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Tackling the Hottest Topic in Packaging – Sustainability


Tackling the Hottest Topic in Packaging – Sustainability

Almost every product needs a package. Whether that be a toilet shipping through UPS or a windshield shipping FTL into a vehicle assembly line. The world of packaging is full of trends, hot topics, and buzz words. One that has been a hot topic for the last 10 years is sustainability.

This article is going to look at the three pillars of package sustainability: Reduce – Reuse – Recycle. Let’s look at these three words through the BoldtSmith Packaging lens which focuses on creating optimized packaging solutions that lead to sustainable packaging practices.

Sustainability – Optimized Packaging

When seeking a sustainable packaging solution, it’s important to determine which R is applicable to your packaging goals.

Some products and supply chains are a great fit for recyclable/compostable materials. However, for those that are not, we focus on providing optimized packaging solutions that reduce the carbon footprint. This is where Reduce and Reuse come into play. Optimized packaging solutions lead to sustainable packaging practices because:

-Material: Selecting the best materials results in less material

-Freight: Eliminating air from master cartons leads to better freight efficiency which means less fuel burned

Is sustainability more than just a “feel good” marketing term that large corporations like proudly displaying on their websites and packaging? Keep reading and let’s find out.

Below are descriptions for what each of the three R’s are along with examples from projects we have completed in the past.

Optimized Packaging – Reduce

Reducing packaging materials has been a fundamental pillar in cost reduction. Reducing packaging materials also ties into package sustainability as this reduces the amount of trash being thrown away. This is relevant to all packaging materials whether that be corrugated, foam, aluminum, glass, etc. Eliminating materials that cannot be recycled is not always possible and open-loop supply chains will not allow for a returnable packaging system. This is where BoldtSmith Packaging looks to create optimized packaging designs that reduce the amount of materials used.

Read the below example on how we reduced the level of product damage while in parallel decreasing the amount of packaging material, costs, and freight.

Optimized Packaging Example – Reduce

A customer we have completed multiple projects for was having damage issues with their toilet’s shipping through a small parcel supply chain direct to consumer. They engaged us to develop a packaging solution that would reduce their damage from 12% to less than 1% while in parallel reducing material and freight costs.

Below is an overview of their current packaging vs our optimized solution.

Current Packaging

-Packaging Material Cost: $16.90 per unit

-Packaging Freight Cost: $383.76 via UPS Ground

-Annual Volume: 10,000 units

-Total Annual Cost: $4,006,000

-Damaged Units Annually: 1,200

Design #1: Non-Recyclable Packaging Solution

-Packaging Material Cost: $12.90 per unit

-Packaging Freight Cost: $310.08 via UPS Ground

-Annual Volume: 10,000 units

-Total Annual Cost: $3,222,800

Damaged Units Annually: 100

Cost Difference Annually: $783,200; Damage Difference Annually: 1,100 units

For this example, we designed an optimized packaging solution that dropped their damage rate by less than 1% while in parallel saving them just under $800,000 annually in packaging material and freight costs.

Sustainability variables to consider:

1. Elimination of 1,100 damaged units annually

-Repairs and adjustments

-Return shipment and reverse logistics

-Expedited shipments costs for new product

-New packaging for new product

2. Smaller master carton and interior dunnage reducing the amount of packaging material needed

3. Smaller master carton meaning less space taken up during shipping reducing carbon emissions

Optimized Packaging – Reuse

Closed-loop supply chains offer a great opportunity for utilizing a reusable packaging solution. A common scenario of reusable packaging solutions is manufacturing companies receiving sub-assembly components from a local company.

Common reusable packaging solutions can include:

-Plastic or heavy-duty wood pallets

-Plastic or wooden crates

-Bulk containers such as drums, and IBC’s

-Plastic totes and boxes


Optimized Packaging Example – Reuse

A large door and window manufacturer reached out to BoldtSmith Packaging looking for us to optimize their packaging for all the inbound components they use to build the doors and windows. This included frames, glass, locks, jambs, etc. They receive these components from domestic manufacturing companies. Steps of the project are outlined below along with the findings.

1. Visit the assembly facility to review all packaging material and processes associated with unloading, handling, and storing the components.

