Daily Archives: March 4, 2014

Pre-Package vs. Post-Package? Or How About No Package?

Amazon wants to pre-package goods and ship them to a location near you in anticipation of your upcoming order (as per our recent post on how anticipatory demand planning is good, but anticipatory shipping?) It’s an interesting idea, but the shipping companies are going to have to upgrade their systems to make it work (as per our recent post).

However, if you’re talking about the Food & Beverage Industry, as per this recent article over on Inbound Logistics on Packaging Postponement: A Game Changer for F&B Companies, by positioning product packaging further downstream in the supply chain and closer to the consumer, food manufacturers can take advantage of different selling opportunities. If the product is selling better in a certain retail location, major restaurant chain, or even through a set of strategically-deployed vending machines, you want to get it where it’s selling best in the quantity that can sell. This will generally require the right packaging, since a vending machine portion will generally be smaller than a store portion which will be smaller than a restaurant portion as the restaurant will order in bulk to prepare in bulk.

Packaging is a conundrum. But do you even need packaging at all? (At least at the individual product level.)

Let’s consider the Amazon situation. Do they even have to package the products they are shipping in bulk at all? While it’s true that they are not a traditional store where you can walk in and pick up the item, this doesn’t mean that you can’t walk in to a “store” and pick up the item. Nor does it mean that you need packaging to affix a shipping label.

Consider Amazon’s expanding Locker service. If a good is placed in a locker, it doesn’t need a package. Neither does any good placed in any neighbouring locker. All of the goods going to the lockers can be shipped in a single “package”, and then put in the appropriate lockers. But the “package” doesn’t have to be a package — it can be a reusable shipping container. Then there’s no packaging, no waste, and shipping is on its way to becoming a sustainable business.

Basically, Amazon can re-invent the mail-order model developed by Sears, Roebuck & Co. where “mail-order” is replaced by “e-mail order” and “counter pickup” is replaced by “locker pickup” and bring back the “reusable crate”, only this time it’s probably a “eco-friendly heavy-duty plastic crate” that will last much longer.

And while you might think that this concept cannot be translated to Food & Beverage, challenge that notion. The Bulk Barn‘s entire business model is built on bulk, package-free, purchases. And all of the food and beverage products they sell can be shipped in reusable containers. (Now, I know it doesn’t work for liquids in the current business model*, but it works fine for most dry goods.)

What’s the point? You can package when, where, and how you want, but first think about whether you even have to package at all, and, if you do, if you can use re-usable shipping containers. Environmentally friendly and cost-effective, it will save you money and image points on an ongoing basis.

* But even then, we can bring back the classic milk delivery model where you return the reusable models, but update it such that you pay a high deposit each time you buy a reusable bottle, which is waived each time you return a reusable bottle, just like the eco-conscious micro-breweries are doing.