The fact that packaging plays a major role in the distribution cycle is no news. Packaging has acquired a significant relevance in the last few years – all you need to do is look at the numbers. According to the ‘The Future of Global Packaging to 2022’ report, a 4% increase in global packaging sales is expected for this 2018, and by 2022 these figures will reach 980 billion dollars.
But, what is the reason behind this outstanding increase? Mainly, the need to protect products throughout the entire supply chain. Since a product is manufactured until it reaches the point of sale, it goes through many stages, and guaranteeing that it remains in good conditions is essential. In order to do this, there are various packaging methods that depend on the type of product to be handled.
“According to the ‘The Future of Global Packaging to 2022’ report, a 4% increase in global packaging sales is expected for this 2018”
Which are the main functions of packaging solutions
There are many points of view about the main functions of packaging. The ones below are the most important.
- Load rigidity: keeping the load secured for transportation is very important – it provides stability to the load both for it to remain upright and to withstand the handling, and this prevents the product from getting damaged due to falls or movements.
- Protect the users, keeping in mind that cargo units weigh hundreds, or even thousands of kilograms, an inadequate packaging design may cause a catastrophe during its transportation or handling.
- Protect the products during the distribution cycle: it is essential to find a balance and use the optimal amount of packaging material to transport products. This prevents over-packaging and, therefore, unnecessary expenses, as well as leaving the product unprotected and it getting damaged. The packaging has to protect the product from the hazards that are inherent to the distribution cycle it goes through – vibrations, lateral accelerations, shocks, falls, vertical compressions due to stacking, lateral compressions caused by the cargo around it, stress due to the passage of time, environmental hazards, temperature, moisture, plagues, electrostatic charges…
- Contain: “The function of containing the product would also include ‘preserving products’, since one of the functions of packaging is to contain the product to be able to adequately transport it.”
- Preserve the product: in perishable goods, packaging plays a major role – from the traditional preservation systems, such as pickling, to active containers or today’s climate-controlled atmospheres.
- Facilitate identification: the prospective customer needs to be able to recognize the product at a glance, without having to dedicate time to reading the package.
- Aesthetic function to reach the consumer: the design of the product packaging has become essential to get ahead of the competition, as well as the type of materials used, since the consumer increasingly values sustainable packaging.
- Improve transportation and cargo handling: certain types of packaging, such as pallets, help products get transported in a more optimized manner and are easier to handle by handlers during loading and unloading, which leads to advantages both in space savings as well as in package loading and handling times. Transport efficiency: the size of the package should allow shipping times to be optimized and the best physical use of the transport system. Something as basic as designing a package without taking into consideration the transport size can make a difference between carrying a full load and leaving a number of unused spaces.
- Facilitate storage: in warehouses the space, the time a position is occupied and the number of operations and time dedicated to each of them are equally important; and most importantly, the costs they imply. The packaging should also help reduce those costs by, for example, reducing the number of operations by allowing the use of pallets.
- Shipping effectiveness: the product-packaging system should take into account available shipping systems at different hubs, warehouses, etc.
- Packaging manufacturing efficiency: even the best package is useless if it cannot be automated or if manual loading costs are too high.
- Specific customer needs: for example, warehouse robotics are starting to become widespread, and it is common for the customer to demand cargo to be palletized on pallets that comply with a specific standard and fit through a size gauge.
- Environmental awareness: in addition to social awareness, many states value the carbon footprint caused by each product throughout its full cycle – from the raw material to the end user –, and the package is of great importance. Over-packaging implies a greater use of raw materials and energy for its production, plus the use of fuel for its transportation and higher waste.
“There are different packaging solutions based on the type of product that is to be handled”
Which packaging methods does my product need and how to optimize them
The best method for designing an optimized packaging begins by studying the complete system, from the start of the design of the product itself. But this does not happen often.
Always keeping in mind that a thorough study of the product and the distribution cycle needs to be carried out, and that an optimal product-packaging system will most probably not apply for a different one, we will consider one part of the system. For products that are transported on pallets, the use of palletization is common with sights on improving handling, storage and shipping, among others. Preferred pallets include those that optimize the cargo hold system surface, and which are capable of withstanding the cargo being transported and enduring storage times.
When designing the series of packages that are to be placed on top of this pallet, the surface that these packages occupy needs to be optimized, as well as the surface the secondary and primary packages occupy inside them.
Once the previous steps have been accomplished, and that the systems to be placed on the pallet have been defined, the securing system needs to be designed. Typical systems include baling, web lashing or gluing.
