Packaging Waste: Large Box Use Out of Hand?

The smell of fall is beginning to radiate throughout the air. After a fun-filled summer of outdoor amusement, summer is just starting to wind down. This is also the time of year when teachers begin preparing their classrooms for a whole new group of students. I know this time of year well as my wife is a teacher. Each year right around this time, she begins receiving large orders of school supplies in the mail. Every day it seems as if there is a new “gift” of supplies waiting on our front steps. However, as I help my wife prepare and organize her supplies I am noticing a distinct trend of waste with packaging. As a lean advocate, I naturally have a more critical eye when it comes to discerning waste. Nonetheless, the types of waste that I have been noticing with my wife’s supply orders are not only obvious to me but to my wife as well.

Lots and Lots of Oversized Boxes

In order to really describe the waste involved with this situation, let me provide you with the details.

My wife made a fairly large order on Amazon, I’m pretty sure she ordered supplies from various merchants such as Sam’s Club etc., via the amazon site. Anyhow, as the items and products began to arrive at our doorstep, I started to take notice of the large box sizes. Trying to be helpful I would go and retrieve the boxes off of our doorstep to make life just a little easier for my wife. However, each time I would pick up a large box expecting it to be full and therefore quite heavy, it would be alarmingly light. Honestly, if I wouldn’t have known better I would have thought the box was full of helium filled balloons versus classroom supplies. Out of curiosity I would watch as my wife would open the large boxes and pull out just one or two little items. Needless to say this was shocking! I constantly found myself saying the same sentence aloud, “That’s all that was in there!” On average, the products within each box filled up less than a tenth of the actual box size. What a waste! This did not just happen once or twice but several times. To put this into better perspective, I could have filled the whole entire back of a van with the empty product boxes and fit all the actual products that arrived in them neatly on the front seat.

Waste is the Enemy of Lean

Let’s consider some of the drawbacks to using oversized boxes, instead of appropriate sized boxes for shipping products.

  • Larger boxes take up more room on pallets as the boxes are readied for shipping.
  • Bigger boxes require more space in the mail delivery vehicles. Therefore, less mail and other packages are able to fit in the same delivery truck.
  • Oversized packaging is cumbersome for customers to recycle.
  • More product filler (packaging peanuts, bubble wrap, or other misc. filling) is needed to fill up the unused space in large boxes.

These are just a few of the most obvious drawbacks of using oversized packaging for a small item. In order to truly embrace lean and improve productivity and eliminate waste, something must change in regards to packaging waste. We cannot continue to create waste if we are looking to improve our overall business practices. The simple and most obvious answer to the problem of using overly sized boxes for shipping small orders is to use smaller boxes. Why this isn’t happening is a mystery to me. However, it is a relatively easy fix that has the potential to yield fantastic results.

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