One Size Fits All Approach Isn’t Good for Package Optimization: Here’s Why

By Megan Ray Nichols

The tradeoff between standard packaging and custom can sometimes be bridged by introducing more standard sizes, such as the half pallet (shown above). Photo credit: Shuert Technologies

The concept of a one-size-fits-all approach is a touchy subject. While it’s useful in some cases, particularly clothing, it doesn’t translate so well when it comes to manufacturing. Nonetheless, many manufacturers continue to use this approach because of its standardized and simplified nature. Citing efficiency and ease-of-use, they don’t realize that streamlining packaging needs, through custom sizes and alternative materials, can actually be far more beneficial in the long run.

Issues With Pallet Loading

According to many industry experts, pallets are just as important to your supply chain as any other component. Different sizes such as half and quarter pallets are increasingly common in today’s warehouses. Some companies are even using custom sizes to accommodate personalized goods and built-to-order parts.

To get the most out of your pallets, consider the entire unit load instead of the individual components of the shipment. Using multiple, smaller pallets isn’t necessary when the same load can be shipped with a single large pallet, so make sure to use a pallet that matches the order. Apart from eliminating waste, this approach can also have a significant impact on your shipping costs over the course of time.

When choosing the perfect pallet for your application, be sure to consider the intended use in its entirety. For example, how well does the pallet size work with storage, material handling, and transportation equipment? Is it a fit with the customer’s material handling system? Another consideration is the disposition of pallets after they are emptied. Standard sized pallets or larger pallets are more readily sought by pallet recyclers than custom sized or small pallets.

Shortcomings in Packaging

It might be quicker and easier for you to stock boxes or empty packages in one size, but this is seldom the best route. Shipping smaller items or pieces in larger boxes result in an empty void that needs to be filled with packing materials, which will ultimately affect your overhead costs and the amount of time needed to prepare outgoing shipments.

When minimizing and optimizing your packaging materials, consider the use of hot melt instead of shipping tape. While it’s more expensive to introduce a hot melt system into your shipping operations, it’s far more affordable on a long-term basis. Hot melt is also safer, stronger and more versatile than packing or shipping tape.

It is also more efficient when working with custom-sized packaging, which often results in a lot of excess or wasted tape. Instead of wrapping a unit multiple times to ensure a secure and tight closure, a worker can apply a bead of hot melt to achieve the same result.

Excess Wrapping Materials

The one-size-fits-all mindset also leads to the overuse of wrapping materials. Smaller parts and pieces are often wrapped together, either to fit on a pallet or within a box, and some units are even attached to larger, related components via sheet plastic or shrink wrap. Eliminate much of this wrapping material altogether through the use of custom packages, boxes, and pallets. Reusable and alternative products are great solutions to explore when wrapping is a necessity.

Once again, try to look at your bulk shipments as one large load instead of individual units. Instead of wrapping every single piece in the shipment, use custom boxes and packages for secure transport. For even greater efficiency, use custom-sized pallets for loading and shipping.

Fragmentation in the Supply Chain

Viewing your company’s packaging, pallet loading and wrapping materials independently often results in a disconnected and disorganized supply chain. To prevent this, try planning all these phases as a solitary unit. Instead of creating bigger product packages to properly fill a pallet, seek out a custom-sized pallet that matches the dimensions of the unit in question.

Many companies have already streamlined their shipping operations with the help of computerized unit load optimization. By running digital tests and simulations via computers, you can get a better feel for nuances like this. There might be some trial and error required on your part, but the results will be well worth it in the end.

Reducing Costs While Going Green

With today’s focus on going green and sustainability, the process of optimizing your packaging has another huge benefit: boosting your reputation as an eco-friendly company. As more consumers begin to embrace green businesses, and with some refusing to buy the products of manufacturers who aren’t eco-conscious, adapting new and improved packaging might be essential to a brand’s survival in the 21st century.


Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and blogger. She posts weekly on her blog Schooled By Science on news in science, technology, and engineering.  When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, watching movies, and baking. Megan invites you to follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.