Take on the two Cs

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The recent Logistics Manager Supply Chain Challenges Survey highlighted the intense pressure on logistics professionals to find ways to control costs at the moment, while at the same time environmental issues are rising up the agenda.

And that means that companies are increasingly looking at their approach to packaging from both a money and carbon saving perspective.

As a result there has been a growth in interest in returnable transit packaging in markets such as grocery, retail and manufacturing because of its ability to deliver both cost and carbon savings.

This is good news for Linpac Allibert, which specialises in plastic returnable transit packaging for the food, retail and manufacturing sectors.

Danilo Oliynik, general manager, UK, Eire & Scandinavia, says: “Returnable transit packaging has been a valuable work-horse in supply chains for a considerable time, but it has to evolve with the times and a key challenge for the industry is to deliver solutions that can offer tangible, measurable savings that can have a positive impact on the bottom line while also responding to a broader set of current concerns including environmental sustainability.”

The company has been investing in new product and service capabilities. Oliynik says: “We have strengthened our design team and built relationships with researchers to ensure we are still at the forefront of product and process innovation. Lightweight containers that take up very little space in return logistics have been core to the success of our approach to optimising supply chain performance.”

Russell Smith of Goplasticboxes.com also highlight new developments in plastic containers which are having an impact in the retail supply chain.

A new foldable crate, the GoBox 2500 CL, has been designed to make minimum noise when erected and folded down – while nestable crates and pallets can also help achieve cost and carbon savings.

Noise was also a concern for bpi.stretchfilms in the development of Bontite which uses a proprietary blend of polymers to provide good film clarity while being quieter in use.

Louise Aplin of bpi.stretchfilms, points out that blown film is popular for pallet stretch wrapping because of its strength and resistance to punctures and tears while cast film has better presentation qualities and low noise levels.

“Having a low unwind noise level, the Bontite range contributes to a quieter, more pleasant working environment.”

Smith highlights a number of dos and don’ts with returnable packaging: “It’s essential that customers put a suitable closed-loop system in place to ensure an efficient delivery and collection process. Losing pallets and containers in the supply chain can be costly, so it’s important that businesses work with their customers to develop an effective process.

“Product identification and traceability is another consideration. To help customers improve product traceability we can integrate radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, screen-printing and in-mould labelling across a range of our pallets and containers. Colour-coding pallets and containers can also help customers more easily identify their products and last year we introduced the first two-colour plastic pallet in the UK, now available in 84 different colour combinations.”

A key strand of the Linpac Allibert approach has been to develop asset management systems to keep fleet sizes to a minimum and optimise their performance. It has also led to the development of a software toolkit that can help to calculate the footprint figure for key supply chains and give them an accurate carbon saving comparison against cardboard.

Oliynik says: “Investment in containers compatible with automated warehouses and RFID technologies are also adding value to supply chain performance, It’s essential to put a suitable closed-loop system in place to ensure an efficient delivery and collection process.

Russell Smithbut we recognise there is still much we can do to ease cost pressures. This is why, as a company, we have invested in new products and manufacturing capabilities for the UK market, which offer exciting possibilities for supply chains of the future.”

Tom Wetsch, global vice president of new product development at Pregis, believes that a vital element in the devising of any protective packaging solution is an ongoing dialogue between customer and supplier.

“By fully understanding the particular needs of each application, the protective packaging supplier can suggest a format that delivers the correct amount of protection without using excessive material and is able to fully withstand the rigours of the product’s distribution chain. This type of customer feedback is also vital in the ongoing development and enhancement of standard products to meet ever changing market requirements.

“One area that has seen much recent activity has been the incorporation of environmental considerations into protective packaging solutions. Some bubble products now incorporate industrial or post-consumer waste while air-pillow film can be made of bio- and oxi-degradable materials. Kraft paper padding and moulded pulp – typically made from a combination of recycled newspapers and corrugated – are paper options that are increasing in popularity, and many honeycomb structures include a percentage of recycled content and conform to relevant standards such as Sustainability Forestry Initiative (SFI) in the US and Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) in Europe. Fabricated foam products lend themselves to closed-loop supply systems,” says Wetsch.

