I interviewed Larry Dull from Packaging Knowledge Group, a full service packaging consultancy specializing in sustainable packaging. Both of the general founding partners of Packaging Knowledge Group, otherwise known as PKG are packaging engineers with BS and MS degrees from Michigan State. Larry and his other partner have both been in the industry for a number of years and have experience in a wide variety of industries and products.
They come at packaging, and more specifically sustainable packaging, from the viewpoint of the practicing packaging engineer. They do projects to help companies develop sustainable packaging and provide design, development and testing services around packaging. They also provide training to companies and were the first official provider of training for the Walmart Sustainable Packaging Scorecard. As a result they have a lot of experience training companies to comply with the various scorecards that are out there right now.
Larry and his partner also provide help to a lot of Walmart suppliers to actually be able to fill out their scorecards and to make what is probably even more key is to make improvements in your score after you fill out your scorecard.
Larry and his team does just about anything concerning packaging.
Latest trends in Green Packaging
A lot of people have heard the term green and it is thrown around quite loosely these days. Larry assumes that when we say green we are talking about sustainable. If you are trying to make your supply chain more sustainable, packaging is a key component of the supply chain and packaging is one of the thrusts you might endeavor to improve your whole sustainability in your company.
As a key component of supply chain thinking, packaging fits right in with trying to make your supply chain greener or more sustainable. A lot of people don't realize that one of the biggest negative impacts on sustainability is damaged product. One of the major functions of packaging is product protection. Packaging is required to move product from point of manufacture to end use. The protection and delivery is the major function, through there are other functions such as communication, sales and regulatory compliance etc.
Product damage has a major impact on supply chain sustainability. A lot of money, time and resources are spent in dealing with damaged products. If you enhance your packaging in terms of product protection and delivery function you may indeed end up spending more money on packaging and packaging materials. However, the net overall impact on the total supply chain picture would be positive because you are eliminated some of these negative impacts which may be pretty big on sustainability in terms of resources, time and money having to be spent dealing with damaged product.
The key to this whole thing in terms of packaging's major impact on supply chain sustainability is firstly product protection and reducing product damage. This is not to say that packaging doesn't have other impacts in the supply chain, because it does. For example, if your secondary and tertiary packaging are sized inappropriately (ie. bigger than they need to be) you lose cubic efficiency throughout the supply chain, starting with your pallet load, going into the warehouse, trucks, ocean containers etc. The impacts of non-sustainably designed packaging in terms of cubic efficiency just flow all the way through the supply chain. When you get to the end of that supply chain and add up all of those negative impacts from improperly designed packaging, it can have a big impact on total supply chain sustainability.
There are a number of different areas in which packaging, either poorly or properly designed, can have either a negative or positive impact on total supply chain sustainability.
How can supply chain professionals start taking action to make their supply chains green?
In terms of packaging, you need to hire packaging engineers! Packaging has historically been a function in a lot of companies which gets done by whoever is available to do that job. Companies that spend millions of dollars in product design and have got the product designed and ready to go into production then realize they need something to put the product in to get it through the supply chain. They then run around and get some purchasing or manufacturing people to design the packaging. This generally turns out to be packaging that is not designed very efficiently, resulting in a negative impact on total supply chain sustainability.
The number thing companies can do to improve supply chain sustainability is to make sure you have a packaging professional to design your packaging, because then it will be done right the first time and you will reap the benefits of not only efficiently designed packaging, meaning cubic efficiency throughout the supply chain, but also have packaging that is going to deliver to product to the end user in a damage free high quality condition. This would eliminate all the resources dedicated to dealing with product damage.
Low hanging fruits and challenges
Cubic efficiency is one of the big low hanging fruits. All it takes is someone who has the time and expertise to look at the relationship between the size of the product, the fragility (what sort of shock vibration or temperature and humidity inputs will damage your product), and current packaging. More often than not you will find that there are some improvements to be made in terms of cubic efficiency. Secondary and tertiary packaging is usually too big. People usually ere on the side of being too conservative than they need to be in terms of product protection and will throw more packaging materials, meaning a bigger size of secondary and tertiary packaging. This leads to less efficient packaging throughout the supply chain, starting right from the pallet pattern and going to warehouse cubic efficiency, truck loading etc.
Package volume, as it compares to product volume is usually something that is easy to look at and you will usually find some big sustainability gains in that area.
About Larry Dull
Packaging Knowledge Group