Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Combating Driver Shortage Through Packaging

If you pay attention to transportation and long haul trucking rates, you know that the current driver shortage is a real problem and is causing increased rates and reduced load acceptance ratios.  For more details on the driver shortage and how it effects transportation costs, check out this article by Michael Kilgore.

The most widely accepted solution to the driver shortage is to increase compensation for over the road truck drivers so that the profession remains competitive against other appealing semi-skilled construction jobs that are on the rise.  That will definitely help with the supply end of the equation and probably deserved for quality drivers, but at the same time those wage increases will just transfer through to your company in the way of rate increases across lanes.

Here is an alternative way of thinking about this problem from the the demand side of the equation.  Shipping less product is obviously not a solution to reduce demand and unless you own your fleet, you can't really hire or pay drivers more, you rely on your carriers for that.  So lets look at something you do have control of.  Believe it or not, it starts with your packaging, specifically your distribution and unit load packaging.

Do the Back of your Trailers resemble this?
By optimizing your packaging and increasing the density of your unit loads and thus leading to more goods shipped per trailer, you reduce your demand on your carriers and the over all system.  Kind of like adjusting your thermostat in the heat of the summer when you are not home, you are reducing impact on the grid and waste.  Empty cube space in trailer is probably the worst and most expensive kind of waste there is.

Many customers we help achieve 5-15% improvements in full truck load densities, which usually translates 10-15% less truck load shipments.  This improvement obviously generates immediate transportation savings but also reduces the demand on their carriers and improved load acceptance ratios.  Now while one company reducing a few truck load shipments a week is not going to solve the driver shortage by itself, but a small percentage shift across the market would.  Not to mention, this would result in significant savings for companies and a large reduction in truck emissions from a sustainability standpoint.

To learn more about Packaging Optimization, follow the link.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

New Package Testing Results Reveal Tape Closure is Superior For Compression Performance

By: Rob Kaszubowski, Sr. Packaging Engineer

Our original blog post on edge compression test (ECT) vs. box compression test (BCT) in box performance metrics prompted Sajith Pallippuram to write: “…Won’t the method of sealing the box also make an impact on the BCT value? We [have] seen that if we hot melt glue the box, that provides 30 percent more BCT value in comparison to taping the flaps. Can you please throw some light on this?”

Great question, Sajith! Chainalytics’ packaging engineer geeks are here to answer all your questions, so let’s jump in.

corrugated secondary shipper box
Tape closure with tape extending minimum of 2"
 into the body of the box
corrugated cardboard box
Adhesive closure with 6 adhesive bead lines
per minor flap.

The Set Up: Testing the Combatants
Over our many years of packaging engineering and testing we had not specifically tested this scenario to evaluate the difference in compression strength of taped flaps or adhesive closures. We were curious about this hypothesis ourselves and decided to conduct some compression tests to compare the two variables and evaluate this hypothesis:
  1. We designed an RSC (14" x 11" x 8") in Artios and cut out 6 samples of each box variable on our Kongsberg sample table in 32C Kraft material
  2. We set up the boxes and conducted the compression per ASTM D-642 using our LAB Compression table.
corrugated cardboard package testing
Tape (left) and adhesive flap closures
corrugated testing
Glued flap box in the compression tester.

The Contest Results 
The results showed the tape closure boxes with 8 percent more strength on average.
Minitab comparative data on compresion strength performance

What We Learned 
Even though this was a smaller sample set of only six boxes, our test data set shows the boxes with tape closure were stronger than the adhesive closure boxes. While there may be certain circumstances where the adhesive closure boxes may provide better compression strength (different box size, horizontal clamp forces, supply chain conditions, etc), our initial testing indicates otherwise. 

This initial data has definitely intrigued us and we will plan to pursue additional testing on this hypothesis to better evaluate these scenarios.

As a team of packaging engineering consultants, we’re constantly exploring questions like this, to challenge ourselves to help our clients find ways to optimize their packaging, save money and add to their bottom line. If you have a question or a cost savings hypothesis, drop us a line at or give us a call at +1 612.260.7845.

