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Packaging on Demand: A way to increase sustainability and reduce costs in the shipping business


Published on: Apr 23, 2021


The ongoing pandemic is acting as a driving force for the retail business, which is in a state of flux. The now disruptive trend away from brick-and-mortar stores to e-commerce and direct and online shipping is exacerbating the problem of skyrocketing packaging volumes. This is why new packaging technologies are gaining in importance. Above all, packaging on demand. Especially for companies with increased shipping volumes, the principle of in-house production of custom-fit delivery cartons can be an excellent solution.

What is Packaging on Demand?

Packaging on demand refers to the production of outer packaging on demand at the point of dispatch, i.e. directly in the company. The emphasis here is on “on demand”. This is because the number of cartons produced in-house can be individually controlled, as can their size. The core technical element of a packaging-on-demand system is the carton cutting machine, also known as a box-on-demand machine. These machines score, perforate, score, and cut supplied continuous corrugated board exactly so that the finished shipping boxes result from the carton blank.

Depending on the supplier and requirements, packaging-on-demand systems such as the Boxmaker Systems carton cutting machines can be supplemented with useful peripheral elements. These are often carton erectors and sealers so that the boxes do not have to be unfolded and sealed by hand. In turn, these are often linked to conveyor systems that ensure simple and fast box transport through the hall. Stopping points for packing and weighing stations, as well as additional options such as scanners, can of course also be planned along the way.

What advantages does Packaging on Demand offer?

Packaging-on-demand is one of the truly hopeful technologies of the future because they offer advantages for all sides in the shipping process. On the distribution side, for example, the use of packaging material is significantly reduced. This is because cartons are only produced in exactly the size and number required at any given time. A high-quality carton cutter ensures optimum utilization of the supplied carton, i.e. the lowest possible waste.

Optimizing the box size, which generally means reducing it, also has other advantages:

    • The use of the required filler material decreases up to half.
    • The shipping costs shrink up to 30 percent thanks to the reduced dimensions.
    • Packaging-on-demand users often reclaim valuable operating space because there is little more than the box-on-demand machine and corrugated cardboard layered flat on pallets, instead of many pallets of cardboard for standard cartons to be folded.

If we turn our attention to the recipient side of the shipping boxes, there also show advantages:

    • The amount of waste caused by cardboard and filling material decreases due to the smaller boxes.
    • The rate of returns or shipping damage is reduced by custom packaging.
    • Customers experience a better shopping experience, since with an even higher probability the purchased goods arrive intact with them. Also, customers feel better when they do not have to dispose of unnecessary packaging waste. This environmental thought is not to be underestimated – and contributes more and more to customer loyalty.

For whom is a packaging-on-demand system worthwhile?

Whether the installation of a packaging-on-demand system is worthwhile is always a question of the individual case. It cannot necessarily be determined by the size of the company. Likewise, the benefits are by no means limited to online retailers. Product manufacturers with large individual shipping volumes and, of course, fulfillment service providers can benefit. Whether an investment in a box-on-demand machine or a holistic packaging-on-demand system makes sense ultimately depends on the costs in the following areas:

  • material,
  • Shipping,
  • Storage,
  • Staff retention and
  • other expense items

Not to be underestimated, however, are the follow-up costs. For example, there are suppliers of packaging-on-demand systems that offer their machine quite cheaply at first glance, but subsidize it over the multi-year commitment to purchase cardboard at prices above the normal market price. The bottom line is that customers are thus depriving themselves of the flexibility to buy good quality board on the market at a low price. In the medium term, this commitment quickly becomes a losing proposition and a competitive disadvantage.

However, it is also crucial to choose the right supplier:

    • Does this box-on-demand machines in different sizes ready to respond flexibly to each customer’s needs?
    • Can this immediately and also later construct and install a suitable periphery in order to be able to respond to changes in the growing customer company?
    • What about the material and workmanship quality of the packaging-on-demand machine itself? After all, box-on-demand machines are permanently exposed to high mechanical stresses. Inferior quality leads to inaccurate cuts and thus unusable boxes – not to mention regular machine breakdowns.

To make the switch to packaging on demand for you the proverbial profit, be sure to pay attention to the quality of the system and whether the provider is able to adapt it to your conditions and requirements. In addition, have a profitability calculation prepared that transparently shows the costs for both the machine and the cardboard to be processed for several years.

This was a guest post by Horstmann Maschinenbau.

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