Waste reduction is a key pillar of sustainability improvement efforts, with packaging a substantial component under consideration. As the second largest e-commerce fulfillment business in the world after Amazon, Staples ships millions of packages each year to customers through their U.S. e-commerce fulfillment centers.
Looking for solutions to reduce packaging waste, Staples established its first packaging reduction goal, to accomplish a 20% reduction in packaging in the U.S. by 2020. Staples, in collaboration with Packsize International and its On Demand Packaging® technology, implemented a “Smart-size Packaging Program” in 2012 that produces customized packaging tailored to each order. The result—a better customer experience and improved supply chain sustainability and efficiency with every delivery order.
A pilot was completed in Staples’ fulfillment center in Orlando, Fla., in early 2011. During this initial phase, Packsize and Staples teams collaborated on everything from equipment layout and systems integration to process design. Once the pilot was successfully completed, the team turned to planning the full implementation. All along the way, the partnership between the teams has been a major factor in a seamless rollout as well as the generation of improvement opportunities beyond the initial implementation.
The creative solution comes from process change thinking with the material supply. Centralizing the packaging function, Packsize On Demand Packaging® improves the old
“store and retrieve” corrugated packaging process by placing a package converting machine with a very small footprint together with a stack of corrugated material on the pack line. Workers now have the ability to instantly create a box that matches the product to be packaged and shipped. Staples’ delivery boxes are customized for each order through a unique integration of systems, equipment, and processes. One Packsize corrugated converting machine is capable of converting up to 300 cases an hour in the following flute options: E, B, C, BE and BC.
As of March 2013, Staples has implemented “smart-size packaging” in 15 fulfillment centers and has realized significant cost savings, carbon footprint reduction, and associate and customer engagement. A few of the key accomplishments so far include:
Staples plans to complete installation of the Packsize On Demand Packaging® technology solution in all of its U.S. e-commerce fulfillment centers by the end of 2013. Beyond that, the company is evaluating expansion of the program across the global supply chain, pending WMS upgrades in several countries.