Two factory workers looking up in drinks production plant

Increase the Flexibility and Scalability of your Workforce: Contract Packaging Engineers

Many packaging departments face a set of familiar challenges when beginning a new project: insufficient resources, a lack of specific expertise and finding the right fit when hiring to add that expertise. For lots of companies, this problem has been exacerbated by the business and economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many packaging departments are behind on initiatives planned for earlier in the year and won’t be able to catch up without putting their team through a stressful crunch period, but those challenges are easy to overcome with contract packaging engineers — temporary, flexible resources that can help carry the load for a defined duration.

Expertise for Your Unique Needs

Many brands are choosing to leverage contract packaging experts to build a variable workforce that has experience tackling specific projects. By adding such resources, a brand can temporarily enhance expertise for projects such as reducing packaging costs, increasing packaging sustainability or optimizing packaging for the e-commerce distribution environment.

As COVID-19 drove a significant uptick in online purchases, many brands uncovered quality issues or inefficiencies with their e-commerce distribution process. Remedying these issues requires quality remediation, specification management and a packaging audit, but those time-intensive tasks can strain already-busy packaging departments.  These brands often hire contract packaging engineers to mitigate the newly uncovered issues without derailing the projects their internal teams are tackling.

Packaging Resources that Allow you to Hit the Ground Running

Since most contract engineers are brought on board to lend a specific set of skills, they typically require little-to-no training in order to hit the ground running. While a traditional hire may need weeks or months of training and orientation before they’re fully integrated and productive, a skilled contractor can begin to contribute immediately and often benefits the brand by sharing their expertise with the internal team.

Subject Matter Experts

Different projects require different levels, areas and depths of expertise. Bringing contract engineers on board for projects allows a brand to build a repository of subject matter experts with different specialties and experience. As different challenges arise or new projects become a priority, the brand can hire those contractors from their repository to supplement the expertise of their internal team.

Rightsize Your Workforce

Because there is no obligation to renew once a contract is completed, brands can staff up to handle a backlog of work from COVID-related closures or to meet a tight deadline a labor-intensive project and then return to lean staffing levels once the project or projects are complete. Using contractors for a defined duration also frees brands from obligations to provide sick time, holiday pay, PTO and other benefits.

Risk Mitigation

In addition to getting the right expertise for a defined-duration project, working with a company that specializes in placing contractors also reduces the brand’s risk. Such companies mitigate risks associated with a placement not meeting the expectations with strong managerial oversight, performance management and training and technical support. Companies who place contractors are also structured to avoid issues with co-employment laws.

Leverage Leading Packaging Talent at Adept

Adept Talent has a deep bench of highly qualified contract packaging engineers and project managers with expertise in more than 60 specialized disciplines. If your company needs to staff up to tackle a backlog of work that’s built up since the pandemic hit or to provide specific knowledge and skills to tackle a project that falls outside the typical function of its internal packaging team, get in touch. We’re ready to match you up with the expert or experts that can help meet your goals.

For additional resources on finding packaging the packaging talent you need, visit our resource library.

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E-Commerce Damage: Why Packaging Matters

Designing packaging specifically for the booming E-commerce market is essential. With up to 15 additional touchpoints in the distribution environment, E-commerce packaging requires more robust, tailored packaging than that which sits on the shelves at your local Walmart.

Understanding the requirements of your product when experiencing hazards like compression, shock, vibration, and atmospheric conditions are paramount to design a package that ensures the product arrives without damage.

Overlooking the additional touchpoints, methods of transport, packaging handlers, storage, etc. when moving from a traditional distribution environment to E-commerce will often leave the product and brand reputation damaged.

Holiday E-commerce Challenges

With the increase in E-commerce sales due to the holidays, trucks are packed with boxes en route to the doorsteps of anxiously awaiting shoppers. During 2018, holiday E-commerce shoppers spent $126 billion, up 16.5% from 2017. With 55% of all sales taking place online, package handlers experience a much higher volume of deliveries.

Between trying to fit as many packages on a truck as possible and rushing to get them all delivered on time, it’s no surprise that damage rates increase as well, especially in packaging not designed for the E-commerce distribution environment.