2. Brainstorm potential packaging solutions and develop 3D concepts with budgetary pricing

3. Present concepts to our customer and all component suppliers

4. Create packaging designs and specifications and send for pricing from packaging suppliers

5. Create financial analysis comparing current packaging to returnable solutions

6. Create packaging samples for line trials, lab tests and ship tests

7. Adjust design based on testing findings

8. Implement!

At the end of the project, it was determined that 10 of the 12 component suppliers would be transitioned into a returnable packaging solution. This transition saved the customer costs associated with the packaging materials and labor efficiencies were gained while in parallel eliminating expendable packaging solutions from the supply chain.

Optimized Packaging – Recycle

Utilizing recyclable packaging materials is great and we love presenting recyclable packaging options to our customers. Recycling plays a crucial role in minimizing waste and preserving the natural resources of the earth. They are a great fit depending on the product, supply chain, customer base, and most importantly, budget. When outlining our projects, we like to obtain the customer’s goals of the project and so often are we given the below objectives ranked by priority.

-Decrease packaging material costs

-Decrease freight costs

-Decrease labor costs

-Decrease product damage

– “Oh and make it recyclable”

Transitioning from non-recyclable packaging materials that are effective and cheap to 100% recyclable materials can be a cost-effective change depending on the product and packaging. However, there are situations where these recyclable materials are not a great fit. This can be based on who the customer base is, the product type, the supply chain, budget for packaging, etc.

Optimized Packaging Example – Recycle

A large knockdown furniture company reached out to BoldtSmith Packaging looking to transition away from non-recyclable foam in their products. The furniture items are manufactured domestically and ship through both small parcel and palletized supply chains.

We developed packaging designs with and without non-recyclable foam, completed transit testing and created a financial analysis comparing the various solutions. What we determined is that for small parcel shipping, we were not able to cost-effectively transition away from foam. However, we were able to utilize 100% recycled materials for their palletized furniture products.

This was a great balance between remaining cost-effective while exploring sustainable packaging materials. Click the below link to learn more about optimizing furniture packaging.

Contact BoldtSmith Packaging to discuss what we can do for you.

pallet packaging

All About Packaging – Pallets

Packaging is such a broad term that covers everything from a metal crate for a train battery to a gusseted pouch for pancake mix.  One variable that the majority of packaging has in common is nearly all packages are stored or ship on a pallet at some point in the supply chain. Coincidently, a pallet is also often the most misunderstood type of packaging! In this article, we will be completing a deep dive into pallets including a few secret tricks we use to drive out costs associated with pallets.

What is a pallet?

A pallet is a horizontal platform that is used as a base to unitize goods during transportation and storage. Pallets are typically handled in the supply chain by forklifts, fork trucks, and conveyor systems. Most commonly a pallet is made of wood but can also be constructed of other materials such as metal, plastic, corrugated, and hexacomb.

Why is a pallet used?

Pallets are used as the most common method of unitizing products to safely and effectively move and store goods through the supply chain. Pallets also allow for stacking goods in racking or multiple pallets stacked on top of each other.

Pallet Material

Once it is determined if a returnable or expendable solution is the route to explore, the next logical step is to determine the material type. If returnable, common materials include plastic, metal, and wood. If expendable, common materials include wood, hexacomb and corrugated. Wood is the most commonly used material given its performance, cost, and existing supplier base.

Pallet Type

There are a variety of pallet types commonly used such as a stringer, wing, and block-style pallet to name a few. The type of pallet needs to be selected that provides the features required for your specific product size, weight, and supply chain. Selecting the incorrect pallet type can result in wasted money, product/packaging damage.

Pallet Size

There are standard and custom pallet sizes. The standard sizes vary based on location. The standard size in the US is a 48”x40” platform.  With that being said, the 48”x40” platform is not always the correct size depending on variables such as supply chain and size of packaging. Having the incorrect pallet size not only potentially increases the pallet cost but also costs associated with freight and damage.

Interested in learning more if your pallets are optimized for your packaging and supply chain?  Click the below link to learn more about what BoldtSmith Packaging does.

