How to Leverage Returnable Packaging Systems for Automotive OEM Logistics

a holographic overlay of a logistics shipping map with a truck leaving a shipping yard and a plane in the background

Studies show reusable packaging can help businesses save up to 90% on their packaging costs. Not only can these containers help you save money in the automotive industry, but they are also better for the environment. They create less waste by not using precious materials. Your team won’t have to worry about breaking down boxes or throwing away several pounds of trash at the end of the day. 

If you’re ready to add reusable containers to your automotive OEM facility, you’ll need to find a way to return empty containers to the facility so they can be used to transport future orders. Creating a returnable packaging system is key to keeping your inventory moving. Use this guide to find a strategy that works for you and your team.

Creating a Package or Container Return System

There are several ways to create a package return system. Regardless of what style you choose, you should have way to:

  • Anticipate future demand for containers.
  • Count the number of containers currently in your possession.
  • Inspect returning containers before putting them back in the supply chain.
  • Come up with alternatives if some packages are unavailable. 

With a returnable packaging system, you will need to monitor your containers like you would your inventory. Every container should be recorded in the system. Workers should update the container’s location as it moves through the supply chain. Every order should be assigned to a specific container. Once the item has been delivered, the worker will check it off their list in the system, which shows you that the container is now on its way back to the facility or on route to another destination.

Your Voice Picking System Will Need Pallet Containers

a white shipping container being lifted by a forklift in  a shipping yard

Your team should also have a way for inspecting containers when they return to the facility. They should inspect each container for signs of damage and wear and tear. Containers unsuitable for shipment should be removed from service and recycled. Keep a line of extra containers on hand in case some of your returning packages are delayed or damaged. 

Tips for Returning Your Used Containers:

  • Utilize the Latest Technology

Technology can help you overcome the challenges of creating a returnable package system. Your workers can use automation and worker assist programs to quickly find containers in the workplace. Voice-command systems send directions to workers in real-time, so they don’t have to second guess themselves. The system will always direct the worker using the most efficient picking path for better time efficiency. 

You can also tag each one of your containers with a real-time GPS tracker. This allows you to track the container as it moves on the map. This will help you better prepare for delays and shortages that will keep you from sending your packages out for delivery. 

  • Choose the Right Type of Container

Your returnable package system will only be successful if you’re using the right type of containers. First and foremost, you should make sure the containers are designed to be used more than once. Use bulk wire baskets and other types of durable containers that can make the trip more than once. Ideally, the container should be made of either plastic, metal or wood. These materials should provide protection from the elements without breaking down over time. 

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You should also use containers that make it easy to transport your goods. Use a pallet container that fits onto a standard pallet to keep your inventory moving. You don’t have to worry about shrink wrapping your goods to the pallet or using other disposable materials. 

 a close up of a customs declaration

  • Label Your Packages

It’s easy for some containers to get lost in the shuffle. If you decide to leave your empty containers with the customer so you can retrieve them at a later date, make sure they have the right label. Your business partners can use this information to send the package back to the original destination. 

Choose the right type of label for your containers so they don’t fall off during transit. Learn more about how to avoid labeling mistakes when working with wooden crates and other types of containers.  

Save with Returnable Packaging

Say goodbye to disposable packaging by creating your own returnable container system. Your team can quickly move containers in and out of rotation based on demand. You’ll be amazed at how much money you can save over time. 

Image Credits:



Claudio Divizia/