Standardized Packaging Going Against the Grain

Last week I attended the ProMat convention, a material handling convention featuring vendors of sort of products from machines to software related to material handling.  Among the educational seminars I attended was an educational session where the Physical Internet and the role of standardized packaging was discussed.  .

At the convention, there were all sorts of lectures and product demonstrations about specialized packaging to meet their needs. Going against the grain on packaging, was the Physical Internet lecture I attended. There, packaging into 18 exterior different box types was discussed. By limiting packaging to these 18 sizes, multiple vendor products could be loaded on one pallet, yet the pallet would be a standard height, which would enable the shipping vehicle capacity to be better utilized.  While more air would be shipped in the standardized boxes, that inefficiency would be easily offset by the transportation cost savings. In fact shippers are use to standardized packaging on a macro scale, because that what an intermodal container is, a large standardized “package” to move freight.

I volunteer at a food bank. I manually load pallets frequently. When the boxes are in a standardized format, it makes a square “pretty” pallet, which could with strong enough packaging materials can be top loaded by another pallet in transportation. I have also load pallets with multiple box types upon occasion. This is not so pretty with the pallet looking like bid city skyline on top. This really prevents efficient utilization.  In a food bank, sometimes you have to make do.

The  Physical Internet format is for multiple shippers share trucks, warehousing and software. Standardized packaging is key element to allow this to efficiently happen. It will be interesting to see if such process can be workable and viable in the future. My guess is that if large enough group of shippers can be found to work together it will happen.


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