Packaging – The Total Solution

A recent Spend Matters perspective asked a very important question: Have You Got the Total Package? This is important not only because packaging costs money and adds to total product costs, but also costs money by adding to transportation costs – twice, and, even more importantly, can cost sales by limiting how many units of a popular product you can have on the shelf at any one time, especially if poorly designed.

More importantly, as the perspective pointed out, you can save significantly if you attack the packaging category strategically, even when prices are rising across the board. Up to 20% savings are possible through better sourcing and requirements definition, and up to 50% are possible with re-design. The key, as with any other strategic category, is to understand what you’re buying, with whom, in what volume, and what you really need. Not only are there spend leverage opportunities, but there are often significant substitution capabilities simply by changing the specifications from “‘B Flute’ Cardboard box, 12″ by 6″ by 8″, Form Factor 2” to “Box: minimum 11″ by 5″ by 7″; maximum 13″ by 8″ by 12″; minimum weight capacity 15 lbs; maximum weight capacity 25 lbs;” … because this allows the supplier to offer you the product that is the most effective for them to make if multiple boxes will do equally well. No redesign necessary.

It also allows you to bypass the “crawl” phase of the “crawl – walk – run” maturation process for sourcing organizations presented in the perspective, which is important as this will significantly increase your chances of achieving big savings quickly, without requiring any significant involvement from engineering. All you are asking for is a specification of the requirements in a product neutral manner, which engineering would have defined before they selected the current standard packaging.

This allows you to get to the “run” phase faster, which is where significant savings opportunities are to be found, especially if you’re willing to go beyond simple material substitution and engage in a full packaging design process that will minimize package size, minimize raw material requirements and associated costs, maximize the number of units that can fit onto a pallet, and minimize the shipping requirements for the packaging itself. For example, just like a box generally allows for tighter packing than an odd shaped container, a tetrahedron often allows for denser packing than a cube while reducing the amount of packaging material required to achieve the same volume. Thus, just like tetrahedron containers make sense for certain liquids, they might also make sense for odd-shaped products (like pyramid-shaped ornaments) that would leave too much free space in a box (and increase the filling material requirement as well as waste).

And the sooner you’re running off to do package design optimization, which will could also help you get greener faster, the sooner you’re saving money on categories that would otherwise have price increases through the roof. So, Get Packing and save money!