TCPglobal - news, views and issues on total cost of printing

Subscribe to TCPGlobal

Reducing the cost of shipping (or not)

Issue #1004/2 – While on the subject of delivery, a couple of packages received recently emphasised one aspect of the product cycle and environmental argument that I suspect is not considered to be as important in certain circles as it should be. With a 16x volume difference for shipping identical products, we analyse the packaging a little further.

When ordering up two batches of ink cartridges recently, we were amused (if not a little shocked) at the two packages that subsequently arrived. The product ordered was essentially identical but manufactured by two different companies and ordered from two different suppliers.

Allowing for the fact that one set of cartridges was high capacity while the other set was standard capacity, the actual cartridges (adjusted for standard capacity) weighed in at just under 160gm per set. Five complete sets of CMYK cartridges were ordered.

Packaging was very different right from the start, however. While one set was packaged in ‘value packs’, the other was packaged individually – and not economically! The box containing a complete set of cartridges measured in at 0.74 litres while a set of four cartridge boxes measured 1.26 litres. This means that there is a 70% volume difference between the two sets, while the difference in weight of packaging (no cartridges) is 155%.

With all five sets put together (including cartridges), the difference in the total volume of the packaged products rises to 80% (1.8X) because we’re dealing with 20 individual packs instead of five, even though the gross weight difference is only 24%.

That just about handles the product itself and product packaging. But, how about the packaging for shipping?

Package 1
We were very impressed when the value-packs arrived. Packaged in a box only just larger than the product itself (shipping carton = 5.5 litres, 5x product packs = 3.6 litres), the internal space wasted amounted to only 0.7 litres – or 16%.

Shipping boxesTwo packages shipping identical product

Package 2
Bearing this in mind, the arrival of the other package prompted a rather different response! First of all, the package as a whole measured a massive 84.5 litres – 15.6x larger than the other package!!

Once this was opened, a quantity of packing material was found (reasonably OK in itself) but removing this revealed a 38.8 litre secondary carton inside. This means that the packing material was there to fill a 41 litre void (approximately 52% of the internal volume of the shipping carton).

Inside this secondary carton, a card divider was discovered that held the product itself reasonably securely, preventing it from flying around inside the carton. Here, the wasted space amounted to some 30 litres – or 82% of the available volume. Wow!

Altogether, with the actual product occupying only 6.5 litres and the shipping carton occupying a massive 84.5 litres, 78 litres (92%) was wasted space!!

Overall weight
Putting all of the packaging together, the gross shipping weights were 1.05Kg and 3.23Kg respectively. This is a difference of 207% (just over 3x) with the product itself representing only 24.4% of the gross weight of Package 2. By contrast, the actual product in Package 1 represented 75% of the gross shipping weight.

Clearly, the size of package has particular relevance to printer manufacturers where the number of units on a pallet has significant impact on the cost of bulk shipping around the world – a factor that manufacturers do consider very seriously when designing their products and packaging. Equally clearly, for resellers who are obliged to package a wide range of products of hugely variable shape and size for more local shipping (as considered in this article), the challenge of stocking a range of shipping boxes is a little too much to cope with.

There should have been absolutely no reason why the packaging used in Package 2 could (and should) not have been very much smaller and lighter. There was certainly no need for two shipping cartons to be used and even no need for the inner, secondary carton to have been as large as it was.

On its own, the impact of this kind of inefficient packaging might seem minimal and picky but consider the overall impact if every reseller around the world were to pack products so inefficiently? Not only does shipping weight rise, increasing fuel consumption for the vehicle used, but the shipping volume is greatly increased, potentially meaning that a larger vehicle would need to be used – or, worst case scenario, two vehicles instead of one!

Add to this the increased cost of purchasing packaging materials and the increased cost of shipping, due to the greater weight and larger package size, and the impact becomes more and more significant.

One final point – it is the end customer (along with the planet) that pays for the inefficiencies, thus increasing the Total Cost of Printing!

~ END ~