Cardboard slip sheets isolated on white as alternative packaging concept, paper pallet for transportation and delivery

The Value of Switching from Pallets to Slip Sheets

For many brands, switching from pallets to slip sheets provides a lot of value. For brands in the process of improving sustainability throughout their organization, incorporating slip sheets into their supply chain improves the sustainability of tertiary packaging. Like many sustainability moves, it can also double as an opportunity for cost savings.

Problems with Pallets

Pallets are generally made of wood and are becoming a commodity that is no longer a low-cost, disposable part of packaging. The cost of a Wood Pallet can be 2-5 times more expensive than it was just 10 years ago. And as the availability of wood becomes tighter, wood pallets are harder to get, since less wood is available to use for pallets.

In many parts of the world, governments are passing new regulations that shift the burden of costs associated with packaging that winds up in the solid waste stream back onto the companies that create the packaging. This means that in some countries, one-way wooden pallets are now (or will be in the near future) not acceptable. We’ve even seen some movement on this front here in the United States, where Maine is the first state to take this kind of action with its Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Packaging law.

A new law in Germany affecting U.S. businesses’ use of pallets states that “Companies which originate a packaging product which eventually ends up in the solid waste stream in Germany will be held responsible for disposing of that packaging.” This means that one-way wooden pallets are not viable in Germany.

These new pieces of legislation may indicate we’ll see more use of economic instruments and other measures in support of the waste hierarchy in the coming years through additional EPR laws. Producers are given an important role in this transition as their responsibility for a product is extended to the post-consumer stage of a product’s life cycle. Lastly, wooden pallets offer a home to insects and other pests, who use the wood as either food or shelter. Importation of pallets is a leading cause of rodent infestation and contaminations in a warehouse.

Slip Sheets as an Alternative

While most pallets are made of wood, slip sheets are typically made of light weight fiberboard, averaging a few dollars or less for each unit-load, making them inexpensive enough to be discarded after each trip. Their use also negates traditional tracking, recovery, repair and/or disposal costs for wood pallets. The cost differential between pallets and slip sheets continues to increase, making themo a very viable alternative to wood pallets.

Since slip sheets don’t have the depth that a pallet has, they’re a less attractive source of food and shelter to pests and, since they can easily be disposed of, the slip sheet can eliminate the risk of cross contamination from previous uses.

Because slip sheets are easily assimilated into the waste-paper market for recycling into new products, they’ll stay out of the solid waste stream and won’t be affected by EPR laws – a significant advantage from both cost and sustainability standpoints. Material handling unitized loads without pallets reduces costs, save trees, and reduces the energy required to transport, manufacture and store pallets.

Slip sheets generally have a lip on two sides that extends beyond the standard load pattern, allowing the slip sheet truck to pull the load onto the fork-lift forks or conveyance for moving, loading or unloading. While they generally are designed for a two-way entry and require a special slip sheet attachment to the standard fork-lift truck, this can readily be attached or detached within 30 minutes.

Performance Comparison

The tare weight of a slip sheet is typically 2 to 3 pounds, a small fraction of the tare weight of wooden pallets, which are typically in the 30-48 pound range. A slip sheet footprint can be identical to that of a pallet, but the space it occupies under a unit-load is insignificant compared to the 10 percent or more taken up by a typical pallet. Most net payloads of unitized product can be increased by 10 percent or more with slip sheets. Put in practical terms, the amount of product that would typically require 100 semi trailers to ship would require only 90 trailers when using slip sheets, saving time and fuel. 

Are Slip Sheets Right for You?

If you’re interested in an audit to learn about how switching to slip sheets can benefit your organization or you’re ready to make the switch, reach out. Our experts have helped companies just like yours save money and improve sustainability with slip sheets, and they’re ready to show you the difference it can make for your company.

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Designing Packaging to Protect the Product

Packaging that fails to adequately protect the product during shipping is likely to incur damage that drives unplanned costs. There are many potential hazards a package will face as it makes its way from the manufacturer to the customer, so it’s important that the primary focus when designing packaging is protecting the product. While this may be true, there are also risks of designing a package that provides more protection than needed, which also drives unnecessary costs and creates unnecessary waste. There are a handful of important considerations that can serve as a guide to optimizing the packaging design to protect the product and ensure it reaches the customer free of damage.

Consider the Distribution Environment

As supply chains gain more complexity, more touchpoints often result in more opportunities for package damage. As a result, designing with the entire distribution environment in mind minimizes the potential for costly problems as the product and its packaging move through the system. Understanding the needs of the product, where it ships from and its ultimate destination provides much the information needed to design packaging that provides adequate protection. Knowing whether the packaging will be shipped domestically or travel overseas will help inform how the packaging needs to perform.

A package will likely face a variety of shipping and storage conditions before it reaches the consumer. It may depart the packaging line as part of a unitized load, spend time in a warehouse, get shrink-wrapped with other packages of varying size and shape on a pallet, and face unpredictable conditions during last-mile delivery.

