The benefits of right size packaging

* 5 min read
Packaging that is designed to fit perfectly for a product must also allow the correct amount of space to protect it, to ensure it arrives at the end of its journey un-damaged.

The structural design of packaging is just as important as the graphics printed on it, but most of us overlook this fact unless the packaging has failed to perform or is excessive. We have all experienced products delivered in outer cases that have been 10x bigger than the size of the product inside.

It is not just retail packaging that is affected by air space, but also transit packaging too. The key is to find the perfect balance between too much and not enough. Designing packaging that is optimised for shipping containers should be considered at the beginning of the new product design process and not reverse engineered at the end. Some products could very easily be designed to better utilise packaging space and make a positive contribution to efficient packaging and also the environment.

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Image source: Unsplash - Claudio Schwarz

What happens when you have too much airspace inside your packaging?

  • You pay more shipping costs. The origination of your product and packaging will impact on how much. 
  • Approximately 24% of shipping containers from Asia contain empty space, this equates to 61 million TAU (20ft) containers per year. i
  • Over 120 million tonnes of carbon dioxide is emitted by shipping empty space in shipping containers each year. ii
  • You will be using more raw material than necessary and therefore paying a higher price for your packaging.
  • It is likely you are making the packaging more vulnerable during its journey through the supply chain, impacting on the condition of the product when it arrives with the consumer.
  • Storage will be affected. You will reduce how many products you can get on a pallet and will also require more warehousing space. Some modern warehousing have automated handling. These systems have size restrictions, if the packaging does not fit within these restrictions it will need to be handled manually incurring higher costs.
  • Transportation costs will be higher due to reduced numbers of products per pallet and the additional pallets required per trailer.
  • Merchandising space comes at a premium, minimising the airspace inside your packaging could enable you to increase the volume of products you display on shelf.

E-commerce has a part to play in the empty space debate. When buying goods online we expect them to arrive in perfect condition. Products designed for traditional bricks and mortar stores are generally not suitable for e-commerce.

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As a result they often arrive over boxed and hugely oversized, taking up unnecessary space in delivery vehicles resulting in more delivery vehicles on the road along with negative consumer feedback. The negative impact this has on the environment due to moving empty space around during the final stages of a product’s journey is just as damaging as the unnecessary airspace found in shipping containers.
GC1Simon Furness

So, what do we need for the future? We need brands and retailers to be responsible and accountable to ensure they communicate better with their suppliers and vendors to create a packaging strategy. Together we need to develop a plan to right size packaging and remove unnecessary airspace for all products throughout the entire journey. We need to adopt a holistic approach to optimise packaging not only within shipping containers, but the whole supply chain. Maybe legislation to guide businesses in the right direction and taxes to those that continue to ignore the guidelines are essential to ensure we take better care of our planet?

At Sun Strategy, we can help your business create sustainable strategies fit for the future. You can trust our design team to take a holistic approach to your brand and packaging, staying true to your brand vision across the whole supply chain. We will ensure your packaging is not only right sized and fit for purpose but aligned with sustainability regulations and your environmental goals.

Pioneering the right choices for you, your customers and our planet.


About the author

imageedit 1 6168940299Simon Furness – Structural Design

Simon has 30 years' experience in the packaging industry. As an experienced structural packaging designer, he has worked with major brands and retailers including Marks and Spencer, Target, Pier 1, Tesco, Remington and Russell Hobbs. Simon has extensive manufacturing experience across primary, secondary, tertiary and food packaging. He designs holistically with primary considerations being fit for purpose packaging, durability, optimization and sustainability. He has also worked closely with Asia, India and North American markets. Over the last 10 years, Simon has worked with clients to understand and recommend changes to their supply chain to improve and reduce damages and save cost.

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