From the Facility to the Store Shelf

by Greg Bunker, Senior Development
Engineer, The Dow Chemical Company

When it comes to ensuring that a product makes it from your facilitiy to the store shelf securely, don't overlook the importance of tertiary packaging. The way that a pallet of products is packaged is essential to its distribution, and can significantly impact the overall costs and efficiency of logistics operations. Here are five packaging practices that can help you get your products to their destination securely and swiftly:

1. Try “flexible” packaging. In today’s environment of high fuel costs and demand-driven manufacturing, flexible transportation options can be a logistics manager’s biggest ally. The tertiary packaging you use can have a significant impact on the number of options you have. Rail transit requires secure and stable packaging. Truck transit requires balanced, stackable pallets to maximize trailer space. Weather resistant packaging will be critical for open bed shipping. Only some types of packaging, such as stretch hoods, offer the right balance of properties to maximize your transportation flexibility.

2.Make use of the best type of packaging. Each type of packaging serves a purpose, whether it is to stabilize a pallet load or to provide protection from the elements. Know the specific needs of your product and make packaging decisions based on the packaging type that meets those needs most efficiently. If transporting goods by truck, proper use of dunnage can reduce the possibility of a package or unit load being damaged during transit. In the case of frozen goods, dunnage is particularly important in preventing horizontal crushing. If your product is going to be stored outdoors at its retail destination, be sure to include a topsheet or utilize packaging that offers five-sided protection in one piece, such as stretch hoods.

3. Keep your eye on the product. To improve the percentage of products that arrive at their destinations in saleable condition, it is important that your tertiary packaging allows you see the individual product units. Some types of packaging completely shield the individual products from view. Other types of packaging, such as stretch hoods, allow distribution centers to see the condition of the unit load through a single, clear layer of plastic film. Damaged goods can be identified and removed without unnecessarily opening and re-closing the packages.

4. Pick up the pace. There are many steps along the distribution process that can bottleneck your operations. Don’t let pallet wrapping be one of them. Depending on your packaging needs, some technologies can provide faster throughput than others. For example, a stretch hood machine can secure approximately 180-200 loads/hour, while a stretch wrap machine can secure approximately 60 loads/hour.

5. Increase your focus on sustainability. With retailers placing an increased focus on sustainability, it is essential that product manufacturers center their attention on the issue as well. The environmental benefits of proper packaging are countless. Many packaging technologies may be recyclable in communities where product-specific recycling programs are available and in certain cases, may help to reduce or eliminate the need for other packaging such as corrugated shrouds, banding or corner posts. For example, stretch hoods, which provide both vertical and circumferential holding force, can potentially secure a pallet load using less material than stretch wrap with a top sheet while eliminating the need for additional packaging.

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