E-commerce Nightmare

For example, at Adept Group, we ordered tumblers for our associates from a promotional merchandiser for holiday gifts. (Pictured below) To give you an idea of the product composition, these tumblers have a stainless-steel exterior; glass insert and plastic top.

What would have been a beautiful gift for our associates turned into four boxes of shattered glass, a panicked phone call, an extremely compressed shipping timeline and a lot of rework for the promotional company.

The Damage

Our products arrived in four double-walled corrugated boxes with obvious compression damage. When we picked them up to move them, the sound of shattered glass was evident. Separated by single-walled corrugated dividers, the glass insert of 56 of 100 tumblers was in pieces at the bottom of the box, rendering them unusable.

Without the dividers being strong enough to keep the box from compressing, and no padding to absorb any of that pressure, the force of whatever packages were piled on top of the box crushed all of the glass that stuck out above the stainless-steel exterior. This presented several problems:

  • We’ve been forced to delay shipping gifts to our associates, as we wait for the new shipment to arrive
  • The opportunity for shipping gifts to our associates across the globe in Italy before the holidays is quickly closing.
  • This compressed timeline increases shipping costs for us to attempt to get gifts to associates before the holidays.
  • The damaged products caused a production loss of four associates for 2 hours, as we went through the boxes to determine the number of broken tumblers, cleaned up the broken glass and washed the products that were not broken to ensure our associates do not consume glass particles once they receive their gifts.
  • We were covered in piercing glass particle and had to move and dispose of four boxes littered in shards of glass. There were more than a few minor cuts and pokes.
  • Correspondence with the promotional company involved their quality assurance department, resolutions team, our direct contact, and 3 other people; as well as 2 calls and 29 emails to get this rectified.
When the cost is calculated, the price of a damaged brand reputation is the highest. Due to this experience, there’s a high likelihood that we won’t be ordering from this particular company in the future.

Suggestions for a Redesign

This mishap could have been avoided had they used packaging that was designed for their specific distribution environment and considered the rigors the products must withstand during E-commerce shipping. We enlisted our design expert to provide some suggestions that he would make to decrease the likelihood of damage for these products:

Outer Carton: Upgrade the material specification for the corrugated to 44ect BC flute with specific liner and medium specifications that can withstand a single parcel shipment.

Interior partitions:

  • Upgrade the material specification for the corrugated to 44ect C flute with specific liner and medium specifications that can withstand a single parcel shipment. This will add the correct buffer between cups and eliminate glass to glass contact.
  • It’s important to maintain the caliper thickness on the partitions between glasses to keep a snug fit and isolate movement.
  • Raise the height of the partitions slightly to reach the top of the glass lip.
  • Eliminate any chance for the glass portion of the cup to make glass to glass contact. Improved partitions will help with this.

Add an interior top pad: This will allow the glass to compress into the pad, both restricting movement and reducing or eliminating impact and compression damage.

Negative impacts

When damage occurs in E-commerce, it presents unique challenges. With the shipping package being the first point of contact with a consumer, a damaged package can impact brand perception; whereas a damaged product will. Not only does it harm the brand reputation, but it causes frustration, time loss, extra effort, additional spend and frequently, loss of business.  

Designing for ecommerce

If your company has a high damage rate or is just getting into the E-commerce market, consider leveraging an expert to design packaging to avoid these pitfalls.

Understanding the product needs, having visibility into the distribution environment, and having access to the materials and expertise needed to develop packaging that protects the product is pertinent for success in the E-commerce market.

For any questions regarding quality remediation or new package development for E-commerce, contact us. Our experts are happy to help.  

For additional tips for designing E-commerce packaging, check out our white paper: Evolving Packaging for the Ecommerce Market in our resource library.


Follow-up (second shipment):

If you’re thinking, perhaps this shipping experience was an anomaly, you’d be wrong. The same company, shipped the same product, in the same packaging, through the same distribution environment, and guess what? We got the same result. Half of the tumblers in the second shipment were also damaged and unusable. 

Long story short: Packaging matters. Design packaging for the E-commerce market with your product and distribution environment in mind to avoid loss of business and a destroyed brand reputation. Contact us for assistance!