Hard to Kill Corrugated

Aug. 2, 2013
This omnipresent packaging medium says it’s not only green but pretty. The reusable crowd has a reward for anyone who can counter those claims with a case for reusable containers.

The corrugated box is like a vampire to some in the material handling world. They complain it’s not only hard to kill but it drains your lifeblood. And while use of corrugated packaging has been on the decline in the developed world, developing countries are more than willing to stick their necks out to contribute to corrugated’s immortality.

According to the latest research from the Freedonia Group, world demand for corrugated boxes is forecast to increase 4.2 percent per year to 234 billion square meters in 2017. This actually speaks well for world economies, as it indicatesgrowth in industrial activities, particularly in the manufacturing sector. And corrugated converters keep making their products more attractive to customers, owing to developments in small flute and high-quality graphic board. This not only makes traditional corrugated users want to stay with this medium, but it’s helping corrugated gain ground in markets traditionally served by makers of folding cartons—markets where it pays to be pretty. And if you’ve been to the grocery store lately, you know how much of the stuff is used for displays.

Nevertheless, Freedonia says gains in developed markets in the U.S., Western Europe and Japan will be kept in check by advances inreusable plastic shipping containers. These gains by reusables aren’t only for environmental reasons. In fact, the Freedonia study notes that corrugated boxes are raising their green image “as they are a renewable resource that can be recycled.” Where reusables are making a strong case for themselves beyond green is among big-name converts like office furniture manufacturer Herman Miller, which last year won The Reusable Packaging Association’s (RPA) annual Excellence in Reusable Packaging Award. RPA bestows this honor on companies that have developed, supported, or implemented measurable and innovative reusable solutions in their supply chains.

Herman Miller switched from corrugated packaging to a returnable filler with crosslink foam for the shipping and handling of an office chair component. This alone would have made a nice story for the greenies in material handling, but there was plenty left over in this story for those who wanted proof that reusable packaging can be profitable. Herman Miller was recognized for:

• Saving 63 minutes per day in handling parts (equating to 266 hours a year);

• Using 4,300 fewer boxes, saving 24,645 pounds of corrugated per year;

• Achieving a combined material and labor saving of $46,000;

• Eliminating the need for two warehouse skid locations;

• Eliminating movement of heavy boxes from skid to roller conveyor by a material handler, and eliminating need to cut them open with a knife; and

• Eliminating handling of boxes by the part supplier.

RPA is now welcoming entries for this year’s competition. If you’ve found a way to dispense with expendable packaging without burying it somewhere else in your supply chain, now’s your chance to be recognized for it. RPA is accepting entries in its second annual Excellence in Reusable Packaging Award program until August 21st.  The winning company will be publically announced at a press conference during PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2013, and will be in the spotlight at RPA's Networking Event at the show. Submission forms are available at the RPA website.

And to those of you who are committed to corrugated, MH&L welcomes accounts of how you keep that packaging green, pretty and profitable.

About the Author

Tom Andel Blog | former Editor-in-Chief

As editor-in-chief from 2010-2014, Tom Andel oversaw the strategic development of MH&L and MHLnews.com, bringing 30+ years of thought leadership and award winning coverage of supply chain, manufacturing logistics and material handling. Throughout his career he also served in various editorial capacities at other industry titles, including Transportation & Distribution, Material Handling Engineering, Material Handling Management (predecessors to MH&L), as well as Logistics Management and Modern Materials Handling. Andel is a three-time finalist in the Jesse H. Neal Business Journalism Awards, the most respected editorial award in B2B trade publishing, and a graduate of Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University.