While the cardboard boxes, foam peanuts, and padded envelopes in which many marketers ship their orders don’t exactly scream out “high tech,” a number of packaging firms are developing product advances that help merchants more quickly and efficiently ready their merchandise for shipping.
That’s because more merchants are seeking to minimize packaging in order to contain shipping costs. One reason is that more marketers are purchasing products from overseas, many of which come as part of a bulk shipment.
If products received from an offshore vendor are going to fill direct orders, they need to be unpacked and repackaged in the warehouse, notes Tom Windish, new business development manager with Sealed Air Corp., a Saddle Brook, NJ-based manufacturer of protective packaging. Given the volume of products and various supplies that this can involve, marketers are demanding automated packing solutions.
Merchants also are looking for systems that reduce the overall operational costs of packaging products, adds Scott Dowrey, a Cincinnati-based senior vice president of marketing with Storopack, a provider of protective packaging.
Both Sealed Air and Storopack are offering relatively new solutions to address these needs. Sealed Air’s PriorityPak System, introduced in 2004, enables operators to create up to 20 packages each minute. The packer places an item on a conveyor belt, and the PriorityPak System scans its size and shape before delivering the necessary amount of either bubble laminate or heavier cardboard packaging material to encase the item. After reading the item’s barcode, the system then automatically generates and applies a label identifying the item within the packaging material.
Last year Storopack introduced the AIRplus Mini, a packing station that, at about 20 inches square, easily fits on a table or a desktop for “on demand” production. The Mini allows packers to fill “air pillows” to cushion products being shipped to customers.