It is also helpful to plan for the unique conditions and hazards the product and its packaging will encounter throughout the distribution environment. During its journey, a package may spend time in a warehouse where temperature and humidity are not controlled, meaning it must endure a range of ambient conditions. Products intended for retail sales and e-commerce distribution will pass through a different number of touchpoints, with e-commerce often involving up to three times as many. Each touchpoint is another opportunity for the package to face conditions that may lead to damage. Designing with the distribution environment in mind also helps reduce time and expenses to successfully qualify the package design

Design for Secondary Packaging & Stacking

Careful consideration of the product and its distribution environment provides the background necessary to choose the right packaging materials and design. While an understanding of the product and the conditions its packaging will face are a good start, but packaging design also needs to account for the time the package will spend stacked on a pallet as a unitized load. The package design needs to support stacking a full pallet load without compromising the integrity of the packages at the bottom of the stack. The design also needs to be efficient enough to optimize the number of packages that fit on each pallet and eliminate wasted space within each package.

An efficient design includes a stacking pattern that accounts for transport overhang and underhang to protect against damage. The stacking pattern should feature the corrugation direction that provides the most stacking strength. Column stacking is ideal, as it provides point-to-point contact of cartons and eliminates shifting on the pallet.

Rightsizing to Reduce Cost and Improve Sustainability

Overpackaging can ensure the product arrives without damage, but it adds to the cost of materials and shipping. It also increases the amount of waste from the packaging, thereby reducing the sustainability of the package. Underpackaging can save on material and transportation costs, but puts the product at risk of shipping damage, leading to costly warranty claims, returns and repacking. The best design is the one that treads the fine line between these extremes. It optimizes packaging materials with just the right amount to make sure the product arrives at its final destination safely.


To create a design that is sized to fit the product and meets the sweet spot between over and under packaging, many factors must be considered. Knowing your distribution environment, unique product needs and accounting for secondary packaging requirements is a start. In addition, understanding the material properties of your package and how the integrity of the package might break down when exposed to temperature fluctuations, shock, stacking, and vibration will help you make decisions about choosing materials, components and a design that suits the unique needs of your product.

Lean on the Experts

Designing packaging the optimizes protection and minimizes costs can be challenging, but leaning on trusted experts can help your brand get it right. Adept Group has experts in packaging for all industries, and we have the experience to identify the design that works best for your product. If you’re getting ready to roll out a new product, experiencing damage you’d like to remediate or redesigning packaging for an existing product, reach out. We’re ready to help.

E-commerce. Shopping cart with cardboard boxes on laptop. 3d

E-commerce Packaging for a Booming Industry

Since 2019, retail e-commerce sales and e-retail revenues have grown exponentially. Companies have been forced to pivot in their business models to accommodate the changes in distribution environments and rethink e-commerce packaging. When brick-and-mortar stores began to close due to COVID-19 disruptions, many businesses had to choose between shutting down entirely and adapting to meet the challenge.

Enter the e-commerce channel.

Brands will need to invest in packaging solutions that are robust, sustainable and consumer friendly as they refine or adopt online retail as part of their business model.

According to Mordor Intelligence, The e-commerce packaging market was valued at $27.04 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $61.55 billion by 2026.A report from Spiralytics projects the number of online shoppers will reach 2.1 billion in 2021, up from 1.66 billion in 2016.

This growth will force brands to acknowledge the potential of building or expanding e-commerce capabilities. With this increase in e-commerce popularity, distribution environments will change dramatically and make it even more important to consider these changes when designing packaging.

Optimizing Packaging to Stay Successful and Competitive

When designing packaging for e-commerce, it is important to think beyond the current distribution environment and evaluate how primary packaging will perform in future environments as e-commerce and last-mile delivery continue to evolve. It may be worth investing in redesign or innovation and robustness of the primary pack. If a primary package redesign is not feasible, there are a few additional considerations that may help: 

  • How can the secondary packaging be optimized for product protection while avoiding excessive packaging and the use of void fillers? 
  • Is it cost effective to design specifically sized secondary packaging for each product or develop fewer sizes and ship some products with access space and void fillers? 
  • How do companies find the right combination between product size and package size ranges?

Throughout this distribution cycle, a package can pass through up to three times as many touch-points as a traditional distribution environment. By optimizing primary packaging for e-commerce, brands can invest in packaging formats that use less secondary packaging, which can help to reduce shipping costs while preventing damage and providing better functionality for consumers.

Opportunities to Boost Sustainability

Growing in parallel with consumer interest in e-commerce is consumer concern about the sustainability of the products they purchase. This demand drives the use of more bespoke designs that eliminate excessive packaging and new material concepts, such as fully pulp-based, easy-to-recycle mailers.

More than in the traditional retail environment, e-commerce presents an even bigger responsibility to the consumer to reduce waste. In the traditional retail channel, the consumer is responsible for disposal and recycling of the primary package. In e-commerce, the consumer is left to dispose of and recycle all of the packaging (product and shipping packaging and materials).

It also presents increased opportunities to leverage sustainable packaging. Unlike packaging for the brick-and-mortar retail environment, where the look and feel of a package on a store shelf may influence consumer behaviors, many brands can prioritize sustainability over aesthetics for e-commerce packaging. Because consumers do their shopping and purchasing online, the packaging provides an opportunity to community sustainable messaging and recycling instructions.

As requirements for e-commerce packaging solutions grow, new demands emerge to encourage companies to rethink logistics, marketing and supply chain sustainability.

