Wasteful packaging and overuse of corrugate is a huge source of environmental waste as well as a huge cost hog to an organization. The root cause of overuse of corrugate is that we, by and large, are not good at matching the box size with the stuff that goes inside of it.
The consequences are non-trivial: when we use more corrugate than we need, it weighs more, dimensional weight is more expensive, and we’re engaging in a type of “overproduction” – using more corrugate than we truly need.
To fill the void (pun completely intended) between box sizes and the material that goes in them, an industry that manufactures fill void, air pillows, and puffy cushions has sprung up. Yes, I consider this an innovation, but it is innovation that chases after a symptom rather than the root cause.
Consider this example1:
Last week we ordered an Apple monitor adapter from Amazon (since Apple keep changing their monitor connectors, and none of the ones we have here seem to fit our new iMacs and Amazon charged less than Apple for their own products).
To my excitement, I came in this morning to find a rather large box (over a foot long) has been delivered from Amazon unfortunately Amazon hadn’t made a mistake and sent me a load of free stuff (Christmas coming early!) the box contained nothing but the single monitor adapter and a whole load of fresh air.
A very quick measurement of the box and it’s contents show that even being generous with the ruler it took up less than 1/27th of the volume of the box. The adapter is overpackaged by Apple to begin with I reckon that with just a simple wrapper that’s closer to the size of the product, instead of large retail packaging, you could get around 180 adapters in the box that our single one came in.
Indeed, the box was 18,000% bigger than it needed to be. To compensate for the extra corrugate, there was a ton of fill air, void fill, and air cushions in the box.
Its Your Turn
What do you suggest? Reducing our overuse of anything is good, responsible, and in accordance with the principles of Lean Thinking. How would you attack the root causes of this problem?
- http://www.rckt.co.uk/blog/2008/12/wasteful-packaging-is-18000-too-big ↩
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Mark Graban says
Amazon does that quite often. They have a feature on their site (which they often promote on their boxes) that allows you to give packaging feedback.
What they do with that feedback, I’m not exactly sure.
You’re right, that “solution” doesn’t quite get to the root cause!