Rob Kaszubowski is a Manager in Chainalytics Packaging Engineering practice. His track record of success ranges from delivering packaging cost savings and damage reduction projects to optimizing packaging throughout clients’ entire supply chains.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

2015 Pack Expo Las Vegas Recap

Recently Chainalytics' packaging engineering team attended the PACK EXPO trade show in Las Vegas.  This year's show featured more than 1,800 exhibitors and 30,000+ attendees. Our team of packaging consultants canvased the floor for the better part of three days to find all things new and cutting edge in packaging industry.

While I've attend several Pack Expo shows in Chicago, this was actually my first year attending the packaging industry’s west coast version.  General impressions on Las Vegas vs. Chicago are the following:

1. Still a huge show, but much more manageable then Chicago, you can cover in 2 full days without sprinting the aisles.

2. Vegas is definitely a little less equipment and machinery intensive.  You get a better mix of materials, new technologies and material handling supplies.  So if Chicago turned you off in the past because of being overwhelmed with giants exhibits of fillers, wrappers, and conveyors, give Las Vegas a try.
3.  In my opinion, September in Las Vegas is so much nicer weather wise then the Windy City in October or November!

Lastly I leave you with our three top finds from this year's expo:

1. CogitoCan - One of the few short comings of the long-standing aluminum can is the lack of resealability.  Seeing the CogitoCan at the show was very unique and an exciting proposition for the beverage markets, especially if it as cost effective as they claim it to be.
New Resealable Aluminum Can Technology

2.  Easy Fold Fixtures - In our line of work as packaging consultants, we see tons of labor and time spent folding up two sided rollover corrugated cartons, a.k.a. Pizza Boxes.  Walking down one of the last aisles of the show for me, this immediately caught my attention.  Based on a few minutes in the booth, this seems like a great and affordable way to reduce labor and repetitive motion injuries as well asimprove productivity and tact time for many companies.  To see how it works, check out this 20 second video.
EZ fold fixtures

3.  WestRock Meta E - The newly formed WestRock had very large and impressive exhibit showing off their newest auto case and tray erecting Meta series.  For me the coolest offering they had was their Meta E which is focused on the E-commerce sector.  They have a unique system that auto erects an RSC corrugated case that is lined with cohesive paper.  You load the box upside down and place your product inside the top sealed lid of the case.  An operator then folds over the cohesive paper onto itself that creates a false bottom of sorts that cradles the product and holds firm to top of box.  When the consumer receives their shipment and opens the top, the product is justified to the top and creates a clean out of box experience with no loose fill, air pillows or shipping dunnage.  While this technology does nothing to solve for shipping air or reducing dimensional weight, it does potential reduce labor and packaging materials used.
Example of the customer "Out of Box Experience" with Meta E
Hopefully you have found this info helpful and you feel inspired to check out a future Pack Expo show.  If you have questions about something you want to know more about or something you found at Pack Expo, leave a comment below!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How Innovative Product Packaging Solutions Can Save Money

By Rob Kaszubowski, Packaging Engineering Manager
damage reduction specialist

Who knew you could actually damage a product while placing it into its protective packaging? But that’s the exact problem Chainalytics packaging engineers recently tackled for a construction materials client.

The company’s heavy vinyl lined products were being scuffed and scratched when slid into their secondary packaging for shipment—creating significant costs from damage returns, warranty repairs, and service calls.  But abrasion during loading wasn’t the only problem: Products were often damaged during unloading from sliding the product back out of the box.
abrasion damage
Abrasion damage created from sliding product into box

To add to the packaging failure complexity, the product came in multiple sizes and weights and was manufactured on multiple lines. The tact time for the packaging operation was less than 20 seconds, leaving little time to physically add any extra protection components. 

A streamlined solution to a multi-layered packaging problem

The Chainalytics’ packaging team developed a unique testing method to replicate the vinyl product sliding into a box using a variable speed conveyor-like system (think of a treadmill). Only in this case the process was reversed: The vinyl was placed in a fixed position with a determined weight applied and a strip of corrugated material was run across the vinyl at a speed that matched loading speeds on the line. 
corrugated damage reduction
Customized abrasion test created to solve for multiple damage solutions.

