Thursday, May 14, 2015

Edge Crush Test vs. Box Compression Test

Edge Crush Test vs. Box Compression Test (aka ECT vs. BCT): New Performance Metrics for Corrugated Square Off

by Rob Kaszubowski, CPP

As packaging consultants we are constantly faced with the challenge of learning a client’s vernacular and acronyms – as well as common acronyms within the packaging industry. For years the standard for corrugated packaging has been the ECT or Edge Crush Test. Edge crush slowly surpassed Mullen burst as the standard metric for corrugated strength. (Read more about ECT vs. Mullen Burst Here).  The ECT value is then utilized to help calculate the “theoretical box compression strength” which is derived from the McKee formula which dates back to the 1960’s.

Lately though, the more common term around the industry is now the BCT value or Box Compression Test. This value is often tied to a company’s packaging specification as part of their performance spec requirements.  That means that depending on a number of factors (the weight of the box contents, stacking pattern, safety factor, length of storage, storage conditions, etc.) a company may call out a target compression value that their box must meet as a minimum threshold for performance.

So for example, a very simple requirement in the past may have been:
§  Box style = RSC
§  Size = 15 x 12 x 10
§  Material = 44# C ECT Kraft
Now that same company may specify the BCT (Box Compression Test) value:
§  Box style = RSC
§  Size = 15 x 12 x 10
§  BCT = 940 lbs

At the end of the day the customer doesn’t care what makes up this box, or what the paper combinations are. They just want to be sure that it can hold 940 pounds and make it through their supply chain with their products unscathed.

To perform the ECT test, a 2” x 2” swatch of corrugated is cut from a sample sheet stock. It is placed in an edge crush tester machine and thus the ECT value is obtained.  
Common ECT target values include:
§  26 (B or C flute)
§  32 (B or C flute)
§  44 (B or C flute)
§  55 C flute
§  42 BC flute
§  48 BC flute
§  51 BC flute
§  61 BC flute
§  71 BC flute

Corrugated board consists of three combined layers of paper: a single face liner, medium, and double face liner. Just as there are multiple ways to slice up a pizza, there are also multiple combinations of paper that can equal a certain ECT value. The weight of the paper liners used typically depends on what paper weights the supplying paper mills typically carry and source to the corrugators.  The amount of recycled content or virgin fiber can also be a factor in the final ECT value.

Anatomy of Corrugated Board
So as companies look to standardize their packaging and consolidate sourcing they are looking towards a much more simplified corrugated box spec: one that no longer calls out the ECT value, but rather the BCT value. Packaging engineers and procurement teams are stating: I don’t care what you make the box out of, as long it meets my minimum strength thresholds. This shift in the market should ultimately make it easier for suppliers to focus on running paper combinations that they run well and run fast and deliver an optimized product.

If you have questions about what your minimum BCT values or stacking safety factors should be, contact the packaging engineering team atChainalytics.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Packaging Strategies to Maximize Profitability

by Kyle Ous

When it comes to designing products for the marketplace, it seems there are countless tasks to complete before products are introduced and available on the retail shelves. While speed to market is important, packaging design is a critical component to the overall profitability of the product and is important to evaluate before entering the marketplace. Does this mean companies need to follow a rigorous packaging engineering design process and justify each added cost?

Companies that are best in class are doing iterative package design analysis and testing before phasing in new packaging. Although this is an involved process, this task prepares the packaged product for distribution year-over-year and enables companies for future growth within their categories.

Profit margin is a key metric for success. As it relates to packaging, there are a handful of ways to maximize this metric. It is important to understand the supply chain channels that your customers are using to buy their new products. Online retail sales are a growing channel and seem to be a popular buying experience across many demographics.

Kuerig 2.0 On Shelf Retail Package for Consumers

Kuerig 2.0 coffee maker systems are using customized packaging strategies for different supply chain channels through to the customer. Out of the box, Kuerig utilizes high-end lithographic labels with an integrated carrying handle for sales at the retail shelf. Although the packaging is more expensive, it tends to differentiate from other products on shelf and offers enhanced customer experience in the final mile. Contrary to popular belief, the same packaging does not need to be used for online sales or replacement parts that are sent directly to the consumer. Kraft corrugated with direct print on the outside of the box is a cost effective alternative to retail packaging. Typically a 15-30% cost-take-out can be achieved in this simple, yet operationally challenging opportunity.

Online direct to customer packaging of similar product

Companies that utilize best-in-class packaging strategies are continuously analyzing different ways to maximize profit margin. One simple truth behind packaging is the most successful design concepts plan for transportation efficiency and minimize the amount of packaging related damage through package testing. Inside the box, Kuerig uses an engineered cushioning design made out of molded pulp for the Kuerig 2.0 system. In this example, retail sales and online sales use the same style and type of cushioning to protect the product. While the supply chains are different, the performance of the cushion was likely tested for both shipping environments. 

