End of the Line: Beginning of Savings

Oct. 1, 2006
Transport packaging makes or breaks customer service, sales and business relationships.

You only have to look as close as your computer or catalog-stuffed mailbox to see that small parcel shipments and transport packaging are the fastest growing segments of the multi-billion dollar packaging industry. Material Handling Management has long been the leader in bringing news and information on this subject to the material handling industry. We continue to do so with the Transport Packaging supplement in this issue.

For too long transport packaging decisions have been made by bean counters who will try to get a better deal on a pallet because it has a few less fasteners; they've been dictated by regulations created by desk-jockeys in the 1930s; or by some guy who thinks shrink wrap is a conversation with a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, those folks have no concept of the environment through which the pallet or package will travel.

This supplement is for readers who understand that the "end of the line" is where things really start. Transport packaging, its material, equipment and links to data collection, are critical to customer service. The speed, timeliness and care with which a package is handled can make or break a sale as well as a business relationship.

Transport packaging should be designed by the customer, or through customer feedback. If a product is damaged when it arrives at a customer's door, or if the next link in the supply chain receives an incorrect quantity, there's trouble. Regardless of what caused the problem, transport packaging will get the blame.

A lot about transport packaging has changed in the 20+ years I've been writing about it. Way back then, in the last century, former Editor Bernie Knill sensed an increasing need in the material handling business and suggested a column called Packaging for Productivity. Productivity remains the underpinning for this supplement. We've watched as that need has grown over the years and our audience for the subject has increased many-fold. Recent readership studies indicate 59% of our readers have transport packaging within their job function—what we call buying influence. A study published in March by the Freedonia Group, a market-research firm based in Cleveland forecasts that the protective packaging market to grow 4.7% yearly to $4 billion in 2010.

The subject of transport packaging needs a voice. A regular column and occasional feature story are not enough. This publication is that voice. We'll be looking for your news, story leads and criticism. What matters most for this supplement is what it does for you.

My favorite wetlands philosopher, that resident of the Okefenokee Swamp, Pogo, said, "We have met the enemy and he is us." Maybe that's been true of transport packaging managers. Times have changed. Now it's time to be a hero. Enlightened managers are always looking for ways to improve the bottom line. Tell them there are plenty of ways to save money if, at the start of a project, they begin with thinking about what happens at the end of the line.