How to Improve Your Protective Packaging Without Breaking the Bank

Packaging can be a surprisingly costly business expense, but there are easy ways to improve its quality without sacrificing affordability. It’s vital to invest in this since online shopping is more popular than ever before. Demand for e-commerce products increases the need for companies to use high-quality protective packaging, but this can be highly expensive, especially with paper prices rising.

The first thing to consider when trying to cut back on packaging costs is what exactly you are shipping. This will influence all the other factors that go into your design. For example, electronics are often sensitive to electrostatic discharge, so they must be shipped in an anti-static bag, regardless of any additional packaging. Similarly, some mechanical parts can be damaged by contact with other components or by excessive turbulence during the shipping process. These items may need more padding.

Everything from the climate a product needs to be in to its vulnerability to any travel-related hazards needs to be considered before refining the protective packaging further.

Item-Appropriate Package Sizes

The first and easiest way to reduce business costs while improving design is by closing the gap between item and package size. It can be challenging to find packaging that is a perfect fit for every item in your lineup, but it’s possible. Remember, you are paying for the quantity of material a box or envelope uses. Even if it may seem cheaper to use a one-size-fits-all approach and only buy one or two box sizes, it may cost you more in the long run. This is due to unneeded material being wasted on small items.

Optimizing package size may mean leaving standardization behind to create your own custom-sized boxes or envelopes. This may sound more expensive, and the cost of designing them needs to be considered. However, in terms of sheer materials, custom box designs could be less expensive. For example, electronics e-commerce retailer Newegg uses on-demand packaging for many of its products, in combination with some standard-size box options.

A full sheet of flat cardboard can potentially package more items because each box made from it is the minimum necessary size with no excess material. Smaller, tighter packaging also reduces the cost required to fill void space with other packaging materials. While some items may still need a bit of padding, you won’t be paying to ship plastic bags full of air or boxes stuffed with filler paper.

Keep It Simple

One of the easiest ways to save money on protective packaging is by reducing complexity. Not all items need a custom-fitted foam shell or a fancy box design. Packaging like that drives up prices through custom designs and expensive molding or printing. Even the kind of padding you use can be simplified.

Rather than using a specialized bubble wrap to fill space inside boxes, try air pillows, which are essentially empty plastic bags puffed with air. Quality of coverage on items is much more important than quantity, as well. For example, delicate machine parts aren’t stuffed into boxes with every inch of space filled with packing peanuts or paper. Individual pieces are carefully wrapped in padding instead, and dividers are used to keep them from moving around. This is much more effective than focusing on filling void space.

While the quality over quantity approach may sound complex, it is much more efficient because it is easily reproducible and methodical. This means that wrapping products for shipping or fitting boxes with padding can be automated, increasing productivity and efficiency.

Another benefit of simple packaging to keep in mind is the environmental impact. More consumers are pursuing plastic-free lifestyles, so the packaging companies use can impact their perception of the brand. Smaller boxes and minimal interior packing lead to less waste, making sustainability-conscious customers happy and reducing business costs.

Soft or Hard Packaging

There are generally two choices available for main exterior packaging: cardboard or plastic. Both have their advantages and drawbacks, in terms of functionality as well as price. This connects back to the core consideration of the specific needs of your products. Just as not all products are fit for the same size box, not all items require a box at all. Simple envelopes, bubble mailers or plastic bags can work just as well for many products.

For example, a jacket does not need to be shipped in a box since it is soft and resistant to any shocks or bumps it might face during transit. Contrastingly, more sensitive items, such as specially-treated metals or electronics, may need specialized padding and protection to insulate them against things like unideal climates, static, or turbulence.

For items like these, the extra cost of interior packaging or reinforcement is necessary, but the same does not apply to all products. A good rule of thumb may be to consider how you might like your item to be packaged if you were a customer. Some protection is beneficial, but large foam or cardboard inserts can be challenging for customers to dispose of, as well. Considering what level of contact with outside forces is acceptable for your product will help determine whether hard packaging is necessary or not.

Consider Everything in the Box

The things that go into your product box are just as important as those that go into your shipping container. Items are often packaged with extras inside, such as catalogs, pamphlets, legal documents and other papers. Some companies have saved money by going digital instead, which significantly reduces business costs.

While choosing protective packaging that minimizes void space is ideal, it may not be affordable for your business’s needs. If this is the case, consider creative alternatives. You may find that you don’t need to buy expensive plastic padding or fitted foam blocks. Some companies use clean shredded paper or cardboard in place of packing peanuts or wrinkled recycled paper in place of air pillows. In fact, reusable packaging has become popular in the industry for its cost-saving capabilities. Depending on the nature of your product, these more budget-friendly options may get the job done adequately.

Another approach is to utilize the items inside the packaging themselves. Products can be packed in such a way that they prevent each other from rattling around during transit. Simple cardboard or even wood dividers can help with this.

Smart, Affordable Protective Packaging

Protective packaging doesn’t have to cost businesses excessive amounts of money. Everything from slightly smaller boxes to digitizing documentation can save money on each product you ship. With a little creativity and innovative solutions, businesses can save thousands every year.

About the Author:

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over four years covering stories about warehousing, logistics and distribution.

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