How Cartonization Reduces Supply Chain Costs and Waste

By Molly Goad

Cartonization is an area in supply chain management that is often overlooked. 

Say you have a few items to ship, and the box you have on hand leaves 50% open space. You fill it with air pillows or newspaper and move on. No big deal at home, but when it happens in the supply chain — as it often does — it’s an opportunity to cut costs. 

When you have a whole truckload of shipments in boxes that contain 50% — or more — of wasted space, you could be shipping out twice the orders on one truck. All you need is the proper boxes, and a little help determining how to pack specific items. 

What is Cartonization?

Cartonization is a process that evaluates the dimensions of all items in an order to determine the optimal packaging size. The goal is to pack products as tightly as possible while maintaining the integrity of the items. Without a cartonization system, warehouse employees don’t always choose the most efficient box because they simply want to keep moving orders out the door. This is understandable; they just want to be productive. 

Cartonization is an automated process that can be added to the warehouse management system (WMS) to tell the packer exactly what box to use, and offers a visual detailing how each item should be placed in said box. It uses advanced algorithms that know the products’ material, shape, dimensions, weight, and unique characteristics (does the product need to be refrigerated; handled with care; or separated due to toxicity?). 

Many software solutions not only tell you how to pack the boxes, but also how to load them on a pallet, in the truck, on a trailer, and so forth, using the best possible configuration.

Benefits of Cartonization

  1. Reduce carbon footprint with less packaging.
  2. Better packaging leads to fewer breakages in transit. Companies that have optimized their packaging have seen their return rate decrease. 
  3. Reduce customer annoyance while improving optics. Let’s face it, smart packaging makes you look, well, smart. I don’t know about you, but I’ve shook my head after opening a large box that contains a small item inside. Also, breaking down unnecessarily large boxes is annoying! Cartonization keeps the customers happy.
  4. Fewer delivery trucks are needed when the packages are filled with less and less air. Which means cost savings, a reduction in emissions, and faster delivery times. 

Cartonization Solutions

There are a host of options available today, as you might imagine. I learned of Paccurate when listening to the Digital Supply Chain podcast. In episode 254, host Tom Raferty spoke with James Malley, CEO and co-founder of Paccurate — a company that has been helping customers reduce cubic volume, wasted material, and shipping costs with its patented cartonization solution since 2009. (You can listen to the entire delightful conversation yourself — it’s less than 20 minutes and quite interesting!)

Paccurate offers on demand analyses and simulations so you can see how different packing scenarios will affect shipping costs. Malley says when a batch of orders hits the distribution center or warehouse, it is routed to the Paccurate API, which sends back visual packing instructions that reflect the most cost efficient and sustainable way of arranging the items in the shipments.

The Paccurate API integrates with any WMS, including BOLD VAN’s distribution enablement system. Users can simply keep doing what they’re doing. 

“We don’t want to get in the way,” Malley said in the podcast. “We just want you to pop up our visual instructions at the time of packing.”

Other solutions available include Cube-IQ by Magic Logic (which stands out with its 24-7 customer support), Carton Space Optimizer by SCT Software, Webster Cartonization Software, and CubeMaster by Logen Solutions Software. Of course, there are many more out there that can be configured to operate with BOLD VAN’s suite of solutions!

Historical Data Analysis

If you’re unsure about the difference cartonization will make in your operations, you can allow history to predict the future. Paccurate, for example, can take a look at large amounts of past shipments and let you know if the packaging was optimal. The resulting report offers specific solutions for how to improve — such as adding different sizes of boxes to the warehouse — and shows how many trailers you would have saved per week using cartonization.

“There’s an amazing amount of opportunity to reduce waste, just by paying a little bit more attention to your carton sizes,” Malley said in the podcast.

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