This Week in Logistics News (November 12-16, 2018)

We received the first snow of the season last night, followed by heavy rains. It’s a slushy mess out there.

On the bright side, my daughter is coming home today for Thanksgiving break, so we’re all very excited to see her.

I know I’m a few years late, but I started binge-watching Downton Abbey last week (I’m on episode 7, season two). I’ve started calling my wife “My lady” but she hasn’t come around to calling me “My lord” just yet. Maybe next season.

Okay, enough procrastination. Here’s the supply chain and logistics news that caught my attention this week:

California Fires: How Can Logistics Professionals Help?

Just last month, we highlighted how The American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) was seeking support from the supply chain and logistics community with relief efforts following hurricanes Florence and Michael. ALAN is now seeking support in response to the California fires. Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

“The need for our supply chain assistance to the people who are being impacted in California hasn’t been extensive yet,” said ALAN Executive Director Kathy Fulton. “However the operative word is yet, which is why we hope members of the logistics community will stay in touch with us often in the days or weeks ahead — or consider making a pre-offer of any space, services and equipment they’d be willing to donate to relief efforts. Like many disasters this one will continue to be an ongoing story for us for many weeks or months to come, so every donation or offer of assistance truly helps.” Started last Thursday, the California Camp Fire has destroyed more than 125,000 acres and claimed 42 lives, making it the deadliest in state history. Meanwhile, the Woolsey Fire has claimed two lives and destroyed nearly 100,000 acres.

Kathy Fulton was my guest on Talking Logistics recently where she discussed how ALAN works with the supply chain and logistics community to provide emergency response services. I will share highlights from our conversation next week.

I’ll just repeat what I said last month: if you can provide warehousing, transportation and/or material handling equipment to support disaster relief efforts, I encourage you to contact ALAN. It’s during these times that our industry and its people truly shine the brightest.

Tide in a Box: E-Commerce a Catalyst for Smarter Packaging

E-commerce is serving as a catalyst for developing smarter packaging — that is packaging (both primary and secondary) that uses less material, enables more products to fit per case and more cases to fit per pallet (thus saving on transportation costs), and for products to be shipped directly to consumers without extra packaging.

I’ve highlighted examples in the past of how smarter packaging translates into significant transportation savings, such as Sealed Air with its iBubbleWrap (Bubble Wrap Loses Its Pop for Logistics Cost Savings) and how IKEA designs its packaging with shipping in mind (The Better Goal: More Efficient Trucks or Using Fewer Trucks?)

The rapid growth of e-commerce, coupled with pressure from Amazon, is leading companies to rethink and redesign their packaging. Last December, for example, the Wall Street Journal highlighted this example:

Take Philips’s Norelco OneBlade trimmer and shaver, which is sold in stores with 13 packaging pieces. But Philips created special packaging for Amazon: A plain brown box, which eliminates the need to put the razor in a separate Amazon box, cuts out four pieces of packaging and is about 80% smaller in volume than the box needed to ship the store version. Shoppers can select between the two types of packaging on the site, “standard” and “frustration-free.”

And this week, CNN reported that “P&G rolled out the new ‘Tide Eco-Box’ [that] features a twist-to-open pour for the detergent, a pull-out stand, and a measuring cup. The liquid formula, which contains less water than normal Tide, comes in a sealed bag.” Here are some more details from the article:

The version uses 60% less plastic than shipping an equivalent 150 ounce bottle of Tide since it doesn’t require additional layers of cardboard boxing or bubble wrap. It’s lighter and takes up less space in a delivery truck—saving P&G money on shipping costs.

“Its size is perfect for the e-commerce supply chain,” said David Luttenberger, global packaging director at market research firm Mintel. “It’s an easy package for nearly any consumer to pick it up, manipulate the opening features, and dispense from.”

It’s taken a long time, but at last, packaging, transportation, and merchandising are starting to collaborate to create smarter packaging that reduces material and transportation costs and provides environmental benefits too.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Midnight” by Yaz (or Yazoo for those of you outside the U.S.)