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!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Reader Mailbag: ECT vs Burst, where is the data?

Reader Mailbag: Chainalytics Packaging Engineers Answer Your Questions!

Dan writes:

We came across your previous blog article and hoped that you might be able to help us out with a data question. Our product is shipped in a double-wall, corrugated box. We’ve seen a hundred versions of the following table comparing the bursting test and edge crush test standards: 

We’re familiar with the two types of testing, and we’re sure that the table is accurate. What we can’t seem to find is the data behind the table, or even a national regulation or standard that supports it. Can you help explain?

Dan, great question!  We established some basics on this a few years ago when we explained the difference between Mullen grade (burst) and ECT board in this blog entry. We did some additional digging in attempt to tackle Dan’s question head on, and find that data source he was searching for. However, all references we identified only had the comparative table noted as an approximation.

The paper combinations for both board types are driven by the paper weights available from the corrugator’s own mills or through purchasing from a third party. Most corrugators utilize their own special blend of paper combinations to meet ECT requirements, and can vary by region or even by plant. This allows the corrugators flexibility to use a wide variety of paper combinations to achieve the minimum ECT requirements, while minimizing costs.

Mullen grade board however requires a more exact combination of papers with one or two heavier weight liners to meet the burst strength requirements. 

In general, ECT and Burst are not an apples to apples to comparison, and are not intended to be. Both utilize different grades of paper and different combinations for their own unique purposes.   There is a reason ECT boards are less expensive, because there is less paper there.  So in a true static compression test, this table reflects their approximated equivalents based on compression, but that may not reflect your package’s performance in your supply chain.

The one steadfast answer to get to the bottom of it all is to test your boxes and determine their burst and ECT characteristics as well as simulated lab distribution testing.   Mullen board can often have similar or better performance that it’s comparative ECT counterpart, but the only way to truly know is to test it!

Thanks for your question!
by Rob Kaszubowski, CPP

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Get Your Millions Back!

by Rich Lindgren, CPP

You may remember a few months back that H&R Block wanted to help all us Tax Payers get our Billion dollars back from mistakes made by doing our own federal tax returns.  Well, that got me thinking about all the money that will be left on the table by companies and individuals that will keep making the same mistakes they have been making come January 1, 2015 as it pertains to shipping single parcel.

For those of you that have not heard, UPS & FedEx will both be applying dimensional weight to all ground shipments, not just those over 3 cubic feet and air shipments.  So what does that mean to you?  Bloomberg and others estimate that the cost to the industry will be $350 million or more.  When you head out to the shipping department at your company, if you see anything that resembles the picture collage below, there is a good chance your company will be one of the ones effected with this multi-million dollar cost increase.

If your company has a single parcel shipping area like this, you probably are at risk!
H&R Block estimates that there about 11 million returns divvying up that Billion, which only comes out to around $460 per incorrect return, which is nice for an individual, but for a company, that is pocket change for most.  When it comes to single parcel charges, there are more like a few thousand companies that will burden the brunt of this $350 million dollar industry hit. For some companies, this will cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars if they don't do something about it.  Regardless, it's your money, Chainalytics wants you to get it back!

Traditionally, companies have erred on the side of operation efficiency and reducing the number of boxes to inventory for their single parcel packing lines.  That strategy will prove to be quite costly going forward.  Currently you would be often sacrificing a few pennies of corrugated box costs to make things go fast and easy, now those decisions will add up to dollars in a hurry with dimensional freight charges.  Not to mention the dissatisfied and irritated customers that are tired of receiving over sized boxes with little product and lots of air pillows.
This example of office supplies of a box that dimensions 14"x10"x5" that weighed 1lb will now bill out  at 5lbs under new rules.  Likely cost impact on this shipment is 50 cents or more, times hundreds of shipments like this every day and you have a big problem!
If you want to run some scenarios on your own shipments, feel free to use our free calculator from a previous blog entry.

That being said, this doesn't have to be all doom and gloom, there is a way out or to at least minimize this cost increase.  It all starts with right sizing and/or optimizing your packaging and over packaging strategies for single parcel.  

Not sure how to do that, feel free to reach out to our Packaging Experts at Chainalytics -

We can help you reduce your shipping costs and at the same time reduce your sustainability foot print.