Breakables on the Manufacturing Line: How to Handle Efficiently

tpmThe tastes of today’s consumer have done more than just popularize ecommerce. It’s enforced an expectation that goods are available almost immediately. This has all manufacturers evaluating their processes for efficiency, but it’s even more important to a company that manufacturers any breakable parts. Adding mass and speed to a process only makes accidents more likely.

At the same time, consumers are especially interested in social and personal activities around craft beers, wine, and cooking.  Consequently, glass products are more popular gift ideas. Tapping into the cultural penchant for palatable experiences also unveils new product opportunities in various glasses, serving vessels, and cookware.

Both of these situations put manufacturers in a position to handle breakable SKUs quickly and delicately, two feats not often performed simultaneously. To help handlers succeed at this, you must provide the right tools for the job.

Take Shutterfly as an example. This manufacturer of high-quality personalized products introduced metal flasks, growlers, and glass ornaments into its catalog. These more fragile items didn’t fit into the existing handling process, particularly where products are prepared for shipment. The company needed to minimize or eliminate its “economy of motion,” or operator handling/movement, during the process of preparing for sandblasting and barcode attachment. Also, products needed to be safely stacked as they awaited transportation to the next station.

Shutterfly enlisted their trusted industrial packaging company to help with a solution. Packnet, located in Eagan, Minnesota, evaluated the process and Shutterfly experts’ preliminary concepts. Packnet engineers designed a custom, corrugated plastic tray with waterjet cut interior foam that holds products safely and securely through the economy of motion process. They also created visual guides on the foam letting operators know where to place the mask on the foam so it’s centered. The trays can be stacked without compromising the integrity of the products.

As a result, Shutterfly realized a 20% to 30% reduction in handling at the mask/film application step. The overall process also improved by a 5% reduction. The new efficiencies not only protected the materials, but also reduced the likelihood of mistakes like sending product to the wrong customer.

This case study is a great reminder that when you introduce fragile materials into your manufacturing process, you may need to customize some tools around it to work efficiently. If you’re curious how Packnet could help you improve your process, request a free assessment or contact us at 952-944-9124.