Expendable or Returnable

The first variable to explore when selecting a pallet is whether it should be an expendable or returnable solution. A returnable pallet is most often used in a closed-loop supply chain. For example, an automobile company is receiving headlights from a local manufacturer on a dedicated truck. In this scenario, a returnable pallet is a solution that should be explored.

On the other hand, if a manufacturer is shipping their finished goods from China to the United States on an ocean container and LTL once it arrives domestically, a returnable solution likely will not be applicable.

Pallet Alternatives

To reference the earlier example for a product manufacturer shipping products from China to the US, fitting the most amount of product into the ocean container is critical. The average height of a pallet is 5” and when double-stacked into the ocean container, that is 10” of air being shipped. Popular alternatives to pallets include floor loading and slip-sheets. Both alternative methods require modified unloading techniques when received domestically.  Does it make financial sense to eliminate pallets for overseas shipments?  Potentially, a financial analysis needs to be completed to allow for the data to provide the evidence needed to determine the best method of unitizing the product.

Packaging Considerations

It’s so critical when selecting the pallet type, material, and size to consider the entire packaging system. The referenced packaging system includes the packaging going on the pallet, method of securing product to pallet, storage methods (racking vs stacking), etc. For example, what package is being put on the pallet? If an engine is going on the pallet, plastic banding would be a reasonable material to use to secure the product to the pallet.  If boxed goods are going on the pallet, the stretch film may be a better material used to tie the product to the pallet.

What Does BoldtSmith Packaging do?

BoldtSmith Packaging Consultants is a recognized leader in packaging design, testing, and optimization for retail and e-commerce packaging, shipping crates and displays. We do not manufacture or broker packaging, we sell a service filling in as a temporary packaging engineer for companies requiring specialized packaging expertise. Click the below link to learn more about BoldtSmith Packaging and the services that we offer.

What does BoldtSmith Packaging do?


“It’s What We Have Always Done”

One of the advantages of BoldtSmith Packaging coming into your facility is having a fresh set of eyes take a look at the current packaging process and designs. Specifically, eyes that have been in thousands of manufacturing facilities for products ranging from pancake mix to motorcycles.

No matter what the product is or what the packaging is, there are six words we commonly hear. “It’s what we have always done”. When we hear this, the majority of the time we are able to uncover substantial cost savings! A few of these potential packaging optimization opportunities are outlined below:

1. Packaging material, freight or labor savings

2. Product damage reduction

3. Packaging consolidation

4. Process changes

Packaging has a way of being “grandfathered” in at a lot of companies. For example, a company develops a packaging solution for a product where the forecasted annual quantities were 50,000 units per year and shipping palletized into Whole Foods. Since that product was introduced 5 years ago, it has now been picked up by Walmart, Amazon and Target. Annual quantities are now over 8 million!

The company has exhausted all potential opportunities to increase margins through optimizing its processes, materials, and waste related to manufacturing the product. However, the packaging that was used at Whole Foods when the annual quantities were 50,000 is in fact the same packaging being used today at 8 million units per year. How could that be? Because, “It’s what we have always done”.

When you read through that, what packaging came to your mind? Corrugated boxes? Clamshells? Bottles? Pallets? That’s great! Packaging means something different to every company. For one company, it might mean gusted pouches going into a master carton that is palletized and stretch wrapped with corner boards and slipsheets between each layer of cartons.

How many different packaging materials and processes were just listed in that example? Were those materials and processes selected based on data and testing with a goal of maximizing profit, reducing damage and increasing customer satisfaction?

Or are they being used because “It’s what we have always done”?

Reach out to BoldtSmith Packaging and we will come into your facilities to identify what opportunities exist. From there, we will design, test and implement optimized packaging concepts!

Check out this case study on how we saved a customer over $6,000,000 in packaging costs!

This post originally appeared here. Republished with permission.


Is Your Furniture Packaging Optimized?

The world of furniture packaging has transformed as more companies rid their business of shipping products full truckload (FTL). The more frequent method of shipping has transitioned to less than truckload (LTL) for assembled furniture or small parcel for ready to assemble furniture. This change in supply chain has a direct impact on the packaging required to survive shipping without product damage.

Listed below are the four steps we take at BoldtSmith Packaging with projects specific to optimizing the packaging for furniture.

