When you seek help you sometimes get more than you bargain for— and that's a good thing. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark thought they were getting just an interpreter when they hired Toussaint Charbonneau. History has shown that the best part of the deal was Char-bonneau's six-months pregnant, teenage wife, Sacagawea.
So it is with a couple of packaging guides that recently came to my attention. They are, unabashedly, corporate-sponsored and produced, however, they deliver more than information and direction.
The Guideline for Environmentally Responsible Packaging from Hewlett-Packard (Palo Alto, Calif.) is a directive for that company's transport packaging activities. It provides sound information that any packaging manager can adopt. The interactive guide (packaging. hp.com/enviro/environm.htm) offers strategies, philosophies and packaging practices, along with directions for material choices and discussions on environmental issues and analysis. The point the document makes is that the contributions packaging makes to today's society are significant in positive and negative ways.
HP's packaging strategy is as simple as it is complex: All packaging will be designed, manufactured, filled and disposed of in such a way as to minimize its effect on the environment and amount requiring disposal through the application of the three R's; reduce, reuse and recycle. I think it's important to note that HP observes a hierarchy within these and puts an emphasis on source reduction. Its strategy emphasizes that source reduction "may be achieved through many different means, including total elimination, redesign of the product itself, elimination of packaging components and redesign of the package." This strategy reflects the company's confidence in its packaging engineers. It also shows the influence packaging can have on product development.
The other guide, Packaging, Bundling and Reinforcing Solutions from 3M (St. Paul, Minn.), is more product than philosophy focused. Its intention, however, also is to make the job of transport packaging more cost effective.
3M's Industrial Adhesives and Tapes Division has been around for 50 years, making it eminently qualified to produce this guide, even if it does have a bias. The pdf version (www.3M.com/packaging), features some timesaving tape-selector charts, for example. You fill in the blanks with specifics such as how much the package weighs, the carton's burst, or edge-crush test rating, the value of contents, whether the carton will be palletized, to determine a point value. Then, based on the total point value, you are lead to the proper tape to use for carton sealing.
The guide offers explanations of tape backings and adhesives, as well as key customer markets, to help with selection. While this might seem unnecessary to the uninitiated, it's critical information for managers seeking ways to keep costs to a minimum-and protection to a maximum. It's also good customer service.
The 28-page guide is loaded with pictures of manual and automatic packaging applications. For example, if you're not familiar with pallet unitization using stretchable tapes, or are debating pros and cons of filament tapes, pictures and charts can answer your questions. Better yet, if you don't know what questions to ask, this guide is indispensable.
Information in this publication is granular to the point of being able to make packaging selections based on industry. By selecting the industry you ship to, you can work around the tables if you don't have all the information about the carton to be sealed.
The transport packaging industry has done much to reduce material headed for the landfill, while still performing packaging's mission-to protect and preserve the integrity of the product. New material and technologies, combined with innovative designs have aided those efforts. What is now called for is greater responsibility on the part of receivers of transport packaging material to divert those materials from the waste stream. Be prepared. Find a guide to get you through the unknown.