CeMAT Insider

Reusable packaging: Is it right for your supply chain?

Posted by CeMAT Team on 01-Jul-2016 12:03:43


Not every great innovative and business transforming product needs to come from the latest technology or software application. Even something as simple as building a winning team culture can have a great impact on productivity and employee satisfaction.

CeMAT-Insider-quote-5.pngIt's easy to over look the simple things in a business that can have long lasting effects, and reusable packaging is a great example of a simple change in your supply chain that can provide rapid return on investment.

Let’s take a look at what it is, why it will save your business money, and then we’ll look at ways of deciphering if it’s right for you.


What is reusable packaging?

Packaging that can be used more than once is generally manufactured of durable materials and is specifically designed to last through multiple trips.

CeMAT-Insider-quote-6.pngThis can cover a range of different areas that move product efficiently and safely through your supply chain such as pallets, racks, bulk containers, hand-held containers and dunnage.

If one of your main challenges is getting goods from the manufacturer to the retail floor safely (i.e. with as little damage occurred to product as possible), it may be worth considering switching to a packaging system that is more robust than the more commonly used, one-way corrugated cardboard packaging system, or even wooden pallets that are made for a single shipment.

Generally speaking, packaging can be considered reusable if it’s made of something durable such as metal, plastic or wood, and can withstand rough handling over the course of multiple shipments.

If you want to get the most out of this kind of system, it’s also important to do inspections every once in a while to the packaging so that any faults can be repaired.


What are the benefits of reusable packaging?

As with everything in life, it’s important to remember that there is no one size fits all solution, and that pallets made from different materials have varying advantages and disadvantages.

Generally speaking, reusable options reduces overall packaging costs, reduces damage to product during transportation, labour costs and cost-per trip. Depending on your business you may also find improved flow of products and reduced packaging waste.

Below we’ll take a look at some specific types of reusable packaging and their pros and cons.  

CeMAT-Insider-quote-8.pngMetal/Aluminium Pallets
Metal pallets are great for transporting heavy goods, particularly across air and sea, as they are stronger and more weather-resistant than wooden or plastic pallets. The drawback? Although they can be reused time and again, they are heavier when compared to other pallets and cost more to transport.

Lightweight Plywood Pallets
Ideal for medium weight products, plywood pallets offer a strong but lightweight option for businesses that are in need of a durable packaging option.

Plywood has a smooth surface and is suitable for rack stocking or layer stacking, however, your warehouse needs to be set up to store these kinds of pallets so that they can be moved between warehouses easily.

Wooden Pallets
Wooden pallets have a range of different designs and are ideal for heavier products in a one-way-flow. They are a reliable load carrier and are less expensive than other pallets types, however, they are costly to transport and are prone to splintering and warping.

Plastic Pallets
Plastic pallets are generally seen as the most stable and safe packaging solution for all transport applications. They can be reused multiple times with little maintenance and can last for up to 10 years. The downside however is not being able to repair cracks or breaks easily because of the material and they are generally not suited to stacking on shelves.


How to make reusable packaging work for your business

The first step in knowing whether or not this solution is right for you is to analyse carefully the entire operation of your supply chain. What is your product/material flow? What are your current packaging applications and packaging objectives. 

CeMAT-Insider-quote-9.pngFrom here you’ll be able to tell if a reusing your packaging solution will translate into measurable efficiencies. You’ll be able to directly calculate the return on investment and prove whether or not it’s the solution for you. Metrics like time, cost reductions, safety, cleanliness and warehouse utilisation should all be documented for benchmarking.

If you decide reusing packaging will save you money and make the decision to find a solution, the next step is to design your operations around the findings of your analysis in step 1. Here you can really drill into any inefficiencies that you may have overlooked and optimise processes whenever possible.

Next all you need to do is implement the system into your current operations. Some suppliers offer great after sale service to ensure long-term system success.

Could your supply do with a few more tips? CeMAT AUSTRALIA will include an exhibition and knowledge theatre created to educate businesses on the most efficient ways of operating your supply chain. If a new packaging solution is what you’re after, you can register for free here and visit exhibitors including CHEP and PowerPak Packaging to see their latest products.


Topics: Supply Chain Management