The test enabled the team to establish baseline damage that was replicable to typical damage seen at the packing line. From there, they were able to test multiple packaging attributes to determine the severity levels of any single variable including:
  • packaging substrates
  • materials from multiple corrugated vendors
  • various board weights
  • liner board combinations
  • environmental conditions
  • corrugation direction
  • vinyl colors
  • abrasion reducing coatings for corrugated

Solutions testing helps us create the optimal packaging system
After establishing the baseline damage of the current state, engineers ran the same test looking at possible concept solutions. Again, the unique test setup enabled testing multiple possible solution variations in a short amount of time while using minimal sample product for testing.

Following the solutions testing the team identified multiple solutions and was able to obtain quotes and perform costing analysis to determine the most feasible solution that would balance reducing the damage while not increasing packaging costs significantly. 

packaging costs vs. supply chain damage

Ultimately, the innovative test setup and customized test protocol expedited the time it took to solve for damage, balanced extensive damage/returns costs with new packaging costs and created a net savings benefit.  The packaging team was able to identify a cost effective solution that was able to significantly reduce the abrasion damage from loading the product into the secondary packaging and was a transparent change for the operators at the manufacturing line.

If your team is struggling with a packaging issue and in search of a customized solution to help solve a customized problem, contact Chainalytics’ packaging professionals at or give us a call at +1 612 260 7845

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How McDonald’s Rides Package Design into New Market

Recently, McDonald’s announced a new McBike packaging initiative, aimed at making bike-thru traffic possible at their 36,258 restaurants worldwide (Statista). Launched in Copenhagen, Denmark—one of the most cyclist-dense cities in the world—McBike is also scheduled for launch other global cities known for their cycling populations.

The McBike package is relatively simple; a little folder with two pockets for a meal, a hole in the bottom for a drink, and a looped hook at the top to go over handlebars. What the package has created is a bit more complex - an entire new market for the fast food chain.

A quick look at commuter biking

Source: The League of American Bicyclists
According to The League of American Bicyclists, biking to work in the United States has grown 62% from 2000 to 2013. Although a mere .25% of the U.S. population bikes to work, the McBike program might be introduced to active, bike-friendly cities like Portland, Oregon where upwards of 6% of the population bikes to work, or in small cities, like Davis, California, where 24.5% of commuters bike.
In the United States, Millennials increasingly live in urban locations; are “multi-modal,” choosing the best transit mode (driving, public transit, bike or walk) to reach their location; and are a likely demographic  for the McBike initiative.

Even if the new packages don’t make it to the states, they could still have a substantial impact elsewhere. Take Copenhagen, Denmark for example, where over 30% of the population bikes to work. If this package succeeds in countries with large cycling communities, then McDonald’s stands to gain quite a lot of business volume.

 Figure 1. Method of Commuting Trips (City of Copenhagen, 2008-2010)  
Source: Average 2008-2010 TU Data, Danish Annual National Transport Survey

It all comes down to knowing your demographics and experimenting with ways to capture a broader array of clientele. A bicyclist demographic could include active and health conscious adults, adults that don’t have a car, children, and people in communities where biking is the norm.

The McBike is certainly an interesting packaging concept and a great attempt to bring cyclists to McDonald’s. However, I’m not completely sold on the new McBike package. I have a hard time believing that the package actually makes for an easy ride.  My primary concern is with how deep the carton is: It appears the bottom of the beverage container hangs well below the top of the front tire.
If you’ve ever ridden a bike while attempting to carry packages on your handlebars—and instead chosen a bike basket or panniers to carry groceries or other items—you know that anything that interferes with your front tire’s turning radius can create a handling problem.  In the case of the McBike package, there is nothing within the package to keep it from swaying, which could potentially create problems with the beverage container striking the wheel, possibly making a mess or instigating a crash. It also looks like the package might sit a little too close to the center of bike depending on the cyclist’s handlebars. Overall, it is a unique branding and packaging idea, and if it works, the McBike program could potentially bring in a lot of drive-in business in places where bikes are the primary vehicles on the road. As someone who lives in a urban area, this seems like a realistic idea for my shorter rides, but it seems like a bit a hassle if you want to go a few miles or more with.

McDonald’s is proving that innovation is key to meeting your customers’ needs. More business is good business and an innovative packaging program can be an important part of broadening your company's reach and creating growth. But on first glance, a bit more package engineering may make sense.

By Noah Rabinowitz | Packaging Designer