Packaging logistics is a sub-area of logistics; it is a link between production and distribution. In addition to packaging materials, packaging logistics also deals with the corresponding processes and structures of packing and packaging; as a result, it is identified overall as a field of work that offers enormous potential for optimisation and savings. It must be distinguished from the concept of logistical packaging, which refers mainly to the type of packaging, such as insulating packaging.

Packaging: Definition

Packaging is the wrapping of a packaged good to protect the environment or the packaged good itself, for portioning for production/use and also for transport, storage and marketing. The packaging consists of packaging material and packaging aids which in turn enable packaging, sealing and preparation for dispatch. Packaging is the result of a packaging process (see also (sorter) packing), which begins with the design of the packaging and, viewed holistically, forms a packaging system.

Packaging is a coordinated system of preparing goods for safe, secure, efficient and effective handling, transport, distribution, storage, retailing, consumption and recovery, reuse or disposal combined with maximizing consumer value, sales and hence profit.

Mazen Saghir / The Concept of Packaging Logistics / Lund University

The functions of packing or packaging can be divided into three areas:

  • Logistics (enabling and facilitating transport, protecting products and the environment, making information (see also Information in Intralogistics) available, see for example RFID)
  • Marketing (format, design, customer loyalty and satisfaction)
  • Environment (recyclable, reusable, one-way, reverse logistics)

Packaging logistics: Tasks

Packaging logistics must be coordinated with both warehouse and transport logistics. All three areas have in common that they represent a link between production and distribution (see also Distribution Center). The control, organisation and optimisation of a company’s packaging processes are the responsibility of packaging logistics. Thus, packaging logistics takes care of the coordination of the interests of storage and transport logistics and must also agree on an optimal solution with the packaging manufacturer.

If logistics is understood as a field of activity that plans, implements and controls the corresponding processes and structures, while packaging contains, secures and protects products, advertises and informs – then packaging logistics encompasses a spectrum of optimisation that extends from production to the end-user; even beyond that, as the disposal of the packaging must be considered.

From the company’s point of view, the packaging process is the central element in the process chain of picking/ packing / preparing for dispatch. Efficient packaging logistics save costs by keeping packing and unpacking times as short as possible. Packaging logistics also influences storage costs by optimally calculating the space required and selecting the types of packaging accordingly in order to achieve the most efficient use of space (see also storage capacity). Taken as a holistic approach, it is possible to consider a packaging system that goes so far as to lead to a lower transport volume, for example through space-saving packaging.
Thus, packaging logistics can save costs along the value chain as well as protect the environment. The following example clearly shows how the many facets of packaging logistics (intralogistics, logistics, environment and marketing) are reflected in an integral solution.

Example nExtCOMbag

In addition to the logistical challenges, the enormous growth of e-commerce also places a considerable burden on the environment. On the one hand, the goods ordered are often shipped in oversized packaging, which means that around one-fifth of the volume transported by road is air only; and on the other hand, especially in the fashion sector, plastic bags are increasingly being used as shipping packaging, which, although they allow better use of space during transport, represent a major environmental burden during production and disposal.

This is where the nExtCOMbag packaging logistics solution based on paper bags comes into play, which is designed for fully automatic packaging. This automated packaging system combines environmental, economic and marketing aspects. It includes logistical aspects such as sorting, filling, document management, packaging material handling, joining of container and packaging, printing of the shipping label and the final volume-optimised sealing of single and multi-item orders. Due to the packaging material (paper) and the space-saving bag character, it is a very environmentally friendly solution, which is also characterized by low staff deployment in the packing department and fast scaling during off-peak or peak periods. In addition, the paper bag enables an individual design including space utilization, which marketing can use effectively for brand communication and corporate branding*.

Packaging Systems

There are different layers and types of packaging in a packaging system. Each layer has its own functions and priorities, which can be optimized. Furthermore, it is crucial for a functioning packaging logistics system that the layers interact smoothly with each other. In the following the most important and most common types of packaging in the field of (intra-)logistics:

  • Primary packaging (packaging is in direct contact with the product; packaging that the consumer receives)
  • Secondary packaging (contains several primary packagings)
  • Tertiary packaging (several primary or secondary packaging arranged together on a pallet (see EPAL) or container)
  • Group packaging (packaging that protects or presents several primary packagings)
  • Transport packaging/industrial packaging (to ensure efficient production and distribution through quick and easy handling, transport and storage of several primary packagings; also to prevent transport damage and incorrect handling)
  • Used packaging (packaging material that accumulates after unpacking the product)

Packaging logistics and sustainability

Sustainability is by now a very important topic in logistics and even more so in packaging logistics. The terms that describe the challenges for which packaging logistics must find solutions in this respect are, for example, multi-component packaging, air in the packages and plastic in the oceans. The directive proposal for recycling quotas DIN NA 115 CEN/TC 261 takes into account, on the one hand, the increased demands of end customers and, on the other hand, the EU ban on plastics, which still has to be implemented, and a new packaging law.

Editor’s note: Of the total plastics processing in the EU countries including Switzerland and Norway, 39.7 percent is attributable exclusively to packaging**. In this context, the increased use of reusable solutions is particularly beneficial. For this purpose, the appropriate reusable packaging must be selected by completely defining the corresponding requirements. These include: Dimensions, loads, markings, intelligent load carriers and custom solutions. The entire process must also be analysed, i.e. the supply chains, turnaround times, cleaning and of course transport – including the transport of empties. It is also necessary to implement container management (track and trace, replenishment, deposit system).

After all, a reusable circuit is different from a linear one-way process;

  • from the logistics centre the packed goods are transported to the trading centre
  • the empties must be returned to the logistics centre
  • there the empties are used again as packaging.

It is also important to find solutions for the recycling and upcycling of materials. It becomes clear how holistic the packaging logistics must operate.

Summary of packaging logistics

Packaging logistics is to be understood as a holistic approach that connects the processes and structures of logistics with the processes and structures of packaging. In packaging logistics, both areas interact with each other, complementing and adapting to each other. Thus, the influence of packaging logistics ranges from production, transport and the end consumer to the disposal of the packaging material. Specifically, this involves the planning, implementation and control of coordinated packaging systems.

*The example given is a development of Dr. Thomas + Partner, the company that initiated and operates Logistik KNOWHOW.
**Source: **

If you are interested in the subject of packaging, please read the articles Insulated Packaging – Maintaining the Cold Chain in the Supply Chain and Life Cycle Assessment.

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