January 3, 2014
Our Take on The Rapid Packing Container
This last week a video about boxes, of all things, went viral. Two engineering students, Henry Wang and Chris Curro, made the bold claim that they will revolutionize the box industry with their new box design. So naturally we took notice. What’s our take on this invention? Is it the solution to packaging waste? Will this truly revolutionize the shipping industry?
Let’s look at the main reasons why I don’t think it will:
Saving 15 Percent of the Corrugated Cardboard
The first claim of the video is that the average corrugated box is wasteful and that the Rapid Packing Container uses 15% – 20% less cardboard. While the box really does use less cardboard, there’s a caveat with that claim that diminishes the impact of the corrugated saved.
All boxes are cut out of flat sheets of corrugated and then glued and folded. There’s no reason to believe the Rapid Packing Container will be any different. Naturally, cutting the box out of the sheet will produce some waste, but the width of the sheet that it’s cut from will be minimized to produce as little waste as possible.
That wasted corrugated will then be recycled and put back into the manufacturing plant, but there are real time and energy costs associated with doing so. Also, cardboard isn’t infinitely recyclable in the same way that aluminum is.
Now that you know that, look at the picture below and take note of how much of the sheet will be used for a Rapid Packing Container versus your standard RSC:
You see, the savings that come from the new container have to come from somewhere else. In this case, the excess corrugated is dumped on the manufacturer.
I did try to see if there was a way to make multiple Rapid Packing Container cutouts fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, but there’s no easy way that keeps the wasted corrugated anywhere near as low as the standard RSC.
The Problem with Box Sizes
The big “wow” moment in this video happens at about the 1:10 mark. You see Curro fold a Rapid Packing Container box in a fraction of the time it takes Wang to fold a standard RSC of the same size. The secret to this wonder comes from a packaging jig that does most of the folding for you instantaneously.
While very cool and ingenious, it raises one obvious question: what about multiple box sizes? The jig is clearly designed for just one size of box. If you have four or more box sizes, will you need that many jigs in order to fold them all? What about oddly shaped boxes?
Having one jig for every box size in a warehouse will quickly become impractical and inconvenient.
Now, Curro did fold the box without the jig at the 2:00 mark, but doing so removes the benefit of being able to assemble boxes so quickly in the first place. Which leads us to my next point…
How Quickly Can We Fold Boxes Anyway?
Is assembling a corrugated box really as difficult as this video makes it seem? Here’s a gif of Wang folding and taping a standard RSC:
And here’s a gif of one of our guys doing it from one of our YouTube videos:
Our guy is folding boxes at about the same speed that Curro is folding the Rapid Packing Container. Now it’s obvious that the Bottom Case Sealer that we’re using is making this process easier. But even without it, your average packaging person should be able to fold a box without looking like they belong in an infomercial.
Is it Important for a Box to Be Able to Open Easier?
Just over halfway through the video, it’s revealed that the box can easily open itself in seconds with just a press of the top panel.
While I’ve cursed trying to open overly packaged products before, the point of a shipping container isn’t to be easy to open. It is to protect your product no matter what happens to it. Imagine a couple of Amazon workers tossing this package to each other, and one of them just happens to catch it at the wrong angle. Or think about packages being stacked seven boxes high in the back of a delivery van when the box on the bottom accidentally opens after a nasty pothole. In both cases, you’d have a disaster for the package you just ordered.
Now For the Good:
I hope I haven’t come off as overly critical of this video. That wasn’t my intention. Henry Wang and Chris Curro are both bright guys who will clearly be successful in the future. They’re asking the right questions and are looking for an innovative solution to the packaging problem. And their video did get over 2.5 million views in a week, which is more than we here at Packsize can say <sniff>.
And there are some good ideas here that could go somewhere. The Rapid Packing Container could find life as a gift box for smaller items that don’t need to be shipped. And if that jig could be redesigned to handle any box size, you’d have a pretty useful invention for packaging.
However, a much easier way to cut down on packaging waste would be to eliminate void fill by cutting down on empty space—a solution that is offered by Packsize.
Take a moment to learn about why having an infinite number of box sizes will help you cut down on packaging by downloading our white paper, “How Many Box Sizes Is Enough?”