Growth of E-Commerce Creates New Packaging Challenges

Just ten years ago, e-commerce was mostly used for the purchase of relatively small items that would be shipped in a few days to your home or office. If you needed a large, bulky item, such as a new TV or maybe even a new toilet for your home, you would take a trip to the electronics or home improvement store.

You would look at the available items, compare their various attributes and prices, then make your pick. Once you’ve paid for your TV or toilet, you would just pull your car around to a loading area in the back of the store and have a staff member load the bulky item in your vehicle.

However, have you ever asked yourself how these big items would make it to the store to begin with? In most cases, it would be on a pallet. A big cube of items would be sent out by the manufacturer, then moved around in nationwide distribution centers until a retail store needed it.

Even though pallet shipment and distribution may seem like relatively straightforward concepts, there’s actually a lot of science behind them. During the last decade, we’ve perfected them and introduced new technology, such as robots that help create more efficient pallets and stack items in warehouses in ways that make the most optimal use of every square inch available.

Another thing that has changed in the last ten years is how consumers shop for big and bulky items, like the TV or toilet mentioned in the previous example. It’s becoming increasingly common for people to purchase home improvement and construction supplies, appliances and large electronics online and have them delivered to their home in one or two days.

Now, if you order a TV or toilet from an online distributor, your item will initially be sitting at a warehouse. To get to you, it would first need to be removed from its pallet, transported around the facility to a packing area and re-packed for delivery. This is where the challenging part comes in. Many e-commerce fulfillment centers aren’t well equipped to pack bulky and fragile items.

According to information from Sealed Air, big, heavy and fragile items are experiencing rates of damage during transit that hover around 20 percent. This results in losses for businesses and consumer dissatisfaction. E-commerce fulfillment centers need to work hard to find solutions that will make these items parcel-ready.

To improve their ability to handle such items, businesses can do a variety of things, including:

  • Package items in their primary shipping boxes right at the manufacturing point.
  • Identify which items need special protection during intra-facility handling and transfers.
  • Make changes to the design of their facilities so that parcel preparation areas are large enough and are fully stocked with the right type of shipping boxes for items of various sizes and weights.
  • Create a consistent packaging strategy and ensure that all employees are properly trained on how to safely handle, prepare and pack all types of items.

The latest trends show that consumers are increasingly shopping online for large items, such as car parts, home appliances, building supplies and more. This makes creating an effective pallet-to-parcel strategy that not only gets items to consumers fast, but ensures that they arrive in one piece, highly important for any business in the e-commerce world.