Inbound Logistics | July 2022

Today’s most pressing challenges forced packaging decision makers to shift priorities and rethink operations, with 90% changing how their packaging is sourced, finds a new study released by R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company. The Unpackaging Reality Report ’s key findings underscore the packaging industry’s willingness to evolve operations in the face of challenges without losing sight of sustainability goals: 1. Supply chain challenges lead to innovation. To navigate market challenges, 62% of respondents diversified suppliers, 42% outsourced manufacturing and fulfillment, 39% consolidated suppliers, 30% substituted specs, and 26% reshored manufacturing to the United States. There is broad willingness to pivot to different packaging materials in light of supply chain sourcing challenges: 36% say they are extremely willing to use alternative materials. As for guidance and information, 78% of respondents look to suppliers, vendors or direct manufacturers. 2. E-commerce ignites packaging demand. The majority of respondents (57%) experienced an increase in e-commerce orders in the past 1-2 years and, for nearly all of them (92%), this resulted in an increase in packaging needs. Packaging professionals responded to growing e-commerce orders by increasing inventory (55%), expanding warehousing (53%), changing materials (52%), and increasing staff (51%). 3. Surprising strides in sustainability despite cost pressures. Almost all respondents (94%) agree that sustainability is a key consideration in packaging and label decisions. Further, two- thirds of packaging professionals shifted to more sustainable packaging than what they used previously. When considering sustainability, budget is the top influencing factor—more so than external regulations or consumer preferences—suggesting that cost-effective eco-friendly materials are in high demand. Of note, the majority of packaging decision makers (55%) say recent supply chain disruptions moved their companies closer to their carbon emissions goals, suggesting sustainability initiatives may prove versatile and resilient. PACKING IT IN

my father’s business in the mid-1990s in Germany,” he says. “He pioneered the corrugated z-Fold material, which ultimately became the basis for all rightsized packaging on demand that exists in the world today.” Adding up all of the paper necessary to make boxes that are 40% too large in the United States alone amounts to 5.8 million tons of extra paper—the equivalent of 98 million trees. If a box is 40% too large, 28% more corrugated is being used. “It has to do with the geometry of how a box is folded and how two dimensions translate to three dimensions,” explains Kiessner. A rightsized box not only reclaims the 28%, but filling material also shrinks by 90 to 100%, meaning none is usually necessary. “The best level of protection is actually rightsizing the packaging and creating a perfect fit,” says Kiessner. “Shipping damages actually decrease when you switch to rightsized packaging on demand.” Packsize eschews the use of plastic and participates in sustainability by using sustainable paper practices. Its proprietary z-Fold is made of 97% recyclable corrugated material that comes from trees planted for that specific purpose. When a tree is cut down to be turned into a box, a new tree is planted in its place.

A PLACE FOR PLASTIC Amid all the conversation about

sustainability, it might seem as if there’s no room at the table for plastic. However, insert the word reusable in front of it and suddenly plastic is seen in a different light. During a time when companies are scrutinizing every point of their supply chain—including the packaging used to move their products—reusable plastic totes, pallets, and even dunnage and bulk systems gain street cred. “Automation and plastic reusable packaging play nicely together,” says Andrea Nottestad, senior product manager at ORBIS Corporation. “Plastic offers the reliability needed as it relates to automation.” As a

SHIFTING PRIORITIES: Packaging materials were the top item re-prioritized by decision makers during the previous years’ challenges. About half re-prioritized budget (52%) and design/ aesthetics (49%). Sustainability goals were re-prioritized by 45%. SOURCE: The Unpackaging Reality Report, R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company

Packaging materials




Packaging design and aesthetics


Sustainability goals


None of the above


162 Inbound Logistics • July 2022

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