Packaging designers generally use inner packaging to fulfill a protective function, and they use outer packaging as a marketing tool. But to be really effective, the entire packaging “package” needs to work as one to ensure that common issues in product distribution don’t negatively affect the product inside the package.
The Role of Packaging
Packaging certainly has a major role in terms of marketing. If it isn’t well designed products simply won’t stand out on the shelves. In addition to this, there is absolutely no doubt that effective branding on packaging is key. But it is equally true that if designers don’t focus on protecting the integrity of products, so they aren’t damaged, this will ultimately impact on the bottom line, and probably not in a good way!
In reality, while those involved in the supply chain have done whatever they can to ensure products are not damaged in transit, designers employed for marketing purposes have generally not put much, if any, focus on logistics.
Taking this into account, there is no doubt that ecommerce and the growing number of online stores is changing the old mindset of traders and designers. It isn’t simply a matter of packing the product in something like bubble wrap or corrugated cardboard to keep it safe. To optimize packaging properly might mean totally redesigning everything.
Today the most important concepts combine marketing and protection of products. If packaging that exhibits a marketing message (that translates into sales) is properly protected from all the hazards of distribution, and can make it to the shelves or distribution points without damage, everybody should be happy.
So what are the most common issues relating to packaging when it comes to product distribution?
Anything that is handled is at risk, and it is irrelevant whether handling is via machine or people. Damage is a real risk even for goods that have been packaged well. Dents, scrapes and breakage can occur if anything drops or falls from the machinery being used to move or pack it. Even if outer packaging isn’t damaged, if inner packaging isn’t adequate, there will be stock losses.
Stacking In-Transit or For Storage
At some stage goods have to be moved and stored, and if packaging hasn’t been properly designed there will always be a risk of damage. Boxes are commonly stacked when moved in trucks and other forms of transportation, and this invites the danger of breakage or even just damage to the packaging itself.
When boxes in warehouses are stacked too high, they run the risk of tipping and falling. If this happens, major damage is possible. It’s a no brainer that well designed, good quality packaging will prevent this from happening.
Vibration During Transportation
A host of different types of vibration en-route can damage products if packaging hasn’t been designed with this in mind. Both vehicle vibration, which results not only from regular road bumps, but also from individual suspension systems, and loose-load vibration that happens as a result of bad loading, can cause unbelievable damage to goods. Loose-load vibration is more common than most people think, particularly when there are lighter loads that could easily bounce around. Packaging designers need to bear this in mind.
Horizontal Impact Due to Rail Switching
While this issue doesn’t relate to all product distribution, it can have a big impact on anything that is “shipped” via rail. The problem is that railed cargo is subject to huge impacts (up to eight miles and hour) when box cars are sorted in the switch yards. In the event of railage, it is usually necessary to use additional packaging that will prevent the normal compression that usually occurs from horizontal forces.
Humidity and Temperature
These issues are paramount when it somes to product distribution and storage, and if packaging isn’t right, the bottom line WILL be affected. To get this right, packaging designers need to trace the full journey of products from manufacture to consumption, and to do this they need to know exactly what conditions will be experienced in between.
Ultimately optimizing packaging so that these common issues in product distribution can be avoided entails ensuring the risks the products are likely to face are averted. An experienced designer will know how to balance the cost of packaging with the likely cost of damage.