The Rise of Fit-to-Product Packaging

Published December 16, 2019

When it comes to the CPG and SPA industries, we’ve seen trends driving packaging changes at quick rates. Just look at Amazon’s contributions. On July 5, 1994, the small start-up began selling books online and shipping them to homes. Within five years, Amazon had expanded into many markets, pulling in a quarter of a million customers per quarter. After 25 years of business, the company is currently worth $1 trillion and ships over billions of packages each year, significantly contributing to product packaging needs in the United States and worldwide.

To meet growing ecommerce needs and allocate resources more effectively, packaging manufacturers began thinking outside the box. In addition to creating more efficient packaging automation machinery, manufacturers have been striving to find creative packaging solutions that eliminate waste, save time, and preserve resources—without sacrificing the quality consumers have come to expect. Let’s take a look at one alternative to standard corrugated boxes: fit-to-product packaging.

The Evolution of Product Packaging

Until recently, consumer packaged goods and other products were packed in perfectly square corrugated cartons, varying in dimension according to the contents. Not every product fits perfectly in a universal box, though. If a supplier carried multiple products or multiple sizes of products, they were forced to keep an inventory of box sizes on hand to fill orders. Not only does this method take up space, but it also uses up resources that might be utilized elsewhere. 

In the pursuit of more efficient and sustainable packaging solutions, we’ve seen packaging vessels evolve from the usage of standard corrugated boxes to stand-up pouches, bioplastics, and paper options. But while waste reduction is quickly becoming vital, these types of packaging solutions aren’t a good fit for every shape or size product.

Emerging Packaging Options

To accommodate more products and irregular sizes, new technologies, like FtP and box-on-demand packaging, have hit the market.

Fit-to-Product Packaging

Fit-to-product (FtP) packaging has quickly become a buzzword in the CPG and SPA community. By creating custom corrugated cases to the exact specifications of a product, FtP systems protect products during manufacturing, shipping, and transportation. They also eliminate the need to maintain an inventory of multiple carton sizes, since cases of any dimension can be built quickly and easily. Moving forward, we expect to see increased demand for fanfold boards and printers that can work in FtP compatibility.

Box-on-Demand Packaging

Similar to FtP packaging, box-on-demand packaging allows products to be shipped in the smallest possible carton by creating the ideal size of box for every product. This type of custom packaging saves time and resources by cutting down on wasted space and reducing the need for fillers. 

FtP and box-on-demand technologies are especially attractive to multi-channel brands, which sell a wide variety of products to a diverse consumer base. Although both of these packaging technologies are relatively new to the packaging industry, their use is quickly expanding as an increasing number of companies search for cost-effective packaging and shipping solutions. Only 7 percent of companies are making their cases on demand, but that number is expected to rise as already massive ecommerce brands like Amazon continue to grow. These technologies will—and already are—prompting large-scale changes across the packaging industry, bringing new challenges to brands, manufacturers, and marketers alike.

Market Implications Due to the Evolution of Product Packaging

A study by Peerless Research discusses how packaging optimization using FtP and box-on-demand technology ripples down a supply chain. When products are efficiently packed, the number of products packed per case can be increased. In turn, this affects the number of products per pallet and ups a truck’s transportation capability. Not only does this method of packaging reduce overall shipping costs through consolidation, but it also saves time. 

When Peerless Research asked distributors where their fulfillment pain points were, the top three answers included transportation, labor, and materials and packaging. While not every packaging investment is a smart one, supporters of box-on-demand packages report a number of advantages, including:

  • Corrugate quantity reduction of 28% 
  • A filling material reduction of 80-90% 
  • 20-35% savings more than conventional supply chains
  • Labor reduction up to 75%, including dunnage, packing, carton sealing, and taping 

For packaging professionals, FtP packaging and other new trends may represent a shift in the CPG industry. To keep up with manufacturers who are already exploring these new approaches, even packaging professionals must be prepared to adapt. 

Stay Ahead With the Right Packaging Partner

As evolving consumer trends continue to drive packaging changes, having the right packaging automation partner is key to remaining competitive. At INSITE, our cutting-edge case erectors and case sealers are designed to simplify packaging and streamline your production processes. Contact us today to learn more about how the packaging professionals at INSITE can help you stay at the forefront of the secondary packaging industry.

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