Package Performance: Learn from the Expert

Follow the bouncing package.

Package Performance: Learn from the Expert

It was kind of gimmicky, but it illustrated a point. At PackExpo 2000, 3M Company displayed a box that had traveled around the world. 3M sent the box to its subsidiaries to show off the integrity of its packaging products as well as the company’s global capabilities.

Starting at its headquarters in St. Paul, the box was shipped to five of 3M’s global subsidiaries. The box contained a digital camera, instructions and stickers representing each country the box would visit. At each stop, the 3M subsidiary contact took the box to a recognizable landmark and photographed it. The 3M location manager repackaged the camera, resealed the box (with Scotch 375 box sealing tape) and affixed the location sticker before sending it to the next destination. Final stop was PackExpo in Chicago.

If only the box could talk.

Intrepid Journalist: So, Mr. Box, how was your flight?

Mr. Box: Don’t ask! Do you have any idea of what the small parcel environment is like these days?

Intrepid Journalist: No, sir. Would you tell us?

Mr. B: Don’t ask! It’s horrible. This e-commerce thing is out of hand. And with the inferior case sealers out there, it’s not only out of hand, it’s out of the box! When the boss says, ‘think outside the box,’ this is not what she has in mind. Hey, these marks on my bottom are more than bursting strength recommendations, ya know.

Intrepid Journalist: For a corrugated carton, you’re one tough cookie.

Mr. B: Standing up to the small parcel environment is a big challenge. Cartons, packaging lines and labeling systems have to be versatile and scaleable to survive.

Intrepid Journalist: Sir, maybe it’s jetlag, but you seem rather unglued this morning ...

Mr. B: Please, distraught is a better word. Companies have been swept into e-commerce with little attention paid to packaging. Yet, as we containers have said time and again, in the new e-world, often your transport packaging material is the first thing the customer sees.

Intrepid Journalist: True enough. But companies depend on customer feedback for ...

Mr. B: Forget customer feedback! In the e-world you need to deal with the end customer from the get-go. If you’re expecting to find out how your packages are doing from the customer, it’s too late. You’re better off to do some performance checking now. Testing is a given these days, as is exploring the environment your package will travel through. Supply chain challenges begin at the shipper’s dock door.

Intrepid Journalist: I suppose you have some recommendations?

Mr. B: Make sure you select the right closure for the package’s weight and size. Also, determine if your closure will protect the product against tampering and theft. And, since the package is headed for end consumer, use the closure for a little branding exposure. Ya gotta think like a box, not inside or outside the box!

Intrepid Journalist: But tape is tape, right?

Mr. B: Young man, three words — thicker is better. Increasing the thickness of the tape by 50 percent will increase abrasion resistance in general; increase tensile strength by 50 percent; and increase stiffness by 400 percent. Enough said.

Intrepid Journalist: Would you like to add anything to that?

Mr. B: If you don’t think branding is important, keep in mind, after 2003, increased spending per individual will generate more growth than new users. And we had nearly 30 million on-line shoppers this past holiday season. Building the brand now ensures the customers later.

Intrepid Journalist: So how do you build brand equity and keep a lid on expenses?

Mr. B: Don’t rely on some flashy Web site. I’ll deliver on your promises. Give the user something that will stick.

Clyde E. Witt

executive editor

[email protected]

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