Tuesday, October 4, 2016

How Will New Transportation Technology Impact Packaging Damage?

By: Eric Carlson, Sr. Packaging Consultant, Chainalytics

Connect with Eric on LinkedIn

I am often involved in the replication of packaging damage due to transportation hazards; frequently there is a new or surprising dynamic between the trailer, the route and the products inside the trailer.  It is important to know the dynamics of the distribution route, which, with today’s technology and instrumentation, is pretty routinely and easily accomplished.  Usually, we can utilize standard test methods for truck vibration, but sometimes there is something in the specific route that may lie outside the standard random vibration sequence.  Just recently, one of the commonly used testing standards ASTM D4169 went through a change in vibration profile based on data gathered over the last few years; the ASTM profile is now similar to the ISTA vibration profile. 

With the advent of lower cost sensors, increased computer power, Internet of Things (IoT), Physical Internet, ‘chronic’ driver shortages, increased regulation on drivers and equipment, higher efficiency transmissions, Google & Uber’s driver-less cars and the ever increasing pressure to reduce operating costs, it seems trucking is on the verge of going through some pretty radical transformations.  A few technologies currently in trial include platooning, driver assist and driver-less tractors. 

What is Platooning?

Platooning is when two or more trucks travel in close proximity to reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency for both trucks.  This is enabled by linking the driving and safety systems of the trucks together via wifi.  Some have likened platooning to be a highly advanced form of cruise control; the trucks maintain an optimum, but close distance.  The lead truck uses long distance sensors to look for ‘obstacles’ for collision avoidance.  Further, the braking systems are linked together for safety because the distance between the trucks is so small that the human response may be too slow.  The trailing vehicle gets the greater fuel efficiency benefit.    
distribution vibration profiles
Truck Platooning could create new dynamics for packaging and vibration frequencies
Platooning is envisioned to extend to having a single driver lead a series of autonomous vehicles; this would be most effective high volume and hub to hub routes.  This would be the incremental step toward completely driver-less trucks.  Many prognosticators suggest that driver-less trucks are still 10 years away, but platooning will be here as soon as next year.  Early adopters are favored to be the biggest winners. 
Additionally, auto makers are experimenting with platooning for passenger cars.  In my misspent youth, many of us believed that if you would ‘platoon’ behind a big rig and you were all speeding you would save gas and the police could not figure out a way to pull you over; I can say with some authority that this was a youthful misconception. 

What could this new technology mean to me as a packaging engineer sleuth?

Usually, a known lane or route from a manufacturing facility to a distribution warehouse will result in a fairly predictable rate of damage.  Typically little or no damage is observed on these routes, but depending on load configuration, mis-application blocking and bracing dunnage or other factors will produce occasional but usually a small amount of damage. 

I was recently involved in the evaluation of a very substantial amount of damage to one load. This one load had highly atypical damage to the packaging and the product; severity of the damage was excessive.  This single load was just one of many the company ships from its factory to one of many of their distribution centers.  As with any conscientious company, they launched an investigation into the cause(s) and this is when I was called in. 

When evaluating the output of a system it is important to know whether the cause is the fault of the design of the system.  The system in this case is the packaging design, handling, load configuration & use/mis-use dunnage and the external forces due to trailer/road interaction.  The protective packaging, if it performs as intended is designed to keep damages to a minimum.  The packaging is often tested to ascertain its performance and ability to protect in the supply chain.  If the variation of a system is out of the normal range, such as greatly increased damage, it is important to determine if the system variables have changed.  If the basic system inputs have not changed, the issue could be considered special cause – special cause being a non-repeatable random input that causes the variation in results or output.   

Fortunately, in this case, we already had some good transportation vibration data as well as some unique tests we developed to tease out some of the unique dynamics of their products.  In this case, we applied all the applicable tests without matching the damage observed.  We also applied additional tests  and test thresholds to replicate of the severity of the damage.  No matter how hard we tried to cause this damage level (and we tried pretty hard), we could not come close to replicating the damage observed by this one load. 

In this case, we determined this particular damage occurrence was ‘special cause’.  The leading hypothesis was the driver left his intended route onto some pretty hellacious dirt roads to visit his ailing grandmother; others suggested a less virtuous off-road destination. 

