Conventional packaging meets many demands – intelligent packaging can do even more. It is proactive and provides information about the condition, time and location of the transported goods. This is made possible by sensors applied on or inside the tertiary packaging. In this interview with iXtenso, Dr. Volker Lange, Head of Packaging and Retail Logistics at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics, delivers insights into the future of packaging logistics.
Dr. Lange, what is essential when it comes to packaging materials and containers to make them efficient and sustainable?
Packaging optimization in the retail sector includes packaging inserts und consumption. You ensure that overpacks are being avoided and eliminated for example. The reduction in packaging material use is a primary focus in this case. Another emphasis is on the use of modular packaging to optimally utilize the space, both on the pallets as well as ultimately on the shelves. The concept of reduction is consistent with ecologically worthwhile resource management.
Another element in the context of sustainability is packaging materials and packing supplies. There is currently a lot of research done into the area of biobased materials to study how other sustainable packaging materials can be brought into retail logistics. Having said that, this is not the focus of logistics but rather an emphasis of the packaging industry.
In actual logistics, it is essential for packaging to efficiently perform its task. That is to say that the products fit the packaging, while the packaging simultaneously fits the carriers, so they can be optimally transported, stored and turned over. The integration of packaging into the entire supply chain – that is the biggest challenge for logistics.
GS1 Germany has initiated a project designed to use cross-company and standardized reusable transport packaging for retail shipments. What are the advantages of a uniform system?
The use of returnable containers is meant to help reduce cardboard packaging as it pertains to repackaging and distributing of goods. Repackaging processes at central warehouses should be avoided whenever possible. Another advantage is the fact that uniform containers can be used by several partners, in this case by manufacturers and retailers. Thanks to the exchange, the total quantity of containers is being reduced. When reusable containers are used throughout the supply chain, individual steps in the process are being avoided.
An additional advantage of uniform and standardized reusable packaging is the optimal packing of pallets. Thanks to the increased stability and the modular containers, the pallets can be filled all the way to the top. This means the utilization is usually greater compared to disposable packaging. In this case, the heterogeneity in packaging limits both height and stability. According to the participants, the number of transported pallets was reduced during the project.