Lean manufacturing and custom packaging solutions

One of the lean manufacturing exercises that many businesses do is called a “value stream analysis”.  Basically one reviews all activities of your manufacturing/order fulfillment process and ask the question: “What value does this operation add for the customer?”   If the operation doesn’t add any valued functionality, then that operation should be targeted for elimination, or if not elimination, simplification.

This exercise has proven useful to many companies in reducing paperwork, eliminating unnecessary steps and inventory.   Many companies apply this technique over and over again, each time making an incremental reduction in cost.  Material handling, i.e. movement from operation to operation or movement from plant to plant has been a common target of lean manufacturing efforts.

Packaging could certainly fall under the scrutiny of a lean manufacturing analysis.  After all, packaging rarely adds functionality to the product, in many industrial situations; the end customer doesn’t even see the package or crate it was shipped in.

So why not eliminate packaging?   There may be cases where a product does not need to be packaged in order to be transported.   But what is the value of the product if it arrives damaged?   The value to the customer is obviously zero.  In fact negative costs come into play; rework, reshipping, repackaging, or even totally scrapping the product.   The customer may lose valuable time and you may lose your reputation and standing with that customer.  Clearly one of the requirements for any manufacturer is to get the product to its destination damage free, in a short period of time.   Until someone invents a “Star Trek” type transporter system, packaging is a necessary and critical element of order fulfillment.

That is not to say that lean manufacturing principles cannot be applied to packaging, in fact with some good analysis and innovation, a significant amount of cost can be saved by packaging.   Packnet has consistently created packaging solutions that have saved labor and materials while helping ensure that the product is delivered without damage.  Here are some generic examples of how cost can be reduced by innovative packaging solutions:

  • Reusable Packaging: Every time a packaging solution is reused, one saves on the cost of creating a new package.   This concept works very well for high end packaging solutions that are protecting fragile or delicate products.   Many of our customers that ship intra-company benefit from reusable packaging solutions.  Not only does this save on costs, but it is better for the environment.
  • Labor and Ergonomics: Many packaging solutions are awkward and require a lot of time and effort to use, as well as put stress and strain on the operators who are using it.   Crating and packaging solutions can be designed to dramatically improve efficiency as well as reduce the risk of accidents.  One example is the Packnet Slot-Lock™ solutions that allow one to assemble the case around the product rather than forcing someone to lift and position.  Some added benefits of Slot-Lock™ include eliminating hardware such as nails, screws, or clips that may take extra time to handle as well as get lost or damaged.   Slot-Lock™ is also collapsible, making it convenient to store and return to original shipper.   One can review our case studies and see dozens of examples where an innovative packaging solution significantly reduced labor.
  • Inventory Reduction: Many packaging solutions can take up space or require some added labor to put together.   Packnet offers JIT delivery of value add packaging kits that save customers time and inventory space.  See video: https://youtu.be/zvv_UaPOIc8
  • Combining Functions: Packaging solutions can also double up as inter-operation transport and storage.   The solution can be specifically designed to reduce material handling and storage space.   Packnet also can custom create storage and handling carts to match your specific operational needs.

Packnet believes that every packaging solution has the potential to save your company money.   If you are curious as to what type of savings you can realize, we invite you to take advantage of our free, no obligation packaging assessment.