There are many packaging methods based on the type of product. They can be categorized based on their container, primary packaging or secondary packaging, but for the tertiary packaging, the following are the ones that see the most use:
- Palletizing: it is one of the most effective and widespread packaging techniques. It involves placing the goods on a pallet for easy and quick storage and transport. With this technique, space is saved and loading and unloading times are optimized, as is the handling. The main advantage of pallets is that they offer a great stability and an adequate cargo support that allows for their easy transportation, loading or unloading with the help of a hoist, crane or forklift. They can normally bear loads of up to 1,000 kg, which allows them to handle large quantities of products easily and quickly.
- Baling: it is the operation that involves covering and securing the loads placed on a pallet with plastic film by means of a mechanical process. The plastic film secures the load and reduces the inflow of dust and other external agents that may damage the product being transported.
“Palletizing is one of the most effective packaging techniques in use today”
On the other hand, focusing only on road transportation, the cargo securing and rigidity is very important to offer safety during transport and reduce loss due to breakage. In order to accomplish this, there are two basic packaging methods:
- Shape-based: consists of adjusting the space between the packages and the cargo hold or placing the products on a rigid structure (such as a container) or the bed of a truck itself and fill any empty spaces to prevent the products from shifting inside it, using airbags or similar items.
- Force-based: this implies increasing the cargo rigidity, for example by using film packaging, or hoisting by means of straps or similar items. When a product is being transported, it tends to slide and yaw. In order to prevent it from sliding, friction can be increased by using an adequate film and applying glue between the various layers. The yawing of a layer may be prevented by applying the proper forces around the layer by using straps or adequately tightened film.
It is worth mentioning that, even if the slide and yaw is prevented, the tendency to cause those movements will still exist. This may lead to extreme vertical compression forces on the load, causing the contraction of the product or the primary or secondary packaging. This type of failure can only be prevented by modifying the packaging, obtaining a custom packaging.
“During road transportation, the securing and rigidity of the load is highly important in preventing the packaging from getting deformed”
Some tips for packaging techniques
Taking the risks of the distribution cycle into account when designing the product may reduce the costs involved in protecting a product that is sensitive to them.
This characterization should not only apply to the packaging. Knowing the product’s properties, its fragility, its rigidity, etc., will allow you to make the best of them to partially or fully withstand the stresses of the distribution cycle.
Even though every packaging technique in existence is governed by a set of standards, there are a series of tips that may help companies optimize the packaging based on the means to be used for its transportation. For example, for air freight, you will need to pay more attention to the changes in pressure and temperature, while for sea freight what is important is the vibration + pitch & roll motions, moisture, temperature changes and instability.
Each transport should adapt the packaging of its goods so that it is better protected from the hazards it may be exposed to the most.
“There are a series of tips that can help companies optimize the packaging based on the means to be used for their transportation”
Optimize your product packaging with simulation technology
Start by knowing the characteristics of your product, which will help you better design the packaging. Sizes, fragility and rigidity, among others, are characteristics that need to be considered when designing the package. At Safe Load TT we develop machines that will let you characterize the product for an adequate package design.
In order to adapt the packaging to the various standards, the best option available is the use of advanced packaging technologies such as simulation systems. At Safe Load TT we develop machines that simulate the transport conditions experienced by the cargo to optimize the product + packaging system. These machines are capable of simulating the risks that a product is exposed to during transportation, such as compressions, vibrations, moisture, static electricity, heat, cold, pressure variations, shocks, falls or instability.
This data is collected with a recording device known as Data Recorder and subsequently it is reproduced in real conditions in the various testing machines. These types of tools allow companies to properly characterize their packages so that they suffer the least possible damage and arrive to the end customer in perfect conditions.
“At Safe Load TT we develop machines that simulate the transport conditions experienced by the cargo to optimize the product + packaging system”
At Safe Load TT we have already helped several companies improve their packaging, including:
- ITENE: this institute uses our machines in their laboratories to simulate the transportation of goods and optimize the packaging of various companies.
- DUOPLAST: this company acquired the Multi-axis 3D system, Horizontal Impact, Environmental chamber and Data Recorder machines to offer its clients transport simulation tests and thereby optimize the product + packaging system. Thanks to these machines, they have managed to increase their turnover by 16.5%, helped their customers reduce packaging costs by 30% and expenses due to product damage by 20%.
Do you need help to optimize your packaging systems? Get in touch with us and we will assist you. You can also download our free ebook and learn how much you can save getting your own testing machines.