September 8, 2021


EPE USA Blog – Packaging design for optimizing freight costs.

With thirty-seven years of packaging experience, it is hard to argue that a package’s primary function needs to ensure product safety during transit. No matter what it looks like, big, small, or what it is made of, if the product doesn’t arrive safely to the end-user, then everything else doesn’t matter. Right? Product safety is the golden rule of packaging design and trumps all other packaging considerations. I know you are thinking about other packaging requirements, so go ahead and tell me what’s more important than the product arriving to the customer fully intact. I’ll wait. Are you all done? Good. So now we move on to other packaging considerations -right this way!

Second, on the list needs to be optimizing the package for freight. Why is freight second? Because you’ll most likely spend more on freight to ship your product than you’ll pay for your packaging. There are exceptions (think nuclear weapon packages), but in general, freight is the single highest cost to get products from the manufacturer to the end-user. I know your next question: Why aren’t freight costs first, or the most critical aspect to consider? I know it’s been a whole paragraph since you read it, but please refer to the golden rule above – the product must arrive safely, or nothing else matters!

I’m going to stay on freight costs for now because a good package design can minimize freight costs, whereas a poorly designed package can add high freight costs. With the current price of transit and logistic channels, freight can be a killer to profitability. Many people are aware that the typical pallet size is 48” X 40”. Height can vary based on the pallet and the transit vehicle’s single or double stacking capabilities. Still, for our purposes here, we can use the standard double stack pallet height of 48”. Now, inside this 48” X 40” X 48” finite amount of space exists roughly 48 cubic feet of space (you have to take out the pallet size – the actual number is 47.77 cubic feet, plus some more 7’s). Depending on what product you are manufacturing and planning to ship, getting the most parts per pallet will lower your freight costs when shipping dimensional weight. The math changes for density weight but not by much if you stay within the weight maximums. How do you get the most parts on the pallet possible? Optimize your packaging!

Designing packaging to minimize freight costs is always a consideration, but with the current freight costs, it is paramount to get your product in the smallest carton possible or get the most parts per pallet. That means your package design has pushed the protection envelope as far as possible to minimize the amount of packaging needed, thus creating the smallest carton possible. It’s a science but also a creative art. Where are the primary trade-offs? Here is an excellent example of packaging material trade-offs: EPS foam is relatively inexpensive, but it requires a lot of material to protect the product. This “lot of material” translates to a larger box. Taking PE or polyethylene foam costs more per board foot, but we can use a lot less to protect the product in transit, resulting in the smaller carton and thus lower freight costs. Get it? The key is to understand all the changing variables in packaging design and evaluate all the trade-offs in material, freight, and labor costs to pack out.

At EPE USA, we consider all these factors and provide best-in-class packaging designs and products at the lowest possible material and freight costs while never losing sight of the number one rule of packaging…the product must arrive safely.