It will be some years before the self-driving technology, ubiquitous GPS and electronic logging is all in place, but each new technology will reduce the incidences of these ‘special cause’ events.  I know that by the time these technologies are available, I’ll likely be long retired and will gladly adopt driverless vehicles to keep one more old man out of the driver’s seat.  

Eric Carlson, CPP is a Senior Packaging Engineer for Chainalytics.  With a thorough understanding of the forces involved in distribution and ASTM / ISTA test methods, combined with extensive understanding of dynamic attenuation, Eric’s design and engineering work focuses on damage prevention and protective packaging.  Eric has been involved with a wide range of highly technical designs in applications such as; medical device packaging, military and space, electronics, test equipment, industrial equipment, recreational equipment & vehicles.

Image source: http://www.pcrevue.sk/files/photo/2016-04/13027/fc5e12/scania-trucks.jpg

Thursday, September 1, 2016

UW STOUT Pack Expo Happy Hour - Save the Date!

Save the Date
Pack Expo Alumni Social Happy Hour
Metropolitan Club of Chicago
67th Floor of the Willis Tower
November 7, 2016 
Event Image Placeholder
Date: November 7, 2016
Time: 5:00-7:00 pm
Place: The Metropolitan Club of Chicago
Address: Willis Tower 233 S. Wacker Drive, 67th Floor, Chicago, IL 60606
Price: $20
Save the date for the UW-Stout Happy Hour after Pack Expo!  This is a great opportunity to see Stout Packaging grads, network and enjoy the view from the 67th floor.

This event is hosted by Alumnus Rick Kroner '91. Take the Pack Expo shuttle on Route 5 to join the fun.

As always - there will be great door prizes and mouthwatering appetizers.
We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Small Changes Can Bring Big Supply Chain Savings

Packaging Consultant
by Rich Lindgren, CPP

In the world of Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) there is an eternal struggle between the demands of marketing, operations and optimizing your packaging for the supply chain.  As an everyday consumer, you probably see packages all over the grocery store where you wonder why there is so much air around the product or food in the packages you purchase.  For the most part, air is waste and below you will read why!

There are a few reasons for this air.  The first is driven by operations and that is the functional air space so they can run their automated filling equipment at speeds which maximize efficiency and profitability.  For the most part this is a good thing, this ultimately contributes to you getting the products you want at your local stores at a fair price.  Secondly and usually the larger driver for the size of the packaging is due to marketing billboard space.  When you walk down the aisle at Target or Walmart, almost every package is a mini billboard of sorts trying to call your attention much like driving down the interstate in your car.
Packaging on the shelf
Aisle of "Packaging Billboards"
The bigger the packaging face the larger the product image or area that can be used by marketing and graphics teams to inform you and entice you to put it in your cart.  Packaging size also has an inherit suggestion to the amount of product inside said package.  Consciously or subconsciously if you see two pizza boxes next to each other for the same price, you may select the larger one without actually reading the ounces labeled in small print at the bottom of the carton, thinking you are getting a better value. Sadly, not very often is a larger package an indication of amount of product or food inside and even can be consider non-functional slack fill, which can lead to fines on companies.

Typically the process works as follows, a leading brand owner will launch a product into the market with a large billboard area so they can "be heard" on the shelf to tell you what is new and great about the new product.  If the product is successful, it is natural for competing brands to launch their "me too" versions into the market to grab a share of the new market.  When those "me too" products launch they often copy the size of the current market leader for that product category whether they need the space or not, so they can look the same size wise on the shelf.

As a packaging engineer the trick is to balance the concerns of marketing and operations while delivering an optimized packaging system that will serve the company's bottom line.  Below I will outline a case study for a project our team delivered for a past frozen foods customer.  This particular frozen pizza item was the follower or the "me too" in the market.  Even though the product was a different shape and size then competitor, they launched product in a paperboard carton the exact dimension of the competitor.

