Packaging plays a role in just about every industry from appliances to pharmaceuticals to food to parts and supplies to equipment to apparel, you get the idea. There is no sector of any type of manufacturing that does not depend on packaging.
Industrial packaging is unlike other forms of packaging because of the custom requirements that this type of packaging requires. A good example is appliances and the type of packaging that they require to get to the end user safely and in pristine condition. There are moving parts that need protection and that need to be stabilized and other parts that also need to be addressed before the goods can be shipped.
Learning what you need to know about industrial packaging will certainly help to inform your decisions about your packaging.
Let’s Start with Defining Industrial Packaging
Industrial packaging is not “one” type of packaging. It is a term that is used to describe a specific type of packaging that can include a wide range of packaging materials and types. Here is some information that will help to better define what can be considered industrial packaging:
- It is packaging that is typically used at the production point, although it can be used anywhere in the supply chain to secure, protect and preserve equipment, goods, supplies, hazard materials and more.
- It is used for highly sensitive goods like electronics, heavy goods like appliances, goods that need protection from vibrations and more.
- It is custom. Industrial packaging is designed to custom fit the product or goods needs.
- It is designed to meet regulatory compliance.
- It is thicker than regular packaging.
You can think of industrial packaging as packaging on steroids! It is stronger, it is more durable, it is more defined for specific products and goods. The primary objective of industrial packaging is protection.
Industrial Packaging Industry
There is a whole industry dedicated to providing engineering, designing, development and construction of industrial packaging. People that work in this field have a range of very special skill sets that include:
- Engineering specialties
- Design specialties
- Material specialties
- Construction specialties
Engineers play a vital role in industrial packaging. They understand how components work together, the physics of vibrations and how to best protect goods. They provide the first steps in the process of packaging design. They use their knowledge to develop packaging that protects and is durable. They stay on the cutting edge of information about new design developments.
Design specialists that focus on packaging design are tasked with making the aesthetics of the packaging pleasing but that is not all they do. Designers are often concerned with usability of the packaging. They will look at an engineer’s design and evaluate it for “user friendliness” when it comes to crating and uncrating the product.
A material specialist is also part of the team. Material specialists understand how one material interacts with another and how that can affect product safety and protection. They are highly skilled and knowledgeable about materials used in packaging.
Construction specialists on the packaging team, build the parts and products that are going to be used to protect your product. They follow specific guidelines and work closely with designers and engineers.
Additionally, there are other parts of the process like the raw material source, the manufacturer that supplies the parts of the packaging and more. There is an entire industry that is dedicated to packaging. They create the materials used, they engineer the designs, they construct the designs and they help to keep your products safe in the warehouse and during transport.
What Materials are Used in Industrial Packaging?
Packaging engineers design industrial packaging to fit the need of the product, there is no one exclusive material used in the process. There are a wide range of materials used in industrial packaging design including:
- Wood. There is a wide range of wood products used in industrial packaging to meet a wide range of needs. Industrial packaging designs can include plywood, wood board, derails, crates, boxes, stabilizers and other wooden materials to keep goods safe.
- Metals. Metals like stainless steel that has been formed to meet a specific need, hinges, bands and more are used in industrial packaging.
- Cardboard. Corrugated cardboard tubes, cylinders, boxes of various sizes are used to house, divide and protect goods during shipping and storage.
- Plastics. Shrink wrapping, dividers, mounts and more can be made from a wide range of different plastic forms.
- Polypropylene. Is a material that can be used in packaging that provides cushion and protection.
Depending on what your product needs are either all or some of the materials listed above will be used in your packaging design. In most cases, minimal materials will be used to reduce waste without sacrificing quality protection.
An experienced designer has the skill set to design packaging that is unique to your product and that prevents damage while stored and during shipping. Typical packaging designs usually include a combination of materials that are customized into shapes and sizes for your need.
In other words, there is not one blanket approach to industrial packaging. Each project is unique and addressed as such. For one item plastics and wood may be the best solution, for another it may be metal straps combined with corrugated cardboard.
Industrial packaging goes beyond boxes, crates and filler.
This type of packaging can include:
- Static protection
- Vibration protectors
- Pouches and bags
- Fillers and more
Every aspect of the packing needs is considered. Each part is evaluated for potential movement during shipping and stabilizers are designed to prevent that movement. Industrial packaging is all about custom fitting packaging needs to your specific products.
For example, in the case of sensitive electronics there may be several layers of protection added to screens to keep them from undue stress during shipping and storage that can result in cracks. Part of the packaging may include boards to mount the electronics to, vibration protectors inside the shipping container, pouches to contain small parts and more.
