BY BRAD SHORR
Packing peanuts may be the biggest necessary evil in all of packaging. Distribution facilities have been trying to do away with them for decades, but there always seems to be a catch – alternatives are too expensive, too slow, too heavy, or not versatile enough. Well, low cost has its advantages – but how about no cost? Sealed Air Corporation, one of the most innovative packaging companies in the world, has finally done it. They’ve brought a packaging system to market that completely eliminates the need for packing peanuts – or any other inner packing material for that matter.
The I-Pack Automated Void Reduction System, introduced to the U.S. market in late 2008, offers a wide spectrum of benefits to high volume pick and pack distribution operations. One of the most dramatic benefits is a breakthrough in sustainable packaging. I-Pack solves the peanut problem once and for all, though an engineering concept Sealed Air refers to as “void reduction”.
Why Packing Peanuts Are Used
For most pick and pack operations, efficiency is the art of compromise. Larger than necessary corrugated boxes are used because finding the ideal size for each order would require far too much time. Tamper evidence is limited or nonexistent because the necessary corrugated designs and carton sealing systems are too expensive and difficult to integrate. Undesirable void fill materials are employed because they are cheap, fast, and versatile.
The result – A compromise box arrives at the consumer’s doorstep looking less than professional. The box, which contains a couple DVDs, is large enough to accommodate a laptop computer. And adding insult to injury, the consumer must deal with cleaning up and disposing of the polystyrene peanuts that s/he is convinced shouldn’t have been in the box in the first place.
Justifiably indignant consumers should keep in mind that these packaging shortcomings are no less troublesome for the shipper. They translate into inflated packaging material and transportation costs, damage and theft losses, and lost customers. But even eco-sensitive shippers have run into brick walls trying to eliminate packing peanuts, since competing void fill materials all come with their own set of disadvantages.
I-Pack Void Reduction to the Rescue
I-Pack automates the processes of erecting the corrugated shipping container (in this case, a tray), securing products within the tray after picking, and applying a lid to the tray for shipment. I-Pack secures products by compressing the top of the tray to the height of the tallest product inside, producing shipping containers of the smallest possible size. The I-Pack shipping container is extremely durable, looks great, and has outstanding tamper evident characteristics. And, perhaps most significantly from a sustainable packaging point of view, it eliminates the need for void fill.
No More Excuses for Packing Peanuts!
Until now, replacing peanuts has meant increasing material costs, increasing operating costs, and/or exchanging one set of negatives for another. But I-Pack changes the equation. Thankfully, there is no longer an excuse for dragging one’s sustainable feet -
Speed. The system, which can run 12 to 14 boxes per minute, is more than fast enough for virtually any pick and pack line.
Transportation costs. By producing boxes of the smallest possible size, I-Pack minimizes package weight and cube, thereby maximizing shipping efficiency.
Reliability. I-Pack, and its sister system, Ultipack, have been sold in Europe over than a decade. With more than 300 installations in large scale operations such as Chanel (cosmetics) and Lyreco (office supplies), Sealed Air’s technology is field tested and proven.
Transition cost/capital investment. Sealed Air has found a solution to this problem as well. No capital investment is required for an I-Pack system. Instead, companies are charged a usage fee as trays cycle through the system.
And consumers? They receive a stout, professional looking package that protects their order with the least amount of packaging possible. For today’s highly eco-conscious market, what could be more appealing? In an economy where every dollar counts, pleasing customers, making them eager to reorder refer others, may be I-Pack’s greatest benefits of all.
Visit Sealed Air Automation for more information.
Brad Shorr has an extensive background in the packaging industry. He is Director of Marketing for Salazar Packaging, Inc a distribution firm dedicated to helping manufacturers, contract packagers, and distributors find the best sustainable packaging options. In addition, Brad owns his own sales and marketing consulting firm, Word Sell, Inc.