June 1, 2015

Packaging moves to the head of the class

Packaging moves to the head of the class

Science equipment distributor installs a right-sized packaging solution.

By David Maloney

There's a science to choosing the right carton for a particular product. And Carolina Biological Supply can't afford to leave anything to chance when it comes to shipping delicate instruments and laboratory equipment to classrooms nationwide. To make sure it's packaging those goods with scientific precision, the company turned to a new packaging solution from Box on Demand.

Carolina Biological supplies schools of all levels (elementary to college) with a wide range of scientific products—everything from live fish and butterflies to chemicals, laboratory beakers, and instruments. "If you can imagine using it in your science class, that is what we sell," says Jeff Humble, the supplier's logistics engineering manager.

The company uses four pack lines for its orders. Three of the lines handle the live products, specimens for dissection, kits for experiments, and the like. The Box on Demand system is located on the fourth line, which is devoted to instruments, equipment, and supplies. This line handles the majority of products shipped and the most diverse array of stock-keeping units (SKUs).

Before implementing the Box on Demand solution in the fall of 2013, the company was using larger-than-needed boxes and more protective dunnage than strictly necessary. Most of these boxes also exceeded the dimensional weight minimums that FedEx and UPS have recently imposed, which would have significantly inflated shipping costs under the current system. But even before the carriers shifted to the new pricing system, the system reduced labor and shipping costs.

"We see two principal benefits," says Humble. "One is the cost. We are shipping less air now and have reduced our dimensional weight. The other is it supports our customers' efforts to be 'green.' We use less dunnage and corrugated material, and now we ship in the smallest carton we can use without damage to the product."

The Box on Demand system automatically measures the items to pack and then produces the optimally sized box within about 10 seconds. Sheets of continuous corrugated are fed into the Box on Demand machine. The system then cuts and scores the carton to the exact dimensions specified. At that point, the machine discharges the flat carton, which is fed through a gluer that folds and seals the tabs to create the box. The worker tapes the carton bottom, places the items inside, adds some protective material, and seals the top. A label is printed and added before the carton is conveyed to shipping. The system makes about 450 boxes per day.

Since the new system was installed, dimensional weight charges have dropped by at least 66 percent and the company is using less corrugated cardboard. Dunnage costs have fallen by 30 percent without any increase in damage. The new process is speedier as well: The system has allowed the company to keep up with a 9-percent growth in volume over the past two years.

About the Author

David Maloney
Editorial Director
David Maloney has been a journalist for more than 35 years and is currently the editorial director for DC Velocity and Supply Chain Quarterly magazines. In this role, he is responsible for the editorial content of both brands of Agile Business Media. Dave joined DC Velocity in April of 2004. Prior to that, he was a senior editor for Modern Materials Handling magazine. Dave also has extensive experience as a broadcast journalist. Before writing for supply chain publications, he was a journalist, television producer and director in Pittsburgh. Dave combines a background of reporting on logistics with his video production experience to bring new opportunities to DC Velocity readers, including web videos highlighting top distribution and logistics facilities, webcasts and other cross-media projects. He continues to live and work in the Pittsburgh area.

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