Key considerations for e-commerce packaging

Unknowns Abound during Last-Mile Delivery

Even after accounting for the rest of the distribution environment, the final delivery is difficult to plan for. How the package is handled by the carrier, its exposure to weather and several other factors are beyond the brand’s control. When the package reaches the consumer, however, the experience they have is not with the carrier, but the e-retailer. Damaged packaging and/or product can significantly impact a brand’s reputation.

According to eMarketer, ecommerce damage is estimated to set companies back nearly $6 billion per year, with 58% of Americans saying their relationship with the e-retailer would be impacted by a damaged product, making it important for packaging to withstand a wide variety of conditions it may face during last-mile delivery.

While the current state of last-mile delivery includes plenty of unknown factors, the future of this portion of the distribution environment also includes conditions that are difficult to predict and plan for, and that future may be closer than it seems.  

Amazon, UPS, and Google are already experimenting with delivery drones. Wing Aviation, owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, has already received authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration to begin delivering goods via drone. When designing e-commerce packaging, companies need to consider what’s around the corner.

Packaging as Part of the Consumer Experience

As new online stores and subscription boxes emerge and physical retail stores turn to e-commerce, customers are prioritizing three benefits when they choose who to buy from online: speed of delivery, reliability, and hassle-free returns. It’ll be those three qualities that will have the largest influence on future e-commerce and omnichannel packaging design.

Choosing delivery formats that enhance the customer experience is a huge added value for businesses and consumers alike. Since most of the world’s shopping is currently being done online, companies have had to compensate for the loss of the consumer’s singular experience of being able to see or touch something on a shelf or rack before heading to the checkout line.

Birchbox, Julep, Trunk Club, FabFitFun and Glossier make the receipt and unboxing of their packaging fun and personalized. With more and more unboxing videos being posted to social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube, the impact of e-commerce packaging has never been greater.

How the package looks on the outside may impact how the product or brand is perceived, even if the product is not damaged. As more consumers move to e-commerce, brands should consider new ways to improve the packaging experience from start to finish.

If new to e-commerce, companies should evaluate a variety of scenarios, including outsourcing packaging, partnering with a third party/co-packer and build an in-house packaging and fulfillment center.

To understand the e-commerce channel, companies need to establish a solid packaging strategy. Adept Packaging has channel audit and market research expertise, internal innovation panels and an established relationship with an Amazon approved testing facility. With a team of over 70 packaging engineers, Adept has the capability and expertise to help companies create an e-commerce roadmap and implementation plan.

At Adept Group, we have engineers that specialize in the design, engineering and qualification of new or redesigned packaging. If you’re looking for assistance developing e-commerce packaging that will withstand its distribution environment and delight consumers, contact us.

Beat Up Cardboard Box

Cost Savings Through Packaging Damage Remediation

Packaging that doesn’t withstand its distribution environment can lead to staggering costs for a brand. The good news is that you can not only eliminate those sources of cost, but also improve quality and achieve bottom-line cost savings through packaging damage remediation.

Costs incurred because of packaging damage can add up quickly. There are the up-front costs, including the cost of the damaged product and the cost of return shipping, but also a handful of costs that are less obvious. These include items like reworking salvageable product, production schedule disruptions to replace non-salvageable product, re-shipping the order and difficult-to-calculate costs like lost business and damage to brand reputation.

Thoughtfully completing the remediation process can lead to a number of desirable outcomes. A primary goal of this process is to reduce or eliminate warranty and replacement product expenses. The process may also reveal opportunities to optimize wasted space within the packaging and wasted space when the product is stored or shipped in bulk (e.g. on a pallet). It may provide an opportunity to reduce the impact of inefficient choices in packaging design or packaging materials. New packaging design also provides an opportunity to distribute the new designs for competitive bidding by packaging suppliers, which frequently allows a brand reduce costs.

Once you understand the costs of insufficient packaging and the benefits of thoughtfully redesigning packaging to fit a product’s needs, you’re ready to understand the steps required to address these packaging challenges.

Step 1: Identify the Problem

Determining the root cause of the problem can be challenging, but the rest of the process depends on an accurate understanding of when and how product damage occurs. In rare situations, this root cause may be easy to identify. For the majority of situations, it takes some work to pinpoint the causes that lead to packaging failure. It begins with conducting a forensic analysis of the product, its packaging and its distribution environment to gain a better understanding of the product’s packaging needs and the problems you’ll need to solve to make sure the packaging meets those needs. This step involves careful examination of how the product fits in the current packaging, how the current packaging performs during storage and shipping and why it fails to adequately protect the product.

Determining the cause of the damage will require analysis of each stage of the product’s distribution cycle, from the moment it leaves the production line to the moment it reaches the consumer or end user. You need to understand how densely the product is packed when stored in distribution centers and during shipping. For e-commerce products, you must also consider the conditions the package faces during last-mile delivery.

Step 2: Design Engineering

Once you understand your root cause and the conditions a package faces throughout it’s distribution cycle, you can begin redesigning the packaging. Reviewing the 2D and 3D files used in the design of the original packaging provides a head start for the designer. This baseline packaging data provides a starting point from which they can improve upon previous packaging to eliminate its issues. Otherwise, the designer may need to reverse engineer specifications from the current design by breaking down sample packaging.

