or extra padding that does little more than add weight to the shipment without any other tangible benefits.
Sometimes overpackaging occurs because despite changes to the products themselves, there haven’t been any updates to the packaging. Overpackaging can also be a result of a failure to keep up with the latest packaging technology and products. Even something as simple as a carboard box can be designed and manufactured with specific features to enhance durability and reduce the need for extra packaging.
Regardless of the reason for overpackaging, whether it’s an excess of caution or a reluctance to invest in anything new, the outcomes are the same. Businesses are wasting money and hurting the environment, not to mention potentially annoying customers, with unnecessary packaging. It is possible to reduce damage and keep products safe without all of the extra packaging.
The Effect of Overpackaging
The biggest effect of overpackaging products is cost. Simply put, in an effort to save money on damaged products, companies are spending too much money on excess packaging.
For example, when packing pallets, shrink wrap is typically used to secure the containers and provide support during shipment. However, typical shrink wrap products tend to have a great deal of stretch, meaning that to get the proper level of support, the pallet must be wrapped multiple times. Not only does this create frustration on the receiving end, as the recipients need to cut through multiple layers of plastic wrap, but that wrap generally goes to waste. By choosing a higher quality shrink wrap product, the initial cost may be a bit higher, but shipments require less of the plastic, so costs and waste are reduced.
Shrink wrap is just one type of packaging that wastes money and resources. Void fill is another place where packaging tends to be excessive. Not only does the wrong kind of filler increase the chance of damage or weight, but if the wrong filler is combined with the wrong size container, then waste only increases. By carefully analyzing the type of products you’re shipping and their packaging needs, you can avoid spending on excess void filler while still keeping items safe.
Tips to Avoid Overpackaging
Balancing the need to keep items safe while not overpackaging can be tricky. Underpacking a product could mean that not only is the product damaged, but the packaging is wasted – a double whammy of waste. And while overpackaging can protect the product, there is a line between an acceptable amount of overpackaging and excess, unnecessary overpackaging. However, it can be done, saving your company money and reducing the amount of environmental waste.
For example, using impact indicators on your packages can help you analyze what happens to your packages in transit, and make better packaging decisions. Other ideas include:
Carefully analyze the damage that does occur. Determine where it occurs (on the loading dock, in transit, during unloading) and what can be done to prevent it. Uncover the root cause of the damage to determine whether it’s actually a packaging issue, or something else entirely.
Review packaging regularly. As your products develop and evolve, so should packaging. If your product dimensions change, for instance, so should the shipping boxes. Rather than use extra padding in a box that’s too large, order new boxes in a more appropriate size.
Analyze your products. What are the fundamental weaknesses of the product and what are the most important elements to protect? Designing packaging around those factors will reduce the likelihood of catastrophic damage as well as the tendency to overpackage to protect the unknown.
As the need to be more environmentally conscious coincides with ongoing challenges to reduce costs, addressing the issue of overpackaging will become increasingly important. By understanding your packing challenges and where you can improve, you’ll remain ahead of the curve.