PACKSmart: Responsible Packaging & the Rigors of the Supply Chain - Webinar Recap

David Shires, Chief Consultant for Distribution Testing Services at Smithers Pira, covers a key challenge in today’s industrial environment related to packaging of the products we produce in "How Supply Chain Pressures Can Frustrate the Development of Responsible Packaging", a Smithers Pira webinar.

Sustainability. It’s a hot topic and all manufacturers are considering the impact that their packaging has on their sustainability initiatives. But, if one does not consider the full supply chain as a system in their approach, they may be missing the point.

Shires cites several logistics studies, which proved the point that our attention has been diverted disproportionally towards the primary package itself versus the movement of freight and environmental impacts that the system creates. Companies tend to focus on packaging materials (how much is used as well as what material types are being used) instead of stepping back and reviewing the full supply chain and looking at how their product makes its way to the end consumer. Materials and reducing package materials could be a good start, but not the final answer.

In looking at the various demands of the retail environment, for example, we can see a wide variety of areas that contribute to the challenge of maintaining a truly sustainable and efficient system. Retail displays in various retail channels force different packaging requirements on product manufacturers. Depending on the channel, a different grade or quality of packaging could be needed, forcing inefficiencies across the supply chain (eg corrugated trays, higher quality packaging for high end stores, etc.).

In addition, retailer charge back programs force the cost of damaged goods back on the product manufacturers, which tend to push these manufacturers to redesgign or over package items in an effort to avoid damage claims. However, at the retailer and supply chain level, the incentive to improve handling techniques that can be at the heart of the damage. 

Shires went on to cover some staggering statistics related to product waste and unsaleables that, when looked at on the whole, have a much larger impact on our environment than the packaging itself. He suggests that reviewing package design to reduce these large waste numbers could have a much larger effect on our environmental footprint than simple changes to packaging materials or volume.

That being said, total volume or footprint of a package can also have a large effect on the environment. In some cases, reducing the overall size of the pack while maintaining product safety, can reduce the number of trips that trucks, planes and ships must make to transport the same number of goods. 

In summary, sustainability is a large and important subject for product manufacturers and how it relates to their packaging.  Looking at the effects of the entire supply chain is critical to making the best decisions for the environment. You can listen to the full webinar and receive a copy of the presentation today.