With this baseline in place, new designs can be compared against the previous packaging specs to confirm the new packaging will solve the issue. Design is an iterative process, and it may take several cycles through designing and the ensuing prototyping and testing steps before a design passes and the necessary stakeholders approve.

Step 3: Develop Prototypes

Once an approved design is in place, it’s time to create prototypes that can be used for testing. Generally, it is a best practice to have the current packaging provider create the new prototype design. When that is not an option, the best qualified supplier should be able to produce the prototype.

The prototype state is also a good opportunity to solicit proposals from several qualified vendors to compare prototype designs and material costs. This is an important time to consider different options and identify opportunities for cost savings.

Step 4: Fit/Check/Approve

With prototypes in hand, it is important to compare their physical characteristics against the design specifications for accuracy. After reviewing the fit, it’s time to check that the product fits within the packaging and evaluate protection characteristics to ensure they match the intent of the new packaging design.

Remember, this is an iterative process, and it may require a few passes through these design and testing cycles until a prototype passes and can be approved for lab testing.

Step 5: Package Design Testing

Package design testing can begin once an approved prototype emerges from the previous steps. Before the product and prototype packaging can undergo testing, it is important to reach a consensus on the testing criteria the lab will use. Discoveries made during root cause analysis can help guide pass fail criteria, as you will know when and how the previous packaging typically failed. 

In addition to establishing pass/fail criteria, you must use your understanding of the product’s distribution environment to determine which testing specifications are appropriate. Different tests may be appropriate for packaging that will travel less than load (LTL) – meaning less than a full truckload, via rail, via air, as a single parcel, etc. Once you know exactly what kind of testing the packaging requires and what the pass-fail criteria will be, the product and package should be sent to an accredited packaging lab.

Keep in mind, this step is part of the iterative portion of this process. The packaging may fail its testing and require modifications before going back to the lab for additional testing.

Step 6: Test Result Analysis

After the packaging design passes its tests, the key stakeholders need to review the package design, cost elements and the testing results before agreeing on a final design. This step is critical because several departments within your organization, often with different priorities, need to buy into changes from the previous packaging. A cost benefit analysis is an important part of this stage because it is important to demonstrate not only that the new packaging addresses the damage issues of the previous packaging, but also to show the cost advantages and disadvantages of the new package design.

In many cases, experienced packaging professionals will be able to find opportunities for bottom-line cost savings on packaging materials and you will be able to demonstrate cost benefits that extend beyond eliminating the costs of damaged product.

Step 7: Design Approval

Armed with successful test results and a cost benefit analysis, your organization’s decision makers will be well positioned to approve the new packaging design. It is important to document all approvals as proof that various groups within the organization reviewed and signed off. If future problems arise with the new packaging, this documentation not only creates a record of who signed off on the design, but also helps determine who should be involved if the packaging needs to undergo additional revisions.

Step 8: Documentation

Because the process can be iterative, it is important to revisit design documents to confirm they include all modifications made to the packaging since the original design drawings were approved. It is also important to document process steps so that the product will be packaged correctly every time, even across different packaging locations and personnel groups. These specifications are a great way to keep a record of all packaging components, their relationship to the overall packaging schematic and any labor required to successfully package the product.

While the individual steps of the packaging damage remediation process are fairly straightforward, all the small, individual decisions made along the way can make this a complicated task. An experienced packaging professional can ensure all those small decisions remain organized and add up positive changes that not only improve quality, but also take advantage of opportunities for cost savings.

Done well, this process can virtually eliminate the costs of damaged product, return logistics, product rework and potential damage to brand reputation, and careful review can also reveal opportunities to produce better packaging at lower costs.

If you’re experiencing quality issues with your packaging and would like to identify a solution that remediates those problem and lowers costs, get in touch. We have experts in packaging damage remediation and cost savings that help you identify and implement long-term solutions to your packaging challenges.

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Cost Savings Through Packaging SKU Rationalization

Many brands are already familiar with SKU rationalization as a business tool, but may not know they can use a similar process to find cost savings in the packaging operation. The familiar process generally involves a merchant evaluating a product’s profitability to determine if they should keep it on shelves. Generating cost savings through Packaging SKU rationalization is a bit different. It’s a process of reducing the number of packaging SKUs by evaluating the dimensions and other characteristics of a finished package.

Packaging SKU rationalization can drive cost savings opportunities in a few different ways.

  • It may allow a brand to consolidate its packaging material suppliers and purchase fewer structures and sizes.
  • It may provide an opportunity to reduce the amount of packaging material inventory it needs to keep on hand. Reducing the number of packaging SKUs helps a brand to better utilize its warehouse space.
  • It also enables a brand to optimize asset utilization across manufacturing and packaging facilities.

Read the Packaging Digest article here to learn about the steps of conducting a successful SKU rationalization.


Culture Commitments: Putting Our Values into Action

The events of the past year have been tough on many of us, but they’ve also provided an opportunity to reflect and reexamine some things we take for granted. We have taken advantage of this in many areas of our business, but recently we took the opportunity to reflect on our culture and values, and how we’re putting those values into action.

Throughout 2021, we’re inviting our team to make a pledge to convert Adept Group’s ideals into tangible activities that positively impact ourselves, our environments and our communities.

