A Guide to Packaging Optimization

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“True optimization is the revolutionary contribution of modern research to decision processes.”

– George Dantzig

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There are several aspects to examine when optimizing your packaging, including materials selection, packaging protection, cost and sustainability. This guide will give you an overview of all of these factors so that you can make the best choices for your business.


Packaging Optimization Materials

There are many factors to consider when choosing the best packaging material for your product.

Levels of packaging. First of all, you’ll need to determine the packaging levels needed for your products including primary, secondary and tertiary. You may need packaging for all three levels, just two levels, or perhaps only one level. 

Deciding on materials. After you determine the necessary levels, you can begin researching the most effective materials for packaging your products at each level. Asking the right questions is the best way to find the right solution.

Questions to ask. Here’s a short list to get you started: 

  • What is the product form?
  • What are the product characteristics? 
  • What levels of protection are needed? 
  • How will the package be used?
  • Which materials are sustainable or recyclable? 
  • How much will it cost? 
  • How will it be transported?
  • How will the product be stored?

Materials commonly used. Once you’ve answered these important questions, you’re ready to think about the pros and cons of using the various kinds of packaging materials available.

List of materials. Here’s a list of packaging materials most often used:

  • chipboard
  • corrugated cardboard
  • paperboard and substrates
  • paper
  • plastic
  • aluminum

Are you researching your options for packaging materials? We expand on each of the questions you should be asking and discuss the attributes of these materials in our article, Types of Packaging Materials.


Packaging Optimization Costs

The price of packaging is a significant expense for any business, regardless of the industry. Now, more than ever, it is essential to examine and study packaging optimization solutions that could potentially improve your packaging efficiencies and operational costs. Global supply, logistical bottlenecks, world events, and production line delays have made this evaluation and research more critical than ever.

Fortunately, simply understanding the cost factors involved can help you make the most cost-efficient choices. These are the core factors that impact the price of packaging:

1. Materials

2. Labor

3. Shipping

4. Warehousing

5. Fulfillment

Are you researching how to reduce your packaging costs? We discuss these cost factors more in depth in our article, The Real Price of Packaging.


Packaging Optimization Protective Packaging

The only way to ensure that your products arrive safely at their destination is to be proactive with your packaging protection, choose suitable materials and find the appropriate provider.

What is Protective Packaging? Protective packaging is any type of packaging that is designed to protect, support, stabilize, and insulate products from damage or deterioration throughout the entire supply chain, but especially during shipping and transport.  In some situations, protective packaging can be used as a primary packaging component, but these are the more common applications for secondary packaging.

Types of protective packaging:

  • bubble wrap
  • air pillows/air bags
  • corrugated wrap
  • molded wrap
  • styrofoam peanuts
  • corner blocks
  • angle/edge boards
  • packaging inserts
  • void fillers

Factors in choosing the best protection. There are numerous factors to weigh when deciding what type of protective packaging to use. Not sure if your product needs protective packaging? Here are some considerations that may help you make this determination:

  • the product’s fragility
  • the product’s weight
  • the product’s size/dimensions
  • the product’s edges and corners
  • the quantity of products per package
  • the shipping method
  • the excess space in your current packaging solution
  • the product’s value
  • the product’s various and ultimate destinations
  • the customer experience you want to provide
  • the sustainability goals of your company

Do you need to evaluate your packaging protection? For a closer look at how to choose the right protection, check out our article, Protective Packaging: Avoid Damaged Goods and Customer Returns.


Packaging Optimization Sustainability

A guide on packaging optimization wouldn’t be complete without examining the sustainability of your packaging choices.

The need for sustainability. As climate change becomes more severe and resources dwindle, more companies are forced to the forefront of environmentalism, and the need for sustainable packaging multiplies. According to new research by Greenpeace, only 5% of the mountains of plastic waste generated by US households last year was recycled (you can download the report here), and waste packaging from the newly legalized marijuana industry is adding to the current crisis of plastic waste. Companies must start to think outside of their comfort zone in order to meet the challenges of today’s rapidly changing global environment, gradually transitioning into a circular economic model.

Many consumers are avoiding companies that are not seeking alternative packaging solutions, such as paper or cardboard. This is the reality.

How is sustainable packaging defined? The sustainable packaging definition generically covers any type of packaging that implies a lower environmental impact. The following variables can be used to analyze sustainable packaging methods:

  • Sustainability 
  • Performance 
  • Sortability
  • Cost

Sustainable packaging is made up of eight factors:

  1. Beneficial, safe, and healthy for individuals and communities throughout its lifecycle
  2. Able to meet market criteria for performance and cost
  3. Sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy
  4. Able to maximize the use of renewable or recycled source materials
  5. Manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices
  6. Made from materials healthy in all probable end-of-life scenarios
  7. Physically designed to optimize materials and energy
  8. Effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial cradle-to-cradle cycles

Sustainable packaging materials. There are various sustainable packaging materials available today, each with different benefits and drawbacks. Some commonly used sustainable packaging materials include paper and cardboard, which can be recycled 5-7 times, organic fabrics, and biomaterials.

Sustainable packaging techniques. Businesses can reduce the amount of material and resources used, as well as save money in the long term, by using sustainable packaging methods. Some of the most popular sustainable packaging techniques include:

  • Bundling
  • Moving more with less
  • Increasing density 
  • Utilizing fewer materials and resources

Advantages of using sustainable packaging. There are many advantages to using sustainable packaging, including:

  1. Cost-effectiveness
  2. Minimizing your carbon footprint
  3. Supporting your branding efforts

Want to dive deeper into sustainable packaging? Learn more about the drivers and future of sustainable packaging in our article, Sustainable Packaging Solutions.