If you are looking to become ‘best-in-class’ in your category, packaging strategy and alternatives are a ‘must-have’ on your packaging design check sheet. Feel free to reach out to if you’d like to sound out alternatives and logical steps in your design process with our Packaging Optimization Practice at Chainalytics.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Blog: A Look back at 2014 Predictions

By: Rob Kaszubowski
The turn of the New Year means a few things: goals, resolutions and planning for the year ahead; and reflections and evaluation on the year that was. Early in 2014 I made a few predictions on packaging trendsfor the year.  Let’s take a look at how those predictions shook out over the course of the year:

1)      Cartonization: While I can’t say the term “cartonization” specifically took off last year, the general theme sure did. We had defined cartonization as the process or tool used to select the best shipper case to transport products. The general idea behind the concept is to have an optimized selection of shipping cases to transport a wide variety or mix of products. FedEx and UPS definitely had the same concept in mind as they looked to optimize the cube utilization within their trailers and delivery trucks when they changed their pricing structure fromstraight weight to dimensional weight starting January 1, 2015

2)      Slack Fill: As most consumers are painfully aware, slack fill is evident in many of the food and consumer goods products we purchase. However, it’s the non-functional slack fill that will get you in trouble with the attorney general – specifically the empty space in a package that is filled to substantially less than its capacity.  Slack fill started to make more of a splash late in the year when multi-national consumer goods companies Unilever and P&G  and pharmacy chain CVS  were all hit with hefty fines for using oversized packaging that deceived consumers to think they were getting more product than was actually inside the package they purchased.
Big package for small product? This illustration shows the fill line for a popular CVS drug store product.

3)      Harmonization: Once again, this appears to be a practice that hasn’t quite taken off – at least publically. The theme around harmonization revolves around standardizing and consolidating packaging – where applicable – to increase volumes and leverage buying power. There is often a fine line between standardizing and customizing, as each comes with its own pros and cons. While harmonization wasn’t a headlining theme, it is still a good analysis to perform as companies turn over all the stones searching for packaging cost savings opportunities.

4)      Shelf Space Optimization: This is also a term as consumers you may not hear broadcast from the mountaintops – and that’s just the point! CPG’s are constantly looking for ways to make changes that are visually indifferent to the naked eye, yet allow them to fit one extra box of crackers on the shelf – and also improve their transportation cube efficiencies. Take a look at a few of the changes in packaging sizes that weren’t able to slip past consumers’ attention:
a.       Also a good link:

Many packages are shrinking on shelf, is it just the package or sometimes the product too...

5)      Plant-Based Packaging: Last year we lauded companies like Dell and Coca-Cola for leading the charge on sustainable, plant-based packaging. As with any new material or technology there can often be a reluctance for larger companies to take the plunge and put forth the resources required to execute a potentially risky endeavor. However, late in 2014, TetraPak announced the launch of its first package madefrom plant based materials. As the technology behind the materials and manufacturing becomes more sophisticated and increased volumes drive down the price I’m sure we’ll here more stories of other CPG’s launching new plant-based packaging.

So I didn't exactly knock it out of the park in 2014, but then again that’s why they call them predictions. Besides, if I was awesome at predictions I would have made some great stock picks, cashed out and would be sitting on a beach in Cancun! 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Packaging Fail - How not to unload a Truck

Packaging and material handling are everyday activities when they go as planned, but there are always special occurrences and variances to normal processes and events in your supply chain.

Check out the following video of pallet jack material handling dock truck unloading gone amiss.

That is quite the pallet jack fail, hopefully the operator was not harmed too much.  Most certainly the impacts on the product and packaging in that stretch wrapped unit load saw forces above and beyond that in your normal ISTA or ASTM test protocol.

Just proves that you probably can't ever afford "Zero Damage" in your supply chain, but finding that balance is still the biggest trick.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

You're Invited: UW-Stout Packaging Alumni Social @ Pack Expo 2014

Please join us at the UW-Stout Packaging Alumni Reception being held during Pack Expo International 2014!  The event will be a great opportunity for you to reconnect with classmates, network with your fellow alumni in the packaging industry, and meet some of the current program faculty and students. 


UW-Stout Packaging Alumni Social
Tuesday, November 4th @ 6:30PM

The Metropolitan Club223 South Wacker DriveWillis Tower, 67th FloorChicago, IL 60606

Get it on your calendar and register in advance at
The cost is $20 per alumni or $10 for Students!