We proposed a sensitivity analysis showcasing the range in cost savings, while maintaining a similar size graphic facing. The key was finding the sweet spot for this packaging system while meeting the needs of the marketing team.  Even though there were other options with larger supply chain savings, marketing would not support the billboard reduction.  The selected option is what we labeled as "Visual Indifference".  Basically it was the smallest change I could find that would still make a big impact.  Such a small change, that it would be impossible to perceive it in a freezer case.
Paperboard Carton Packaging
Small changes to the retail carton leading to big savings!

By reducing the length and width of the carton by just an 1/8" in each direction and reducing height or riser panel by a 1/16" we made a huge impact.  The 1/8" reduction allowed us to add a whole row of cases along a 53" Dry Van trailer as well as one additional row at the back of the trailers.  The 1/16" reduction allowed for pack out ratio change on the freezer shelf.  Getting more pizzas in a freezer leading to less out of stock.  This also helped propel a change going to 14 count shipping case from 12 count.  In the end, this also allowed one additional row of pizza cases along the top of the trailer as well, in the end the customer got an additional 6,848 pizzas on each truck shipped.

Packaging Case Study
Click Images to Enlarge
In the end, with an annualized savings of $600K, the time to payback was only 7 days.  Adding on top of that, there was a great sustainable story to tell as well.  On top of the hard savings, the reduced out of stocks, reduced touches and many other soft benefits throughout the supply chain.
Packaging and Operations Map
Total Supply Chain Impacts

Does it make you wonder what products in your company's portfolio could have a similar opportunity for greater efficiency and supply chain savings?

The packaging team at Chainalytics focuses on packaging cost reduction efforts that lead to a chain reaction of savings across the entire supply chain for their customers.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Most Valuable Ziplock Bag of Air Ever?

This packaging case study involves a lot of hoopla and several diverse inputs: Kobe’s last game, an air-filled ziplock bag and oxygen transmission rates.
There had been much hoopla over the course of NBA great Kobe Bryant’s final year with the Los Angeles Lakers, which only grew exponentially for his last game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on April 13. The game itself had a storybook ending, with Kobe totaling 60 points.
Given the hype around the event, one could argue that this was a peak moment to cash in on selling Kobe gear and memorabilia.  One of the items found listed for sale on eBay included a “bag of air from Kobe’s final game.” The bids shot up to a high of $17,500 before it and a number of such bags that had turned up were removed by Ebay. Meantime, dozens of media outlets reported on the frenzy, including The Huffington Post.
OTR, shelf life
A ziplock bag of air from Kobe Bryant's last game
showed up on Ebay with bids reaching as high as $17,500
But what about the permeability?
A colleague and I were enjoying a water cooler discussion on the game and this highly valuable bag, when our packaging engineer light bulb flipped on and we thought aloud: “But what about the bag permeability?” “How well could this inexpensive packaging vessel contain this precious investment?”
Read on here at Packaging Digest to see what we found when we put on our packaging engineer hats and delved deeper into this topic.

By: Rob Kaszubowski, Packaging Engineering Manager, Chainalytics

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

GMO Labeling Law to Stress Packaging Departments

by Rob Kaszubowski: Packaging Engineering Manager, Chainalytics

 In case you had missed it, the latest verdict in the Vermont genetically modified organisms (GMO) labeling saga is in: Food manufacturers have until July 1st to update their package labeling to include GMO information.

print plates, new product development
Before and After: Food manufacturers across the country will be required to update their package labeling to communicate if their products use genetically modified organisms

As a recap: Back in 2014, Vermont initiated a law to require all foods containing GMOs to be clearly labeled on all food packaging.
Congress had established a committee to block the labeling change. However, the Senate failed to advance a bill that would ban states from requiring food packaging to disclose the presence of GMOs. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar helped lead efforts to stomp this one down, likely thinking of the holistic impact this change would have on Minnesota-based food producers General Mills, Land O’Lakes and Hormel. This puts the GMO law back in motion and will go into effect in July 2016—in barely more than two months!
Click here to read more at Packaging Digest on how this new labeling requirement will stress packaging engineering departments.
Rob Kaszubowski is the Engineering Manager at Chainalytics, where he is focused on reducing product damage and implementing packaging cost savings while leading a team of packaging consultants in Design for Distribution initiatives.
Connect with Rob on LinkedIn and on Twitter @KazPack1