IS YOUR PACKAGING OPTIMAL FOR SALES AND SHIPPING EFFICIENCY? MAYBE IT’S TIME TO STOP WORRYING AND OUTSOURCE
Many small manufacturers’ brilliant ideas flounder at the packaging stage due to inexperience with materials and a lack of expertise in choosing the right company to pack their goods.
“We started off with what we thought was a great idea of a product packed in sachets, which was then made up with water for a market in Africa,” says Clive, a young entrepreneur who wishes to remain anonymous due to the embarrassment of those first orders. “The first contract packager we dealt with supplied us with boxes that were the wrong shape. They were too shallow and our product was too loosely packed. When it went into warehousing prior to distribution the boxes buckled under the weight when stacked, the sides split, and the contents could easily be pilfered.”
Clive says the packaging also looked really unprofessional. “I think the company just had a number of boxes on hand and decided to move them off their floor,” he explains. He decided to change the approach.
“After this initial disaster,” he says, “we approached another company who worked out the dimensions of our product, quantity per box and stacking height, and supplied us with a better, more compact shape in which the contents were tightly packed.” As a result, the product arrived in good condition, the boxes were easier to handle and there were no losses during the warehousing stage.
“We learned our lesson the hard way and have now chosen a company that cares about our product.”
A professional company will take care of all customer needs by allocating a representative to walk the client through the process of preparing products for the shelves.
“Find the right partner and work closely with them to allow the fulfillment area of your business to run as smoothly and as cost effectively as possible, while providing great customer service,” advises Barry Graff, chief operating officer for Alpha Distribution Solutions.
Alpha was established in 1936 as a local textile manufacturing company in Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania. Today, the fourth-generation, family-owned business continues to manufacture apparel in the USA but has grown into a full-service, third-party logistics company. Alpha provides distribution, warehousing, inventory management and fulfillment services to apparel and consumer goods companies. Currently, Alpha packages 50 million units of apparel/product every year, distributing orders to retailers such as Walmart, specialty shops and boutiques, or directly to consumers.
Graff explains that automation is among the growing trends in the packaging and distribution industry. The company’s entire operation is made possible through an intelligent automated conveyor system and warehouse management system.
“The obvious reason to outsource any function within any business is to allow your company to focus on its core competency and let others focus on functions within your organization, where they are expert,” says Graff. He notes that companies often overlook the benefits of eliminating the variables of space and staffing. “The volume of a company’s orders can vary greatly month to month, and hopefully, due to growth, year to year. So, acquiring the space necessary to run this type of operation is challenging. You rarely have the correct amount of space—but sometimes too much, and sometimes not enough.” The same thing happens with staffing, he says: third-party fulfillment centers are able to leverage multiple customers to fill in gaps with regard to space and staff.
Pick-and-pack companies can respond more quickly to changes in the market and government regulations due to their size. They can fill specialized niches like the unique packaging needed to avoid counterfeiting. Child- and senior-friendly packaging is also a growing arena in which companies are looking for specialized solutions to suit clients’ specific needs.
Although the initial cost may seem high, it is only after all factors have been taken into account that entrepreneurs can make an informed choice about whether to outsource their packaging.