Mick Arnold in BBJ: Want to Help the Environment? Let’s Reduce Product Shipping Damage
Product damage during shipment can take on many forms, rendering an item useless to the consumer. Whether it’s breakage, dents, or scratching, a product that can’t be used by a customer results in returns, reshipments and waste, to say nothing of fostering a poor customer experience. Just how big of a problem is this becoming? A study by StellaService found that one in every 10 products shipped, arrives damaged. Consider that in 2017, Amazon revealed that it shipped more than five billion items, translating to roughly 500-thousand damaged goods. And that’s just one e-tailer. As eCommerce grows, this is a problem that will only get worse.
Unfortunately, these damaged products also create a massive ecological burden in four prominent areas: landfill space, fossil fuel use, warehousing, and packaging materials. Consider the following statistics from Pregis, a major manufacturer of packaging materials:
- Five billion pounds of damaged products end up in landfills annually.
- 55-thousand metric tons of CO2 are generated each day from shipping. Reshipping damaged products adds to this usage.
- Each year, damaged products take up 109-million SF of warehouse space. At 6.1k/w per hour for every SF of warehouse, the energy use adds up.
- Roughly one billion trees are needed to produce the amount of cardboard packaging that’s used each year to ship products. Repackaging a replacement item adds to the burden.
Luckily, taking a few decisive steps to ensure items are packaged correctly before they head out the door can reduce much of the aforementioned waste. Here are some of the ways we can be smarter in how we ship.
Each individual product requires the right material choice to ensure a safe journey. Today’s shipping cycle is shorter than 10 years ago, but that cycle is much rougher; with many more touches on its path to the consumer. Whether it’s cushioning, abrasion resistance or blocking and bracing, every item needs to be packaged to meet it’s own unique needs in order to withstand the arduous path to a destination. There are also shipping materials that are sustainable all on their own. Ecorrcrate is a corrugated container made by cross laminating sheets of cardboard that meets or exceeds the strength of many wood containers, while also being lighter and easily recyclable.
Manufactures can also simulate the shipping track, overcoming potential damage ahead of time. The International Safe Transit Association (ISTA), which governs packaging shipping specifications, has developed very thorough tests that simulate the conditions experienced by items in the shipping cycle, including drops, vibrations, compressions, and environmental factors. Manufacturers can run a test to see how a product could be affected, and make the necessary changes to the packaging design.
Automation can also improve packaging and prevent damage during shipping, while also reducing our carbon footprint. Void reduction technology automatically ensures every cardboard box perfectly surrounds a product, allowing for greater internal security, and helps get more items on every truck, ship or plane. FloWrap automatically inserts products into plastic mailers, versus a box, making them leaner, lighter, and easier to send in bulk. Stealthwrap is another technique that protects products in transit, and eliminates material waste by 80-percent. And lastly, considering utilizing a stretch wrap machine in your operation. It can ensure pallets are enveloped tighter, more securely, use less plastic film, and arrive at a destination intact.
And keep in mind that an item that’s packaged intelligently will be more than just tough during transit. It will use less overall material, be lighter, take up less space in transit, and ultimately, use fewer resources to get from factory to customer.
As manufactures, we can spend extra time and resources on the shipping cycle, anticipate areas where product damage can be prevented well ahead of time, and make sure every package is up to the task. If we don’t address the problem of damaged goods head on, not only will our businesses suffer, but so will the world around us.
This article first appeared online in the Baltimore Business Journal on 2/18/2020