Packaging optimisation is about fine-tuning your packaging process so that it can be as efficient as possible. It means taking an iterative approach to packaging so that you can figure out the best way to run your operation. It may not be the most exciting subject, but it can help to ensure that your business reduce unnecessary costs and keeps your customer satisfaction levels up.

Below we will go through some of the basics you can begin to implement immediately. From packaging design to testing, there’s a lot to cover, but it will give you a basic framework to get started with. 

More and more retailers are harnessing the power of packaging optimisation in logistics and recognising its direct relationship to sustainability. In fact, sustainability is the main driver of packaging design across all industries. It’s important to be aware of how all of this can help you.

1. Choose the best design

This is one of the most important steps, as it will impact everything else in the process. Make sure you put time and effort into designing your packaging, as this will pay dividends further down the line.

First and foremost, study your product:

  • What shape is it?
  • Is it in any way fragile?
  • How much does it weigh?

These considerations will help you determine what type of box or packaging your goods need to be delivered in. 

For example, if you’re selling shower curtain rings, then you probably won’t want to ship them in a large cardboard box that could fit a television. Not only would this negatively affect your logistics, but it might also leave you with a confused and unhappy customer who now has to get rid of a ton of cardboard.

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Design your packaging to be the perfect fit for whatever it is you’re posting to your customers. And while you’re at it, take a moment to consider the environment impact of your chosen packaging. As increasing numbers of shoppers learn about the impacts of current business practices on the environment, sustainability-focused businesses will continue to impress with well-thought-out, environmentally-friendly packaging solutions.

You can also use a new packaging design as part of a rebranding strategy and showcase a new and differentiated brand identity.

2. Select the right materials

While this is part of the design itself, it’s one of the most important factors to consider. Just as it’s key to figuring out your packaging’s overall look and practicality, it is also vital to deliberately choose which materials to use.

There are many options out there today, but your first consideration should be how the packaging will protect your product. If the product is fragile, it might need more packaging materials or specific sturdiness—all of which can affect cost.  

And, of course, more packaging materials means more space required to store the materials, which then means less space for stock itself. This is where stock management software can be useful as it will assist you to optimise stock levels at all times.

Sustainability must also be mentioned here again. Consider how the materials you choose will impact the environment as well as your operation.

3. Consider the dimensions

It used to be that weight was king and that the shipping cost of whatever you sent depended solely on how heavy it was. It wouldn’t matter if the packaging was totally inappropriate for what was inside—all that mattered was how much it weighed, and you would be charged accordingly.

Now it’s all about dimensions. Yes, weight is still a factor, but it’s overridden by your package’s length, width and breadth. This is why design is so crucial here. For your logistics to be as efficient as possible, you need to factor in the dimensions of your product and its packaging. 

Can you streamline the package at all? Make it smaller? Make it flatter? All these dimension-related questions will help you consider how you can improve the packaging and, thus, keep your costs in control.

4. Make sure it’s sustainable

We’ve mentioned it several times already, but sustainability is crucial when it comes to your logistics. It will also be important for your customers, who will most likely value and appreciate your efforts in this area. Values are changing, and consumers are more and more adopting greener technological solutions across all sectors. Some examples include cloud based phone systems or paperless bank statements.

Not only are there now ‘green’ materials that you can use for packaging, but they can be beneficial for storage, ease of handling and protection of your product. Some of them might cost more than your standard cardboard box, but they will reap long-term benefits on a variety of operational levels. 

5. Study the supply chain

Something often overlooked is the supply chain itself. A lot of thought usually goes into the packaging design with the customer in mind, but what about the journey from the point of despatch to your customer’s doorstep?

The supply chain is where your package will spend most of its life, so it’s worth considering its conditions. For example,

  • Will there be rough handling?
  • Will there be extreme temperature fluctuations?
  • Is it being shipped domestically or internationally?
  • What will the method(s) of transportation be?

Covering all these questions can help you ensure that your design and packaging materials are as suitable and up-to-the-task as possible. 

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6. Do some testing

Once you’ve figured out and established all of the above, you’ll want to put your packaging through a real-life simulation to ensure that it can withhold what it will go through in transit. 

A good example is replicating road stress using vibration machines. This is important because the last thing you want is customers receiving damaged goods in the post. This will increase your rate of returns and will disincentivise customers from making repeat purchases. 

If terms such as ‘vibration machines’ are starting to worry you, fear not, as you can easily hire engineering expertise to help you with this sort of thing. Or talk to your courier to see what they would recommend—after all, they will know best regarding what your package will be going through in transit. Either way, ensure your packaging is road-worthy, as it will save you time and money further down the line. 

How to pack like a pro

From design to dimensions to testing, the whole process of packaging optimisation is quite involved, and we’ve only scratched the surface here. With more advanced tracking and technology on offer, it’s not something you can afford to ignore. 

By all means, start to implement some of these strategies if you don’t do them already. You’ll no doubt find that there’s a lot of overlap, so once you start figuring out one aspect, you’ll realise that it’s partially solved another. 

But don’t stop here! Research this topic and think of novel ways to optimise your packaging. And don’t forget to get additional help with expertise if you need it—outsourcing is a incredibly common approach in successful businesses.