Customizations deliver the added protection that sensitive items need.
Think Outside the Box
When you think of packaging you likely think of things like boxes and crates. Industrial packaging takes you outside the box, or more accurately inside the box.
Some of the questions a packaging engineer will ask includes the following:
- What type of shifting is possible?
- Which surfaces need protection?
- How can vibration be avoided?
- What will best protect these fragile components?
- How much weight must be accounted for?
Each of the above bulleted points will be evaluated and the solutions will be incorporated into the overall package design. In industrial packaging design, what goes on inside the box is as important as the outside of the box.
Regulatory compliance of industrial packaging has started to get more stringent, what started out as suggestions have made the transition into law in quite a few countries around the world. Being sure that your product packaging is within the law starts with getting an expert on your team that understands what it takes not only to provide protection for your goods but to also meet the strict guidelines.
This is especially important if you are shipping to overseas locations where the laws may be different than the host country of production. Industrial packaging not only keeps your goods safe they also ensure that you follow “special rules” regarding certain items that may be included in your product that are listed as hazardous or potentially hazardous.
Learn the Lingo
Every industry has their own lingo including the packaging industry, learning the common terms will help you to better understand what people are talking about.
ABS Acrylonitrile — butadiene styrene (ABS)-is a hard-rigid plastic
Anti-Skid Corrugated — is corrugated carboard that has been treated to decrease its friction. It helps to keep boxes in place on pallets and shelves.
A Bail — is a handle that is attached to a container to assist with carrying.
Banding — is the process of securing a product for shipment. A band can be plastic, steel or cord.
B-Flute — is a piece of corrugation that stands at a height of 3/32 inch and are usually spaced at about 47-53 flutes a foot.
Blister Packaging — is a plastic clear dome packaging.
Box Blank — this is a flat piece of cardboard that has been cut and scored in preparation for it to be joined with other pieces of box blank to create a box! Who knew that box parts had their own name?
Box Style — this is the term used to categorize the type of box.
Carton — this is a box that can fold flat. In other words, the box is one piece that folds easily for storage until it is needed.
Case Sealer — automated equipment that seals cardboard boxes and other types of boxes or cases.
Corrugated Fiberboard — is material that the box is constructed from. It is a durable material.
Custom Packaging — is packaging the is made for a specific product.
Dividers — can be made from a wide range of materials. The primary purpose of dividers is to cushion separate and protect products.
Flute Corrugation — is part of the design of a corrugated box,
Master Packs — is shelf ready packaging that makes it easier for retails to load the goods in the shop.
Virgin Board — is a board that has not been chemically altered or bleached.
Web — is a complete sheet or paper or board that has not been cut or broken.
While the above is not a complete list of glossary terms for industrial packaging it is a good place to start. Understanding the meaning of the above list of words will ensure that you can speak with a packaging expert and know exactly what they are talking about.
Why is Industrial Packaging So Important?
Making sure your products and goods make it to the end user in pristine condition is critical to the success of your operation. The right packaging ensures that protection is a priority both during storage and shipping.
Having the right packaging will ensure:
- End users are satisfied with your products
- You are taking steps to reduce risk of losses and damage
- Your enterprises reputation is protected
- You keep costs down
- You reduce the risk of rough handling during transport
The right industrial packaging protects your goods and ensures that it can make it through the handling process both in the warehouse and during transport. Rough handling can easily damage goods that are not fully protected.
You do not want your equipment, parts or products arriving to the end user in less than satisfactory condition. The right industrial packaging assures that your products reach the end user and perform exactly as expected.
Industrial packaging helps to improve your enterprises reputation by keeping your products safe from the production point to the end user.
Your ROI in industrial packaging is realized through the reduction in risk of loss and damage. It can help to keep costs down by providing the protection your products deserve.
Transportation can be a rough process on your goods. Vibrations, rough handling and more can cause serious damage for unprotected goods. Knowing that your products are protected during shipping and storage allows you the peace of mind to focus on other things like your core business requirements.
When you have packaging designed to meet your specific product needs you can rest easy knowing that your products are protected.
It is the Cost of Doing Business
There is a cost factor when it comes to industrial packaging options compared to standard packaging options, but that cost factor is a necessity. You will pay more up front for the customized packaging that you need but the additional cost can be mitigated by the reduction in risk.
Most manufacturers that use industrial packaging pass on the additional costs through product markups. It is the cost of doing business and not something that can be avoided.