If packaging is a necessity in your business, then you understand the many competing interests at play as you decide what to purchase as well as whom you want to purchase it from. However depending on your role, you likely have varying priorities.
If you’re a Production Manager, you may put more credence into the combination of solutions and providers who keep your lines moving with the most efficiency. Yet if you’re a Purchasing Manager, you may lean heavily on the products and suppliers that give you the lowest price on the packaging items you maintain. Operations Managers, on the other hand, may need to evaluate more than the lowest cost of procurement – they might find themselves buried in applying economics to all aspects of their business in search of the greatest return on their packaging investment. This includes the areas of product damage, shipping provider claims, and customer satisfaction when packaging fails. If you know and understand your damage rate, you have likely faced, at one time or another, what we call “The Protectionist’s Dilemma.”
The Protectionist’s Dilemma is mired in an abundance of metrics designed to tell you what’s failed and how much that failure has cost your bottom line. If a product is damaged or broken, you may find yourself scrambling to recover the gross margin loss.
Let’s look at the considerations making The Protectionist’s Dilemma a difficult decision, and what you can do to prevent product damage.
The Cast of Villains in The Protectionist’s Dilemma are:
Shock and Vibration – a real nasty culprit. This damage often goes unseen from the packaging exterior. This means freight claims are difficult to recover, and customer dissatisfaction arises from the extra amount of time it takes to troubleshoot why their new product isn’t functioning correctly in the absence of visible damage.
Scuffing – quite an irritating character. When items rub against each other, or against the wall of a corrugated box, items can show up in slightly-less-than-mint condition. It’s hard to swallow knowing you’ll need to sell 3 more products to make up the gross margin of this item in lieu of some thoughtful pre-planning.
Breakage – the assassin’s calling card. If your product arrives in pieces at its destination there are usually telltale signs on the outside of your box. It’s hard to protect against a delivery truck driving over your parcel, but you should always assume that any box shipped that’s not strapped to a pallet is going to be dropped, kicked, or maybe even drop-kicked.
Between all these things that can go wrong during shipping, how do you know what type of protection you need?
Here are some solutions you can call upon to battle packaging’s nemeses.
Void Fill – the least expensive form of protection. If your product won’t break in shipment, void fill becomes the necessary packaging that consumes pockets of air inside your package. Minimizing pockets of air keeps your product from shifting in transit to prevent scuffing. If breakage and shock/vibe are not considerations, then you most likely have a low damage rate to begin with and packaging ROI should point to products such as: loose fill, newsprint, kraft paper, bubble wrap, and air pillows.
Blocking/Bracing – seeks to deny the adverse effects of shock/vibe and breakage. It can be more impactful than simple void fill as the products tend to be larger in size. Blocking and bracing your investments from the cruel outside world requires packaging materials with more substance than simple void fill material. Your search will likely include: honeycomb packaging, corrugated packaging, and custom foam solutions.
Abrasion Protection – is for you if scuffing is your main concern, but you’ll want to consider both the likelihood your product will scuff and nature of the scuffing. If you are considering a custom Foam solution, you’ll want to know which foams can scuff and which are good for glass/metal surfaces. Some products will suffice in transit with simply a poly bag around it, while others may need more expensive protection. You should consider products such as: poly bags/tubing, bubble wrap, rolled foam, or custom foam solutions.
Damage Control – is necessary if you need to fortify your product in more meaningful ways. Examine your current damage rate multiplied by your costs of product, packaging, and loss of use. To lower your damage rate you will likely have to spend more on protecting your product, so look for a partner who has an in-house design team, as they likely have solved your problem before, or at least have the resources to design and sample solutions for you to test in real world shipping scenarios. An added bonus is a design team who designs in multiple product categories, not just the ones they manufacture. Depending on the protection you require, you may be looking at products such as: bubble wrap, custom foam solutions, Korrvu packaging, or Foam-In-Place chemicals.
What product to choose? Who to partner with? Who truly understands your pain? All good questions that need to be answered correctly.
As you start to analyze all the factors outlined above, make sure you start with your damage rate and understand the true costs involved. Next, evaluate the increase in protection costs against the drop in damage rate. Share these metrics with your packaging partner so their design team fully understands the scope of the project and gives you the best chance of hitting your target. The choices for protecting your product can be massively overwhelming (hence the “dilemma”), so be sure to pick a packaging partner that will do your product justice.
Contact The BoxMaker if you’d like to learn about how we can help design the best packaging for you, and solve your protectionist’s dilemma for good.