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Space Saving Logistics – Corrugated claims the Frontier
In today’s challenging economic climate, logistics managers are scrutinising supply chains in an effort to drive down costs and meet environmental objectives through improved efficiency in the transportation, handling and storage of goods.
Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) maintains that the UK corrugated packaging industry is making a significant investment in new technologies that are providing innovative packaging solutions to help streamline logistics operations for the retail sector, as well as bringing environmental advantages across the supply chain.
Corrugated packaging, a multi-billion pound state-of-the-art industry that protects more than 75% of goods in transit across Europe, has evolved from a traditional brown box for transporting products, into a three-in-one packaging solution comprising product protection, an advertising platform and merchandiser.
Transportation is a major cost factor for all logistics managers, however, with the advent of modern Corrugated processes, the industry is offering extremely space-efficient packaging which is leading to better use of pallets and results in fewer vehicles on the road.
Boxes need to be designed to fill lorries from floor to roof. If every single lorry on the road were filled to complete capacity, the savings in fuel costs and CO2 emissions would be huge. Corrugated can adapt itself to product after product. No other packaging material has such flexibility.
Industry is increasingly making use of the opportunity for the height of corrugated cases to be calibrated to specific products, making it possible to carry far more on a pallet. A study by Ceres Logistics using sugar snap peas as an example, found that for exactly the same number of items per tray, corrugated is 33% more space efficient than returnable packaging in other materials, saving 141 truck journeys.
Shelf ready packaging (SRP) is making logistics in-store easier for staff too, as highlighted by the current campaign featuring European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers’ brand ambassador ‘Mr Corrugated’ (www.mrcorrugated-film.eu). The video focuses on the ‘five easies’ of Corrugated SRP for retailers – it’s easy to identify, easy to open, easy to get on shelf, easy to access and easy to flatten and recycle.
Store managers want packaging that can go straight on the shelf with the minimum of fuss, typically in less than 20 seconds, cutting handling costs and waste. To address this need the Corrugated Industry has invested heavily in designing SRP boxes which save on storage space. It is also incorporating easier opening features, such as perforations, to give quicker access to products.
Lightweight papers and new flutings are also key developments enabling more efficient logistics management. The Corrugated Packaging Industry in the UK has been instrumental in driving down waste within the supply chain, even before the Courtauld Commitment was introduced. It is a pioneering force in sustainable, lightweight, recyclable papers that do not compromise the integrity of the goods, but ensures that they still arrive in mint condition.
While corrugated companies have been developing lightweight papers for years, new types of fluting are a more recent innovation, designed to allow the required compression strength to be achieved while reducing the space necessary to contain the product.
CPI’s Director of Packaging Affairs, Andy Barnetson, said: “The industry is focusing on managing the production process in such a way that it only uses a minimum amount of fibre to do the job. It’s really all about utilizing lorry and shelf space more effectively. Fewer vehicles mean less fuel miles which all contributes to a greener economy.
“Corrugated manufacturers are able to use the tools they have developed to optimize their packaging for all aspects of the supply chain. On the whole, retailers do not have standard sized shelves, and different categories have different profiles so it is not easy to provide a standardized packaging design.
“There is a certain compromise that has to take place because what might be ideal for the pack is not necessarily ideal for the pallet. So part of the industry’s approach is to consider the whole supply chain, using the technologies available to make the units the best possible fit for both pallet and shelf.”
Corrugated manufacturers are also using the latest digital printing technology. Corrugated SRP can be printed in up to six colours to an exceptional standard and by offering different printing techniques, packs can be customized for specific stores, topical messages or to promote activity around a particular date.
In addition to being forward-looking by investing in printing techniques, Corrugated companies are also embracing the digital revolution. The material’s flat surface makes it ideal for interactive and multi-media packaging and the industry is exploring the opportunities of augmented reality, which will help brands achieve greater customer loyalty by allowing them to access a plethora of services through their mobile devices.
Corrugated has stood the test of time because it has proved to be a hugely flexible packaging medium. It is not only economical, but also has a superb environmental record – nearly 80% of the material is recycled, saving an area the size of Greater London from landfill every four months.
Through innovative thinking, coupled with investing millions of pounds in printing and die-cutting technology, the corrugated industry is meeting the challenges set by retailers in both logistics and marketing terms by designing boxes that can promote exceptionally high quality products.
During the last decade, the industry has initiated corrugated packaging weight savings without impairing protective or structural qualities and the drive for even greater efficiencies continues. Advances in material science are also leading to new types of structural products such as Corrugated pallets, which offer huge economic and other advantages.
Corrugated packaging has always offered protection without loss of flexibility, and the industry has continued to evolve to meet the needs of new, more efficient distribution systems. In the future, the innovative use of resources and combinations of components will ensure that Corrugated packaging continues to offer a superb range of benefits for the supply chain.