Improving Our Impact on Our Environment

While it may take some time to truly assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the environment, we do know several industries relied heavily on single-use plastics to ease consumers’ concerns about product safety or create in-demand PPE products. While some of those plastics are recyclable, many are not. Additionally, the pandemic-driven fall in oil prices widened the gap between the prices of virgin plastic and PCR plastic. Regardless of the driving factors, the result is the same – more plastic in landfills and more plastic pollution on land and in waterways – and we’re challenging our team to leave the planet better than we found it.

We encourage each of the associates who take this pledge to find their own meaningful way to impact the environment, and we suggested a handful of options to help our team get started. We recommend our team members participate in community cleanup events or find their own way to remove some of the trash that accumulates in public spaces. We encourage our team to find opportunities to volunteer with community recycling programs or spring planting events. For those who are not comfortable with participating in community events, we also provided a suggestion for our associates to reduce their year-over-year home electricity consumption.

As a company, we’re also making our environmental values tangible through our continued partnership with OneTreePlanted. For each new project we take on, we donate a percentage of our profit to help plant trees in forests identified by the United States Forest Service as having the greatest need. We also plan to contribute to reforestation in other parts of the world.

Improving the Lives of People within Our Communities

The events of 2020 highlighted a variety of areas in which we can create positive change in our communities, whether through diversity and inclusion initiatives, helping to feed and shelter people whose income was affected by the pandemic or helping students who are falling behind because of the limitations of distance learning.

Another pillar of our pledge calls on our associates to make a positive impact on their local community. We provided a variety of suggestions to help our team fulfill this aspect of the pledge, including volunteering at shelters that serve vulnerable people in our communities. We encourage our team to contribute to local food drives and seek opportunities to help organizations that aide local veterans. We also suggested our teams seek out equity, diversity and inclusion trainings to learn more about the differences that make our communities vibrant. Because the majority of the Adept team have earned degrees and advanced degrees in STEM fields, we also encourage them to find opportunities to tutor or mentor local students and help prepare the next generation of leaders in STEM occupations.

Promoting the Health and Wellbeing of Our Associates

While the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted many areas for us to help causes outside our own homes, it’s also important that we each focus on taking care of ourselves. Social distancing spurred by the pandemic has prevented many people from connecting in person with friends and family, leading to a separate epidemic of loneliness. The constant barrage of bad news throughout 2020 was enough to induce anxiety among as much as 62% of Americans. Gyms that closed during lockdown cut many people off from a key part of their physical fitness routine. For these reasons, making time for self-care is more important than ever.

The third pillar of our value-driven pledge calls on employees to make time for improving their mental and physical health. While this type of self-care is deeply personal and different for everyone, we offered a variety of suggestions to help our team find an activity that works for them. We encourage employees to work on their physical fitness by training for and participating in events like a virtual 5K. For our employees who enjoy cooking, we encourage them to share healthy recipes for the team or host a virtual cooking demo to show how to prepare a nutritious meal. As the weather warms up across the northern parts of the country, we encourage our team to plan for walking meetings to combine physical activity with productivity or to take a break by participating in our monthly virtual trivia meetings. We also encourage our team to seek out mental wellness trainings.

By contributing to these initiatives, our team is taking steps toward a more positive and healthy future and we can’t wait to see the results. Join us and pledge to make a positive impact today!

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle. Environmental vector wordcloud background.

Sustainable Packaging Trends for 2021

Despite significantly increased usage of single-use plastics during the COVID-19 pandemic, packaging sustainability remains a priority for brands across all industries. While consumer caution has been a cause for many individuals to deprioritize sustainable habits, brands did not retreat from their sustainability goals in 2020, and this year is on track to be one in which packaging continues to make strides toward a more sustainable future.

A handful of approaches have emerged as sustainable packaging trends for 2021:

Chemical Recycling for Plastics

As chemical recycling methods and technologies for plastics continue to improve, the practice is gaining proponents. Expanded chemical recycling efforts are included in the British Plastics Federation’s recent “Recycling Roadmap,” which charts a course to the U.K. recycle 3.5 times more plastic than it currently does by 2030. As the amount of single-use plastics discarded by consumers continues to grow, chemical recycling may help stem the tide of plastics that end up in landfills, or worse, in oceans and other waterways.

In many areas, the demand for recycling surpasses the local market’s ability to process the plastic through mechanical means, which drives demand for alternative means of recycling.  Additionally, the narrow range of plastics that can be recycled by traditional means and the limited number of uses for recycled plastics mean it is unlikely that mechanical recycling will catch up to the problem.

To make use of the large volume of post-consumer plastics generated each year, recycling facilities will need to use a variety of chemical processes to supplement traditional mechanical recycling. Research teams are already working on chemical recycling methods for a wider range of materials, including polystyrene, which will greatly reduce the amount plastic that winds up in landfills or as litter.

E-commerce Sustainability

E-commerce shipments – and the packaging that comes with it – have been on a steady rise in recent years. That trend continued in 2018, with 91% of Americans receiving packages at their home this holiday season according to Ranpak’s First Annual E-Commerce and Packaging Trends Survey. While recent e-commerce statistics may be boosted by consumers cautious to shop in crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic, they may retain those online shopping habits once things return to normal. Regardless, this sharp and continued rise in e-commerce puts a spotlight in efforts to make shippers and primary packaging more sustainable.

