On-Demand Satisfaction for High Volume Fulfillment Operations

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There are times that you need to think “out of the box,” to improve the way you do things “inside the box.” Take, for example, your choice of protective cushioning materials.  For many, the traditional approach has been to use inflated bubble material.  While that can still be an excellent solution for smaller volume applications, it may not be the ideal way to go for others.

Let’s take a closer look at why this might be the case.                             

High-demand bubble consumption could mean that a truck load or more per week is necessary to fulfill the needs of a demanding distribution center.  Before the material even gets to the packing facility, we need to remember that it probably traveled several hundred miles to get there.

Then you have to take into account what happens to the material once it arrives.

Typically, employees at the distribution center need to unload it and move it to a staging area.  When the bubble supply is needed, it is transported to the packing station area and then broken down into individual rolls for use by each of the workstations.

In this scenario, approximately four man-hours of labor per month would be required just to handle the material, not to mention the use of “expensive” floor space to store the rolls.

Here’s when thinking “outside the box” can pay dividends for a distribution center.

Food for thought. What happens when on demand cushioning is substituted for premade bubble rolls?  Instead of receiving rolls of premade product, the protective packaging material is made on-demand at each work station.

Let’s use Pregis’ Air AirSpeed® HC Versa machine as an example.  By inflating an 18-inch wide pad of hybrid cushioning1 with the largest (1 ¼-inch) cell height, the amount of material required for each pack can be reduced. (The larger cell height provides superior product protection and takes up more space inside the case so you can reduce consumption.)

Here’s what the cost comparison looks like.

The 18-inch wide, large cell height hybrid cushioning comes in at 140 cubic feet per roll. This is the equivalent of 3.5 bundles of ½” bubble. You only need to two or three pallets per month of the hybrid cushioning compared to four truckloads per month of the air bubble.  (26 pallets fit on a truckload.)

The material volume that needs to be transported has been reduced by more than 95%. A company requiring four man hours per month to handle the bubble can now spend 10 minutes per month handling the delivery resulting in a 95% reduction in labor.

Those metrics are great, but what about packer preference?

In a recent trial by Pregis with a large bubble end user, packers were free to choose between standard bubble, Pregis’ 18-inch hybrid cushioning or a competitor’s 24-inch pad.  The Pregis solution was the packer’s overwhelming favorite.  They not only liked the ease of placement into the case, but they also felt that the Pregis solution enabled a faster pack. Further analysis of the time per pack yielded a 2 minute reduction per pack utilizing the hybrid solution.

What’s the point of this exercise?

Although it might seem on the surface that purchasing the lower cost air bubble rolls is the right way to go, it’s important to look at costs beyond the material.  In this scenario, the distribution center believed it was actually saving money, when it was really wasting significant funds on labor, floor space, reduced efficiency and creating a less-than-desirable consumer experience.

It might be time for you to take an “out of the box” look at your operation, to improve your “in the box” cost profile and performance.  Please contact Pregis for a no obligation evaluation of your specific situation.

1Pregis’ hybrid cushioning is a high performance inflatable protective packaging solution produced on the AirSpeed HC Versa system. The hybrid cushioning film is inflated forming a proprietary pattern of squares pillows that provide superior product protection and reduces material consumption. The HC film is engineered to produce strong, resilient seals and to resist puncturing.
The square pattern prevents items from damage or “bottoming out.” The aesthetics of the packaging material provides a very positive experience for consumers due to its preferred clean, transparent appearance.