Packing light and right
Lim Guan Yu chats with Ken Chrisman to understand the trends in the packaging industry and new packaging solutions to handle the growing ecommerce industry.
May 29, 2017
By Lim Guan Yu
Can you share with us a bit about your work at Sealed Air?
I served as president of Product Care at Sealed Air since 2014. Prior to this, I have served in various management positions with the company, include global vice president of cushioning solutions, vice president and general manager of global specialty foams and vice president of customer equipment. I first started out as packaging engineer and have been with the company for 30 years.
I manage the Product Care division which contains the popular Bubble Wrap brand protective packaging, invented by Sealed Air some 57 years ago. Sealed Air is a global US$7 billion company. The product care division which includes protective and specialty packaging, is about US$1.6 billion dollars, and produces about 22 percent of Sealed Air’s annual sales. The other two divisions of the company are Diversey Care and Food Care. In Product Care, we aim to resolve the demanding protective packaging challenges of moving products from global sources, through complex and changing supply chains, to consumers, safely and securely.
What is your view on the packaging industry in general and trends in the future?
The packaging industry is poised now to undergo a significant transformation. In the past, most of the emphasis on packaging has been to make it less expensive. But in recent years, especially with the growth of ecommerce and the advent of cold chain packaging, there is an increased need to cost effectively ship an item in a regulated format. We feel that the industry is poised for a burst of innovation to fulfill new challenges and growth in ecommerce.
In Singapore’s context, 65 percent of the population in Singapore makes purchases online. This is estimated to reach 80 percent by 2021. This means customers are spending less time in retail stores. Hence ecommerce packaging is required to make an impact to these customers. The aim is to give a positive unboxing experience, and demonstrate a sense of respect and value to the customer who placed the order. To provide that experience, personalization is an increasing trend we see. Personalizing can give a more memorable, unique and positive experience.
Other trends we see are the increased deliveries of food products in ecommerce and smaller electronics. We work to develop packaging materials to adjust for these trends, and these materials do not only have to be cost effective, but should be renewable, recyclable and sustainable.
When we talk about sustainability, how do you reduce large amounts of corrugated cartons from the supply chain?
There are several different ways to eliminate corrugated cartons from the supply chain.
We can use performance packaging. This is when you ensure the secondary packaging – which is the box used to ship the item in, to be as small as possible, without minimizing the protection purpose. This helps to reduce the quantity of cartons overall and the space they occupy.
Another way is the use of flexible packaging like Bubble Wrap. When filled or sealed, flexible packaging acquires the pliable shape, taking up lesser space than rigid box packaging.
When it comes to durable cartooning solutions, Sealed Air has invented a proprietary solution to produce a durable and sustainable packaging and helps eliminate cartons from the supply chain. StealthWrap is an opaque shrink film, that replaces traditional corrugated outer cartons. It wraps around the item in its box flexibly, but enough to provide protection. It is significantly smaller than shipping the product in a secondary box packaging, this reduces the freight weight of the package. It also enables space savings by reducing storage space in fulfillment centers, compared to corrugated cartons. This also means more products can be delivered in a single delivery.
This solution can also increase throughput velocity up to 20 times. It can take 1 minute to assemble and pack a corrugated carton. By re-thinking the role of carton-alternatives in your operation, packers could produce up to 20 packs per minute for many products. That is 19 more packs in the time it took to produce a single carton pack.
The StealthWrap supports sustainability initiatives too by reducing material waste up to 80 percent. Eliminating the outer carton not only reduces the amount of corrugated used, it also eliminates the possibility of overpackaging a shipment. This means no excessive air pillows or paper are being used to fill up a box that is too big for the product inside. The packaging process becomes more sustainable and environmentally conscious.
Overall, sustainable packaging makes good business sense, and not just reducing impact on the environment. Many of our customers such as IKEA are already incorporating sustainability in packaging.
What are the drivers to improving packaging and its waste other than sustainability?
Firstly, it is cost savings. Three of the largest cost drivers in fulfilling ecommerce orders is the cost of labour, cost of damaged items and cost of freight. Improved packaging are often lighter in weight, takes up lesser space, among others, reducing overall costs.
Apart from cost savings, we also want to increase profits. To do this, brands have to differentiate themselves. Every customer wants to feel valued and we find that the quality of secondary packaging affects the experience the customer receives. For example, Sealed Air has customized Bubble Wrap with expressions such as words and shapes. Customers are offered an interesting and memorable experience, and the packaging also provides its primary function of protecting the product.
Packaging and its waste should be improved in a way that still offers its protection function, maximize efficiency, reduces cost with sustainable solutions as well as provides a superior customer experience.