Stuart Fish, team leader for void fill and protection solutions at Automated Packaging Systems, explores how businesses need to factor in all aspects including long-term benefits, maintenance, reliability and price, to get a true indication of whole life costs of protective packaging.

Business planning is a priority for most companies at this time of year and, with the pound low and inflation at a five-year high, increasing price pressures means comprehensive 2018 planning is crucial. Cost of services, goods and processes needs to be re-evaluated by businesses ahead of producing future budgets. One major area for review in mail order fulfilment companies is the packaging but when evaluating existing or potential solutions, it’s important that businesses explore the whole life costs rather than simply the price of individual components. The capital expenditure of buying or renting machinery needs to be factored, along with scheduled maintenance and any necessary replacements or repairs.

Buying machinery can mean a capital expenditure in either a one-off outlay or spread over a number of months or years. Alternatively, the option to simply rent the machinery from a provider gives the same benefits of spreading a cap-ex cost but also removes the need to invest in maintenance and sometimes costly repairs, as the machinery can simply be swapped out for a replacement from the provider. 

The knowledge that all repairs or issues are dealt with by the provider coupled with the fact that the machinery can be upgraded or replaced with the latest model can bring both peace of mind and tangible business benefits, removing any issues with repairs, upgrades or maintenance.

The packing material is also an important factor in both the quality of the packaging and the overall cost. Poly chips, bubble wrap, paper and protective pillows are just some of the packing material options available in the market and each one needs to be carefully reviewed for its benefits.

While one packaging product may be cheaper per metre, another may use far less material thus proving to be the more cost-effective solution. For example, more paper will be needed to fill a void than protective pillows, so overall protective pillows are often a more cost-effective solution.Protective pillows offer a number of other tangible benefits too. Delivered uninflated, the packaging is compact and can be easily stored without using up valuable warehouse space that could be utilised for additional stock or packing areas.

For example, Automated Packaging Systems’ AirPouch® range can be inflated just before use directly from the boxes it’s delivered in, making the process smooth and without the need for additional operatives. Alternatively, protective pillows can be inflated in advance and kept beside the packing areas. The easy-tear perforated design of AirPouch® improves efficiency as the pillows can be easily separated, speeding up the whole packing process, meaning businesses may be able to reduce the number of staff needed to fulfil its packaging targets.

As the lightest solution on the market, selecting protective pillows means that a company can reduce its delivery and logistics costs, providing additional savings in the whole life costs calculation.

Another element to be taken into consideration is the benefits of a partnership. Individually, products will come with a price but what may not be factored in is the value of service included. Having a partner who reviews and streamlines your business processes may provide more long-term value than a supplier who offers the cheapest machinery.

Our ‘Total Systems Approach’ means we provide consultative advice to our customers, visiting their sites and reviewing their processes to improve efficiency. Advice on how best to layout a packing line or how to streamline a process can bring tangible cost benefits through increasing the number of packs per hour that can be processed.Having the cheapest and quickest packaging solution doesn’t necessarily mean having the most efficient and cost effective. It’s important for a business to review its solution annually and to take the long-term benefits around its selected choice into account. 

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