Why did my Amazon order arrive in a giant box?

Managing shipping operations often requires trade-offs, and right-sized packaging is easy to dismiss

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Have you ever opened an e-commerce package that is filled with packing materials for one small item?  The box is 5 or 6 times bigger than the item and filled with paper wadding or bubble wrap.  Did you wonder why the shipper used such a large box?

Most shipping operations use standard-size boxes—small-medium-large—and if the product doesn’t fit the box, packing materials such as paper wadding, bubble wrap, or Styrofoam peanuts are added. This is not the most efficient way, nor the most sustainable way to ship products. The receiving customer is left with an oversized box and a mound of packing materials which may end up in a landfill.

The dilemma for shipping products is the challenging task of balancing sustainability goals with efficiency, shipping time, shipping costs, and labor. This is often a trade-off that shippers consider between buying standard box sizes and adding labor vs. investing in new technology. 

Packsize, a Utah-based packaging company, offers a solution that allows businesses to address both cost and sustainability. Packsize specializes in right-sizing machinery that customizes carton sizes to fit products precisely, eliminating excess space and waste. As a product moves along a conveyor belt, the Packsize machine scans it, constructs a perfectly sized corrugated container around it, and applies the packaging label, all in a seamless process.

I visited Packsize in Salt Lake City and was impressed with their capability and unwavering commitment to the environment. Packsize leases their machinery, allowing customers to take the lease as an expense against income instead of a capital investment. Packsize equipment has been adopted by companies in a broad range of e-commerce retailers such as Staples, Boot Barn, Dick’s, and logistics companies such as CEVA and DB Schenker.

Innovative approaches to packaging require specialized engineering to address the issues. Packaging engineers have been around for decades, but have been mostly focused on designing attractive packaging for consumer products—the kind of job that is a cross between engineering and creative design. There is now a need for more emphasis on shipping packaging for e-commerce to reduce waste and address sustainability.

To address sustainability, Amazon and other e-commerce companies also ship in lightweight poly mailers that may be recyclable. In some cases, Amazon is making deliveries without additional packaging, in clear plastic bags or the original boxes from the manufacturer.

All of these solutions are a movement toward sustainability that is being demanded by consumers and by the urgent need to address climate change. Sustainability should be on every supply chain professional’s agenda and should include programs for suppliers, transportation, site location, warehousing, contract manufacturing, and packaging. There is so much room for more innovation in supply chain sustainability.  Stay tuned.

About the author

 

Rosemary Coates is the executive director of the Reshoring Institute and the president of Blue Silk Consulting, a global supply chain consulting firm. She is the best-selling author of 42 Rules for Sourcing and Manufacturing in China and Legal Blacksmith - How to Avoid and Defend Supply Chain Disputes  Ms. Coates lives in Silicon Valley and has worked with over 80 clients worldwide. She is also an expert witness for legal cases involving global supply chain matters. She is passionate about reshoring.

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Managing shipping operations often requires trade-offs, and right-sized packaging is easy to dismiss.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Managing shipping operations often requires trade-offs, and right-sized packaging is easy to dismiss.
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About the Author

Rosemary Coates, Executive Director
Rosemary Coates's Bio Photo

Ms. Coates is the Executive Director of the Reshoring Institute and the President of Blue Silk Consulting, a Global Supply Chain consulting firm. She is a best-selling author of five supply chain management books including: 42 Rules for Sourcing and Manufacturing in China and Legal Blacksmith - How to Avoid and Defend Supply Chain Disputes. Ms. Coates lives in Silicon Valley and has worked with over 80 clients worldwide. She is also an Expert Witness for legal cases involving global supply chain matters. She is passionate about Reshoring.

View Rosemary's author profile.

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