Brands riding the wave of increased e-commerce sales are eager to boost their sustainable practices, both in response to consumer demand for environmentally friendly products and because sustainable packaging is often good for the bottom line. There are a variety of approaches brands can use to improve the sustainability of e-commerce packaging, including designing packaging with materials that are easy for consumers to recycle. Rightsizing e-commerce packages and optimizing the amount of padding/dunnage included within the package drive sustainability and cost savings on two fronts, both by reducing the cost of materials and reducing size and weight, which improves fuel efficiency during shipping.

Growth in Reusable Packaging

While recyclable and compostable materials play a key role in steering packaging away from landfills, they won’t completely solve our waste issues. Following the path blazed by TerraCycle’s Loop program, which expanded nation-wide in 2020, companies such as LimeLoop, Algramo, RePack and any of the are taking their own approach to growing adoption of reusable packaging. The market for reusable packaging was valued at $30.5 billion in 2019, and a 2020 report from Grand View Research projects it will grow by more than 5% by 2027. While some were concerned that growth may take a hit because of consumer caution during the pandemic, indications showed continued growth through the early months of the crisis, with Loop reporting its sales nearly doubled between March and April.

It’s not just startups springing up to create reusable packaging, major brands are jumping on board to incorporate reusables. Mars, Inc.’s  Sustainable Packaging Plan centers around a commitment to switch to 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025, including testing 10 reusable packaging programs. Albertsons Plastics and Packaging Pledge includes encouraging customers to use reusable bags, some of which include material from recycled single use shopping bags, and using reusable containers behind the scenes throughout its supply chain.

Whether you’re years into your sustainability journey or looking for sustainable packaging solutions to help your brand get started, the Adept Packaging team has the experience and know-how to help you map out your next steps. Whether it’s sustainable strategy, ideation or implementation, our team is stacked with professionals that can help you transform your packaging. We will help you optimize not only the sustainability of your packaging but reduce costs as well. If you’re ready to incorporate sustainable packaging solutions that drive bottom line savings, get in touch.

Concept of frozen products: fruits, vegetables, fishs, meat, spices herbs, were frozen inside ice cubes

Cold Chain Trends for Food Brands

The tidal wave of media coverage around COVID-19 vaccines has thrust the cold-chain market into a global spotlight, but cold-chain technology isn’t just for brands in the life sciences space. Cold-chain packaging and shipment play a growing role for brands in the food industry as well. While most people typically think of the cold chain as a network of refrigerated warehouses and cargo vehicles that keep products at a controlled temperature, packaging is the common link that connects them all and ensures the product maintains its temperature as it moves throughout the supply chain. Understanding the trends and projections for cold chain will help food brands prepare more efficiently for their next steps.

Increased Demand

As consumer demand for high-end food products grows around the world, brands need to ship products across greater distances quickly, while maintaining high standards for quality. According to Statistics MRC, the global cold chain market is projected to grow 400% from 2018 to 2027, reaching a total value of more than $600 billion. While the CPG portion of the market is still dominated by dairy and frozen dessert items, bakery and confectionery products are forecast to generate increased demand for cold-chain services. A growing middle-class population in developing economies drives demand for fresh produce, which requires cold chain solutions to move from agricultural regions to population centers.

A Need for Investment in Sustainability

Keeping products at a controlled temperature requires refrigeration, both in storage facilities and transportation vehicles, and that refrigeration consumes a lot of energy. While cold-chain storage and shipping can be energy-intensive, the increase in demand for cold food products is fueling innovation in efficiency and sustainability.

Many providers are investing in sustainable cold-chain solutions, but there is no established leader in this space. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are the most commonly used refrigerants and may contribute more to global greenhouse gasses than carbon dioxide. Penske Logistics is exploring compressed natural gas as an alternative to diesel-powered refrigeration systems for trailers.

Others companies look to electric vehicles as a more sustainable solution for keeping products at a controlled temperature in transit. Improved insulation and remotely controlled cooling systems also look to improve energy and fuel consumption from vehicles through involved in the cold chain. As adoption of reusable packaging continues to grow, reusables may also provide a sustainable solution for products in the cold chain.

Growing Role of Third-Party Logistics

Third-party logistics (3PL) play a growing role in processing and packaging cold chain food products. 3PLs provide a variety of services that may not be cost effective for frozen food brands  to handle themselves, including storing frozen product until it’s time to fill specific orders, transporting frozen foods to be packaged at retailers and preparing proteins for export outside the U.S. This role for 3PLs is particularly prominent in the ecommerce space, as few companies that specialize in ecommerce have the need to maintain temperature-controlled distribution centers of their own. As efficient ecommerce distribution becomes the norm in the B2C space, rising expectations for fast B2B shipping also provide an opportunity for temperature controlled 3PLs to step up and grow their presence in the food supply chain.

As cold-chain technology advances, it will create opportunities for many more brands in the food industry to distribute fresh products more efficiently and across greater distances. If your brand needs to add cold-chain distribution capabilities or improve existing capabilities, Adept can help. Our team includes highly experienced consultants in both cold chain packaging and logistics. Get in touch to discuss solutions to your cold-chain challenges.

