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Three key issues facing the protective and transit packaging market

The continuing growth of e-commerce presents moderate threats to incumbent packaging materials and systems, along with big opportunities to suppliers who can successfully address the materials consumption and disposal and systems inefficiency issues.

Minimising environmental impacts

Environmental issues have been important drivers of the protective transit packaging materials selection, product design and business practices for some time.

Large retailers have led demands for more efficient, less wasteful packaging, aimed especially at secondary packaging waste generated at their retail sites. In the US, Walmart for example has actively collaborated in the development of packaging systems that require less secondary and transit packaging material. These and similar efforts across North America and Europe have led to the adoption of systems to recover and recycle discarded packing materials.

The retailers’ motivation for adopting “greener” packaging materials and systems mirrors the environmental sensitivities of participants across the protective transit packaging marketplace.

Some of the environment-related trends and concerns that will impact the suppliers and users of protective transit packaging materials over the next five years include:
  • Innovative “greener” protective transit packaging products and systems that take advantage of environmentally friendly raw materials and encourage the recycling of waste transit packaging materials
  • “Closed-loop” logistics management systems to facilitate the efficient recovery and reuse of packaging components such as pallets and drums
  • More extensive use of recovery and recycle systems of the sort that have been successful in corrugated carton markets
  • Reducing the amount, weight, and volume of transit packaging material, therefore reducing transportation fuel consumption.

Automating the distribution channel

Traditionally, shipping, warehousing, and handling have been labour-intensive operations - heavy on personnel costs and on potential for accident, injury, and product damage. Most operations have traditionally been done by work crews or individual workers.

Currently, warehouse layout and design must accommodate human operators and human-operated equipment, leading to less than optimum utilisation of warehouse floor space and overhead volume. Robotic forklifts and stock-picking robots require significantly narrower aisles than human-operated machines and allow taller shelves, rack and pallet stacks than can be safely manipulated with human-operated machines.

The most state-of-the-art-systems combine robotics with remote sensing and position detection, telemetry, and integrated warehouse management software and computer systems. E-commerce fulfillment hubs, in particular, have been aggressive in developing and implementing warehouse and logistics automation systems.

Warehouse and logistics automation will present major issues and open significant opportunities to transit packaging materials suppliers:
  • Standardised protective transit packaging products and systems
  • Packaging for floor space and volume efficiency - robots and automated systems may allow significant reduction in the warehouse floor space
  • Ability to handle smart packaging systems, with item-level tracking using RFID or similar systems.

The Future of Protective and Transit Packaging to 2022 contains exclusive information and data on this market. To find out more, download the brochure here.

Source: Smithers Pira