If you want to keep your customers happy, efficient warehouse packaging is essential. It not only protects the goods inside from being damaged, but it also protects the reputation of your company. No one wants to have to chase up items that have been destroyed in transit due to poor packaging, and can turn customers away.
Pretty much every order placed on online will have some sort of packaging and have been stored in a warehouse somewhere. Global logistics are now at the very forefront of many businesses, and companies can ship products to the other side of the world, often within a day or two.
When it comes to managing logistics smoothly, warehouse packaging is fundamental. If you don't have a plan in place, an efficient logistics operation is next to impossible, and packaging is at the very heart of it all. It not only improves the product handling process but the transportation of goods and inventory management, and in the long run, productivity and your profit margin.
If you run a smaller company, warehouse packaging may be something that you can handle by yourself. However, taking on such a fundamental part of the business alone can be incredibly stressful, and if you do not get it right, your whole business can be at risk. For this reason alone, many companies decide to outsource their warehousing and packaging to a third party company with experience.
Your Packaging Options
Below, we have listed just a few of the packaging options that you may consider for your products. Which one you choose is entirely dependent on your budget and what you are protecting and sending. You may also want to look for options that are more eco-friendly, as the majority of options are plastic based.
- Air Shrink Wrapping – This involves covering the product with a layer of polymer plastic film, which is then heated. When the heat is applied, the shrink wrap, as the name suggests, shrinks tightly over the product. The heat can be applied with a hand-held heat gun, or the product can be passed through a heat tunnel on a conveyer belt. This is often used to protect items such as books, CDs and DVDs, magazines and as an overwrap for many other products or pallet loads. This prevents the items from being tampered with and also gives stability if used as an overwrap.
- Skin Packaging – This is a form of carded packaging, where the product is placed on a cardboard layer, and a thin sheet of clear plastic is placed over both the product and paperboard. Like air shrink packaging, it is then heated or put through a vacuum to ensure a tight fit. Meat and fish are often packaged in a ‘skin’.
- Stretch wrapping – this is when a highly stretchable plastic film is wrapped around the items. The elastic in the plastic keeps the items secured together. It is most frequently used on pallet loads.
- Blister packaging – this is a preformed type of plastic packaging, most commonly used on smaller items such as children’s toys and pharmaceuticals. It usually has some sort of carded backing, onto which the plastic blister shell is attached. It is useful for protecting things against external factors, such as humidity.
- Clamshell packaging – this is a similar type of packaging to blister packs but is entirely made of plastic. It is one piece of plastic, consisting of two halves joined by a hinge. It is commonly used for food items, especially fruits.
On top of these, there are simple cardboard boxes or glass packaging, but the vast majority of manufacturers and distributors default to plastic based options for cost and ease.
These days, rapid delivery of items is no longer considered a perk, but an essential. With some companies such as Amazon offering next-day, or even same day, delivery as standard, by not having a secure packaging and delivery system in place, you are jeopardising your businesses future. The key is to handle the products as little as possible and having them all packed up and ready to go as soon as the customer has clicked that ‘order now’ button. Making sure that all the products are organised correctly in the warehouse, are easily accessible and are clearly labelled cuts down the need for the products to be handled. This will save you time and money and will reduce the risk of items getting misplaced or damaged.
The benefits of efficient packaging
- Products are delivered safely and securely
- Any hazardous materials are as safe as possible and comply with laws and best practice. CL Smith can help provide packaging for this.
- Some packaging may be able to be reused or recycled, which saves you money and is beneficial to the environment
- Extends the life of shipped goods
- Increases the efficiency of the warehouse space or storage facility.
Naturally, the packaging does come at a cost, and while everyone would always like to default to the cheapest option, the following factors need to be taken into consideration:
- The size of the parcel that you are shipping
- The type of parcel that you are sending
- Your storage needs
- Your/customers shipping requirements
Other things that you may need to think about are:
- Your target audience: You will never please everyone, but if you really focus in on your ideal consumer and package your product for them, you will be on the right track. Although many children’s toys are encased in blister packaging with lots of plastic cable ties, it can be the bane of a parent’s life when excited children are waiting for their toy. By taking something like this into account, you can design your packaging and really appeal to your audience, making you a stand out company.
- How the products will travel: It is essential o give almost as much consideration to how the product will travel and whether it will get there safely as to the design of the item itself. It should be an integral part of the design process, not an afterthought. It costs a lot more to replace or repair damaged items – and the damage it can do to your reputation – than it does to design and use adequate protective packaging in the first place.
- Whether you will use standard sizing – While the size of your packaging will quite obviously depend on the product that it contains, it is essential that you standardise it as far as possible. This reduces both costs in producing the packaging, but also in transport costs. For example, square packaging means things can be packed or stored more tightly together, saving on room and therefore costs.
If you are merely putting items in cardboard boxes, think carefully about the fillers you will use. If there is lots of dead space in the box, you will end up using more and spending more on fillers such as bubble wrap or foam peanuts. Try to use as small a box as possible, reducing the need for this. If you are packaging up products in house, this will also save you space in your warehouse or distribution centre, as rolls of bubble wrap or containers of foam peanuts can take up a considerable amount of space.
It is also essential that you train all members of staff involved in the packing process on how you would like it to be done. If they are packing incorrectly, this will cost you more in the long run.
You also need to consider your returns process. If an item is faulty or not required, is it easy for your customers to send back to you for a refund or a replacement? Will they need to go out and buy expensive packaging to send it back if they have thrown their original packaging away? You want to make your returns policy as easy as possible for your customers, as this will make them more likely to shop with you again in the future.
If you think you may need extra help, or your warehouse doesn’t provide packaging assistance, it may be worth teaming up with a packaging professional. They will help your business to avoid expensive packaging mistakes that could setback your business. A professional will help to you to strike a balance between satisfying your customers and meeting your product demands. These professionals will also work with you to reach your profit goals help you to reduce your costs, eliminate any additional steps, automate your packaging process, and work out which materials would be best for your packaging and shipping operations.
It is vital to recognise the impact that packaging can have on your overall business and to take action and improve your processes and your overall packaging now. From simple industrial packaging products designed simply to protect the items during the shipping process to more attractive product packaging designed to look great and advertise your brand on a budget, the direction you take in your packaging is up to you. While saving money on packaging may be practicable and attractive, just remember to make sure you are getting the product protection you need from it.