Five Architects Sitting Around Table Having Meeting

Packaging Development Centers of Excellence

As sustainability and cost drivers pressure packaging departments to deliver more value, greater agility, and faster speed to market, establishing a Packaging Development Center of Excellence provides a platform that enables your team to deliver successful, repeatable results. A well run PackDev CoE accelerates future competitiveness and enables faster growth and enhanced profits. It aligns the entire packaging department to execute its strategy and deliver against its goals.

With a PackDev CoE in place, a brand can expect its packaging department to not only be more efficient, but also more accurate. It also provides the packaging department with the tools to optimize costs and the flexibility to evolve to meet new challenges.

What is a PackDev CoE?

A PackDev CoE is a model for managing a packaging department. The model focuses on strong and well aligned fundamental concepts that are common to many successful organizations:

People — enabling cognitive ability and promoting productive interpersonal interactions.

Processes — Aligned to enable efficiency.

Systems — Leveraging computer power to unburden teams.

Implementing a well-run CoE enables an organization to drive consistent, forecastable value from its packaging operations. It makes the people, processes, and systems in place fundamentally stronger and aligns them to execute against the packaging department’s goals.

The Adept Group model for a PackDev CoE contains four key components:

1. Providing Solutions.
2. Knowledge Management.
3. Team Development.
4. Systems & Governance.

Read the full article in Packaging Digest.

Adept Group has more than a decade of experience in developing and implementing Centers of Excellence within our clients’ packaging departments. If you think a CoE will help optimize the function of your packaging operations, get in touch. We’re ready to deploy our knowledge and experience with CoE to help you maximize the value of your packaging.


New Package Development During COVID-19

While the many challenges introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted brands in a variety of ways, new package development remains a primary focus for packaging departments. Whether it’s designing packaging for a new product, optimizing packaging for an existing product, or redesigning packaging for existing projects to better meet the evolving needs of the brand, this process remains an important priority. What has changed is the ability to bring outside experts into a brand’s facility to evaluate products and develop packaging solutions.

Meeting Remotely

While the traditional approach to new package design involves on-site engineers evaluating the product and its shipping needs, the current need for distancing makes this approach unwise or, in some states, not allowed. There is, however, another approach that works just as well for most brands.

As we’ve all grown accustomed to meetings conducted via Zoom and collaborating on a document virtually, it should be no surprise to learn that all of the preliminary steps of a packaging project can be handled remotely. Defining the packaging requirements, including goals for sustainability and specs to ensure it works with your current packaging, can be discussed via a web meeting and compiled in a shared document. This includes listing all the unknowns and other important needs such as pallet stability requirements and the tolerances and procedures to be used during the testing phase.

An Unconventional Approach for Unconventional Times

Where this approach really differs from traditional package development is when the designer fleshes out their concepts. Instead of a designer or engineer coming to your facility to evaluate and develop packaging concepts, you can ship your products to the designers location, where they can do the same job without having to add unnecessary personnel to your facility. Working remotely, the engineer can evaluate the product, leverage the list of pre-defined requirements and think through the needs of the products distribution environment to develop packaging concepts and specifications for your review.

Remote Project Management

Once all stakeholders agree on a design concept, the engineer can coordinate prototype development remotely and ship the prototype to your facility for review and approval. All steps of the testing process can be handled the same way, with the packaging shipped to the testing facility of your choice. Once the design is finalized, sourcing a supplier that best fits your goals and is optimized for cost and quality can also be handled remotely all the way through to commercialization.

Experts in Packaging and Remote Work

Since its inception, Adept Packaging was built to meet our clients’ needs, whenever and wherever they need us. Our team has experience working remotely and from home offices while maintaining the productivity and efficiency you’d expect from an on-site consultant. While this global pandemic has forced many companies to adapt their processes for social distancing, it’s allowed us to showcase our mature, fully functioning processes for working from a distance, and we’re ready to help you tackle your new package development products no matter how long the pandemic continues.

Automatic packing line of conveyor. Pharmaceutical and chemical industry. Manufacture on factory

A Planning Guide for New Packaging Machinery

Recent trends in reshoring, accelerated by supply chain issues brought on by COVID-19, are prompting many brands to bring all or part of their packaging operations in house by installing their own machinery. Even if your brand hasn’t made a plan to purchase new packaging machinery, your company is likely considering alternatives to mitigate the disruption.  

A recent survey indicates packaging is one of the services North American brands are most likely to reshore in light of recent supply chain issues. While handling packaging in house can accelerate the product delivery timeline and reduce supply chain problems, it comes with its own set of challenges. We created this guide to help you anticipate and solve those challenges.

Collaborate Internally and with Vendors

To develop a comprehensive set of user requirement specifications, it’s important for representatives of many departments in your business, including packaging, engineering, procurement, HSE, IT and maintenance, to collaborate and thoroughly discuss their individual needs. Another key topic to discuss internally is how new equipment may impact the packaging machinery and software already in place. It’s important to find out what conditions new machinery will need to satisfy to be integrated with your current setup.

Teams also need to communicate and collaborate with the machine supplier to develop an installation timeline that suits the needs of as many departments as possible to minimize disruption to the business. This is also the time to communicate any safety training the vendor’s technicians will need to complete before arriving at your facility. While technicians likely participate in significant safety training of their own, you can’t assume their training covers all the topics necessary for working within your facility.