Case Studies

Olympic task for Goplasticpallets.com
In November last year, Goplasticpallets.com was selected by rigid plastic packaging specialist Logoplaste, to help improve the efficiency of its manufacturing operation for a sports drink, to produce enough bottles to meet demand for the London 2012 Olympics.

Chris Jones, project manager for Logoplaste, says: “From a very early stage, we knew that the plastic preforms required for making the bottles would need to be stored in boxes. We ruled out wood and cardboard as the boxes needed to be handled in a series of automated processes. Plastic boxes were the logical choice because of their consistent size and weight, superior hygienic qualities, and they are reusable.

“We needed to maximise storage space for approximately 2,000 boxes in our warehouse. We calculated that the size of the box would have to be close to 1,200mm (L) x 1,000mm (W) x 1,600mm (H) to meet the volume and storage requirements.”

Goplasticpallets.com was selected to supply 2,000 of its GoBox 1311 plastic containers which have a capacity of 1,400 litres.

Goplasticpallets.com designed a lid to fit the box to meet the client’s specification and keep the preforms clean and secure in storage. Other slight modifications were also made to the container and lid to ensure that the boxes could be stacked accurately and securely up to five boxes high.

Delivery of the boxes took 48 trailers, which Goplasticpallets.com co-ordinated to fit Logoplaste’s tight delivery schedule.

It’s all in the flute
Have you ever considered the technology that goes into corrugated cardboard? It’s a sophisticated business that can deliver significant savings.

A new design of fluting from DS Smith Packaging promises a 20 per cent saving on the commonly used B-Flute design.

The new R-Flute has been designed so that the flutes are smaller and closer together than B-Flute while optimising board strength. The company also reckons it delivers better printing, better appearance, machine line efficiencies and dramatic savings in logistics, while continuing to offer the necessary protection.

Tony Foster, director of DS Smith Packaging, says: “Already R-Flute has proved itself across a very wide range of packaging and supply chains and we’re confident that more and more customers will be able to make significant savings in cost and carbon in the months and years ahead.”

DS Smith says it is suited to many sectors, particularly FMCG. “R-Flute ‘s calliper is 20 per cent less than B-Flute’s, so that 20 per cent more corrugated can be loaded onto a pallet for delivery. This means up to 20 per cent fewer deliveries to handle, up to 20 per cent less storage space and correspondingly fewer pallet movements in the factory.”

Kellogg’s moved to R-Flute for its Nutri-Grain range and because it is a smaller calliper that the previous C-Flute case it has reduced pallet movements by 911 – equivalent to 24 full loads a year.

In addition, says DS Smith, on automated packing lines, some customers who have moved from B-Flute report productivity increases of up to 15 per cent. This is down to crisp, problem free folding and less downtime to feed new pallets of corrugated into the line, since each pallet of R-Flute holds more empty packs.

20pc cost and carbon savings
Polythene UK, the broker of polythene film and bags, reckons a new “Polylite” material can deliver 20 per cent savings in both cost and carbon.

The Polylite pallet covers are made from standard polythene – it’s the manufacturing process that makes the difference.

Polythene UK says this gives a multi-layered, tough, lightweight film that offers great strength at lower gauges while reducing the weight of polythene consumption.

Managing director James Woollard says: “Our shrink pallet covers can reduce the weight of polythene consumption by 20 per cent – leading to less polythene waste going into our landfill system and therefore significantly reducing the user’s carbon footprint.”

Charapak launches returnable pack
Charapak has launched a mail order pack designed to save labour, reduce the space requirements and provide an easy means for consumers to return unwanted goods in good condition.

The ‘There & Back Pack’ was created by Charapak specifically for an online clothing retailer which had a need to recover returned items, but Charapak says it is suitable for different types of online retail operations.

The closure flap features two adhesive strips separated by a serrated tear strip.

The box is initially sealed for dispatch to the consumer using the first adhesive strip. To open the pack, the consumer pulls the tear strip which then reveals the second adhesive strip on the inside of the open flap. If the consumer wishes to return any items, they are merely replaced in the box and the second strip is exposed to reseal the box.

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