Know your Supply Chain

The first step in developing a packaging solution is understanding the supply chain in which your product is shipped through. This directly impacts the packaging design and testing protocols required to verify a concept. A product shipping full truck load (FTL) on a company’s existing fleet in comparison to less than truckload (LTL) requires completely different packaging solutions. Too often do we see a customer using the same concept that works shipping FTL but is damaged in an LTL environment and the blame is put on the carrier. This same concept applies to small parcel ready to assemble furniture packaging.

A few questions that are helpful when evaluating a supply chain are outlined below

-How is the product stored and handled internally prior to shipment?

-What machinery is used to transport the packaged product?

-Fork truck? Hand truck? Clamp truck?

-If palletized, does the pallet allow for the available machinery to be utilized without special attachments or modifications?

Example: Fork truck tine extensions

-How many hubs will the packaged products go through if shipping LTL?

-What hazards are to be expected during shipping and handling?

-Vehicle vibration, forklift handling, horizontal and vertical impacts, drivers clipping curb, etc

These questions are often best answered by the way BoldtSmith Packaging approaches projects like this. Boots on the ground. We believe in observing the supply chain first hand. For this reason, often our first step in projects is going through the supply chain finding the answers to these questions.

Design to Survive

Now that we have an understanding of how the product and packaging will be shipped and handled, we can design packaging to survive these hazards. For example, ready to assemble furniture products getting damaged during small parcel shipping from corner drops require a company different solution than that same product experiencing scratching due to vibration.

For this reason, we typically provide multiple packaging designs ranging in protective capabilities and material, freight, and labor costs. This gives our customers the information required to make informed decisions as to which design works best for their specific needs.

Exploring a variety of packaging designs and materials requires internal design and sampling capabilities. BoldtSmith Packaging has a team of packaging engineer’s to complete designs internally which allows us to remove packaging manufacturer’s from the design process. Our customers then own the packaging specifications and can send them to multiple packaging suppliers for competitive bids. This vital for both domestically manufactured furniture and overseas.

After multiple designs are created, we then proceed with making samples internally. Whether that is utilizing our CNC machine specifically made for corrugated and foam or building a crate in our wood shop. Samples are then tested to verify they can survive the intended hazards.

Test to Verify

The testing portion of the project is so critical as it provides the data needed to prove the designs can survive the supply chain. An interesting point is we often discover companies pass testing and then consider that the completion of the project. For BoldtSmith Packaging, that is often just the mid-point of the project.

Our goal is to provide customers the best possible packaging. This means testing the product and packaging to failure. Once we reach failure, we can redesign and pass testing but unless we fail testing, we will not know where the pass/fail line is. For example, if we are utilizing a 3”, #2 lb density EPS foam and passed testing. Are we able to still pass testing utilizing a 2.5”, #2 lb density EPS foam? If the answer is yes, then we continue reducing the foam thickness until we fail. When we fail, we then explore alternate foam density’s or materials.

The test however for this concept to work as intended must replicate the hazards the product and packaging actually experience during shipping. This is another reason why step 1 of understanding the supply chain is so critical.

Track Progress

After the optimized design has been implemented, the project still has one remaining step. Data must continue to be gathered to track damage. Packaging optimization is best understood as a continuous process. Customer feedback should be gathered in a specific and data-driven manner. If a product becomes damaged during shipping, below are a few examples of information that would need to be acquired.

-Pictures and a description of the damage

-Location of the customer (Domestic, Overseas, etc.)

-Hard costs associated with the damage

-Hard costs include product, packaging, freight, labor costs, etc.

-Soft costs associated with the damage

-Soft costs include logistics associated with a damage claim, loss of sales, reputation, etc.

-Percentage of damage incidents relative to the number of shipments

The questions relevant to the customer providing the information must be gathered in a consistent manner. We recommend having an online portal or feedback form that instructs the customer on what information is needed. This allows for cataloging the information so it can be tracked and analyzed.

Whether the furniture you are shipping is fully assembled going through an LTL supply chain or a knock-down furniture kit shipping small parcel, BoldtSmith Packaging has the experience and resources to provide optimized packaging solutions.

This article originally appeared here. Republished with permission.