Evaluate Business Impact

Adding a significant amount of new machinery is no small endeavor. Installing a new packaging line or building on an existing one can have unforeseen impacts on departments throughout your facility. It’s important to understand how it can affect those departments during the early planning stages so those risks can be mitigated. When integrating new machinery into an existing packaging line or other production line, installation will likely require that equipment to be shut down, and managers who oversee that line will need to plan their department’s schedule around that shutdown.

Planning ahead thoroughly for the ways installation will impact your business will provide time to prepare and ensure the installation goes smoothly and doesn’t disrupt other departments more than absolutely necessary. This includes allowing time for testing and having a sufficient amount of product available to conduct tests on the new packaging and labeling equipment.

Anticipate Delays

Despite even the most thorough planning and preparation, installing new packaging machinery will take longer than you expect. Turnaround time between ordering your equipment and delivery by the vendor will likely be the longest part of the process. Delivery times can increase considerably if your needs require customization and added functionality to the machinery.

Plan a 30% buffer time for the total project, no matter what a vendor tells you. You need to prepare for a variety of delays and issues that may pop up throughout the process and have a plan to mitigate unforeseen issues that impact timing. It’s almost a guarantee that a few such problems will affect installation at your facility.

Analyze Utilities

Heavy equipment like packaging machinery draws a lot of power and may also require other utilities, such as compressed air. Those who know your facility best should review details about the machinery’s requirements and evaluate all supply lines, hookups and building connections to ensure they are available and located in the places the new machines will need them.

Measure Twice, Install Once

Measuring the space available for your packaging machinery is an important part of the planning process, but it’s not the last time you’ll need those measurements. The process from deciding on new machinery to its installation can span many months, and equipment vendors may make upgrades or small revisions to the machinery they sell over the course of that time. While vendors should communicate changes and updates to the machinery, you can’t assume they’ll be aware of how those changes affect installation at your facility.

Invest in Solutions

When you decide on a vendor to provide your new machinery, work with them to ensure all the functionality you need it included. Push for the vendor to work with any third-party providers for custom functions and don’t allow them to pass contracting with those providers onto your company. Your company is not just buying a machine, it is working with the vendor to provide a solution that meets your brand’s packaging needs.

Let the Experts Lead

The entire process of acquiring and installing new packaging machinery, from finding equipment that best suits the needs of your brand to testing the line to make sure it functions properly, is intricate and involves many details that are easy to overlook without experienced help. If your team doesn’t have the experience, expertise and resource availability to tackle each phase of the project, including implementation, get external help. Our team has experience helping iconic brands across a variety of industries add packaging lines to their operation, and we’re ready to be your partner through each phase of the project. Reach out to learn more about how we can help.

Automated line for manufacturing of cardboard boxes for sour cream

The Benefits of an Agnostic Approach to Packaging

With all of the supplier and material options available to brands, it’s important to consider all options when looking for a packaging solution that optimizes costs, product protection and sustainability. Many packaging solution providers are directly tied to suppliers and promise deep discounts on materials based on that relationship, but without exploring all options, brands may miss opportunities to find the best packaging solution for their product. Taking an approach that is agnostic to both suppliers and materials opens more possibilities to identify a solution that meets all their needs.

What Is an Agnostic Approach?

An agnostic approach to suppliers and materials means designing a packaging solution that is centered on the product and its distribution environment, rather than limitations of specific materials. Suppliers, and consultants who are tied to them, frequently design packaging around the limitations of their own equipment or the material they produce. The ability to move between suppliers and work with different materials provides opportunities to create a solution that works for the brand and its product.

Being vendor-agnostic allows packaging consultants to prioritize their clients’ best interests in terms of costs and product protection, rather than being beholden to the solutions offered by specific vendors. Being material-agnostic means they can think outside the box to find the packaging solutions that best fit a product’s needs instead of limiting the possibilities to a short list of materials. It places the focus on the needs of the brand and, ultimately, its customers.

Cost Benefits of an Agnostic Approach

Because supplier and material-agnostic packaging consultants are not tied to the interests of a specific supplier, they’re able to prioritize a brand and its products’ needs, acting as an extension of the brand. They’re incentivized to find the best total landed cost, meaning the total the packaging and shipping/freight costs. Packaging engineers who work with a wide variety materials and suppliers are also likely to have experience working in diverse industries. This diverse experience drives outside-the-box thinking as, for example, lessons learned in the food & beverage industry might benefit a brand in the automotive or pharmaceutical industry.

Product Protection Benefits of an Agnostic Approach

Similar to the cost benefits, keeping all options on the table also benefits the primary function of packaging – to protect the product. Exploring all available solutions, rather than simply choosing the best option from a short, pre-selected list, allows for solutions customized to best serve the brand and its consumers. This approach allows for solutions that include a combination of materials that meet all requirements of a project, from product protection to sustainability.

The Right Approach

Relying too heavily on a short list of materials leads to choices that work well for a supplier and their margins, but leave a brand with packaging that doesn’t meet all its needs. An agnostic approach that weighs all the options provides brands with a packaging solution that keeps costs down while optimizing quality. If you’re looking for help designing packaging that goes beyond the limits of a specific supplier, reach out. Our team has experience in more than 60 specialized packaging disciplines and can help find the solution that works best for your brand.