The world of furniture packaging has transformed as more companies rid their business of shipping products full truckload (FTL). The more frequent method of shipping has transitioned to less than truckload (LTL) for assembled furniture or small parcel for ready to assemble furniture. This change in supply chain has a direct impact on the packaging required to survive shipping without product damage.
Listed below are the four steps we take at BoldtSmith Packaging with projects specific to optimizing the packaging for furniture.
Know your Supply Chain
The first step in developing a packaging solution is understanding the supply chain in which your product is shipped through. This directly impacts the packaging design and testing protocols required to verify a concept. A product shipping full truck load (FTL) on a company’s existing fleet in comparison to less than truckload (LTL) requires completely different packaging solutions. Too often do we see a customer using the same concept that works shipping FTL but is damaged in an LTL environment and the blame is put on the carrier. This same concept applies to small parcel ready to assemble furniture packaging.
A few questions that are helpful when evaluating a supply chain are outlined below
- How is the product stored and handled internally prior to shipment?
- What machinery is used to transport the packaged product?
- Fork truck? Hand truck? Clamp truck?
- If palletized, does the pallet allow for the available machinery to be utilized without special attachments or modifications?
- Example: Fork truck tine extensions
- How many hubs will the packaged products go through if shipping LTL?
- What hazards are to be expected during shipping and handling?
- Vehicle vibration, forklift handling, horizontal and vertical impacts, drivers clipping curb, etc
These questions are often best answered by the way BoldtSmith Packaging approaches projects like this. Boots on the ground. We believe in observing the supply chain first hand. For this reason, often our first step in projects is going through the supply chain finding the answers to these questions.
Design to Survive
Now that we have an understanding on how the product and packaging will be shipped and handled, we can design packaging to survive these hazards. For example, ready to assemble furniture products getting damaged during small parcel shipping from corner drops require a company different solution than that same product experiencing scratching due to vibration.
For this reason, we typically provide multiple packaging designs ranging in protective capabilities and material, freight and labor costs. This gives our customer the information required to make informed decisions as to which design works best for their specific needs.
Exploring a variety of packaging designs and materials requires internal design and sampling capabilities. BoldtSmith Packaging has a team of packaging engineer’s to complete designs internally which allows us to remove packaging manufacturer’s from the design process. Our customers then own the packaging specifications and can send them to multiple packaging suppliers for competitive bids. This vital for both domestically manufactured furniture and overseas.
After multiple designs are created, we then proceed with making samples internally. Whether that is utilizing our CNC machine specifically made for corrugated and foam or building a crate in our wood shop. Samples are then tested to verify they can survive the intended hazards.
Test to Verify
The testing portion of the project is so critical as it provides the data needed to prove the designs can survive the supply chain. An interesting point is we often discover companies pass testing and then consider that the completion of the project. For BoldtSmith Packaging, that is often just the mid-point of the project.
Our goal is to provide customers the best possible packaging. This means testing the product and packaging to failure. Once we reach failure, we can redesign and pass testing but unless we fail testing, we will not know where the pass/fail line is. For example, if we are utilizing a 3”, #2 lb density EPS foam and passed testing. Are we able to still pass testing utilizing a 2.5”, #2 lb density EPS foam? If the answer is yes, then we continue reducing the foam thickness until we fail. When we fail, we then explore alternate foam density’s or materials.
The test however for this concept to work as intended must replicate the hazards the product and packaging actually experience during shipping. This is another reason why step 1 of understanding the supply chain is so critical.
After the optimized design has been implemented, the project still has one remaining step. Data must continued to be gathered to track damage. Packaging optimization is best understood as a continuous process. Customer feedback should be gathered in a specific and data driven manner. If a product becomes damage during shipping, below are a few examples information that would need to be acquired.
- Pictures and a description of the damage
- Location of customer (Domestic, Overseas, etc.)
- Hard costs associated with the damage
- Hard costs include product, packaging, freight, labor costs, etc.
- Soft costs associated with the damage
- Soft costs include logistics associated with damage claim, loss of sales, reputation, etc.
- Percentage of damage incidents relative to number of shipments
The questions relevant to the customer providing information must be gathered in a consistent manner. We recommend having an online portal or feedback form that instructs the customer on what information is needed. This allows for cataloging the information so it can be tracked and analyzed.
Whether the furniture you are shipping is fully assembled going through an LTL supply chain or a knock down furniture kit shipping small parcel, BoldtSmith Packaging has the experience and resources to provide optimized packaging solutions.