Rethinking the Price of Packaging

When it comes to cost-saving solutions, one of the most overlooked areas for a potential windfall is shipping. For many companies, shipping materials and supplies are written off as a necessary evil, a part of doing business that sucks away capital and man hours into an endless black hole of expense. Part of the reason so many businesses fail to see the cost-saving solutions in their shipping department is because they fail to view the entire system instead of individual components.

When shipping components are viewed individually, it may be hard to identify cost-saving solutions. After all, each step in the process is necessary, and cutting corners could negatively impact the products or services. When put together, however, it is possible to see how the various links in the shipping chain fit together, overlap, or fail to work in harmony. Some of the most frequently overlooked components of the shipping and handling system involve ergonomics, environmental impact, and corporate image.

By looking at shipping systems from a multi-faceted viewpoint, you will see how something as simple as choosing the wrong commercial packaging materials can cause problems in the shipping chain, may lead to handling problems, can cause issues with environmental regulations, and may lead to a waste of space. In short, a re-evaluation of packing and shipping considerations can lead to dramatic cost-saving solutions in both time and materials. Consider these 5 important packaging essentials:


The primary purpose of primary and secondary packaging is protection. The primary packing material is the container the goods are initially stored in. The secondary container would be a larger box or crate containing multiple primary containers. A container should protect your goods against a number of different hazard potentials:

Crushing Wetting Shock/Vibration Drying UV Light
Bacteria Fungus Insects/Vectors Mixing Melting/Thawing

Obviously, the type of materials you are shipping will determine the type of packing protection required. Frozen fish will need to be protected against thawing or melting; electronics need protection from electrostatic discharge (ESD), wetting, etc.; potassium would need to be protected from water; and so forth. Hazardous materials are going to have a whole different level of compliance, as do food and food-related products, which must be in containers that meet food safety regulations and can withstand sanitation processes, such as infrared and washing.

The environment you operate in is a primary concern when choosing commercial packaging materials. For example, corrugated boxes lose a tremendous amount of their strength when damp. Thus, humid environments can have a major impact on the effectiveness of this type of container. Don’t just think about where the box is packed, but follow the shipping route. It does not do you any good to select a shipping container that works at the source but which is falling apart at its destination.

The containers should not just protect the goods that are being shipped, but need to protect the environment around the shipping area as well. This is well mandated in legislation. For example, The International Phytosanitary Standard for Wood Packaging – ISPM15, has been adopted by over a dozen countries in addition to the entire European Union, the United States, and Canada. It mandates that all forms of wood packaging material, from shipping pallets to wood crates, be debarked and heat treated to prevent the spread of harmful insects.

Utilizing reusable pallets, plastic or metal pallets, is the simplest idea of our cost-saving solutions. Plastic pallets do not need to be heat treated and have a much higher life span that wooden ones. Metal pallets have an even longer lifespan and are the best choice for handling heavy loads. Metals range from aluminum to stainless steel and steel, based on need.

For example, stainless steel and aluminum pallets can be welded, and resist corrosion and heat. Metal also resists bacteria and mold, so it is great for food processing, meat packing, or pharmaceutical plants. Of course, if you are shipping to an company that does not return pallets and/or does not return shipping, it may be more cost-effective to use plastic pallets if you are trying to cut costs.


When considering the type of container to use for your goods, consider how they will be packed, moved, transported, unloaded, unpacked, etc. By thinking through the entire process, you may find areas where changes need to be made. For example, when commercial packaging materials are removed from pallets, where do they go? When containers take up warehouse space or cause hazards, this may be the result of inefficient packaging. If your containers can save your customers time, space, and money, this is a sales/profit point.

How will your containers be moved? If they will be moved manually, there are often safety standards that limit the weight of the container. You may also want to choose containers that are ergonomically designed to be lifted by hand. When automated processes are used, the containers can be larger, but they also need to be able to handle the extra stresses that they may encounter.

Considerations for pallets and package handling become even more important during intermodal transportation. Variables include the number of transportation modes, the order of transportation chain, the distance that the goods will be shipped, the time they may spend on a dock or in a warehouse, the manner in which they will be moved, and so forth. Each shipping component adds a different twist to the handling needs of your goods.

Based on how the commercial packaging materials will be moved, you will want to consider pocket handles, cross-stacking bottoms, and so forth. When space is a consideration, stackable and nesting containers make a lot of sense. When thinking about your packing at the other end of the line, choosing stack and nest totes may help your customers maximize their space as well.


One of the primary ways many companies maximize their savings is in the use of customized containers. While it may cost slightly more up front, the savings quickly add up when the amount of packing foam, peanuts, bubble wrap, etc., is reduced. Many companies are surprised at the minimal costs associated with slight changes to packaging dimensions when compared to the commercial packaging materials needed to fill larger containers.

Not only is space wasted in primary packaging, but it is wasted in secondary packaging and palleting, as well. Too often, businesses choose primary packaging first, and then fit as many of the containers as they can on the pallets. This is a certain formula for wasted space. By not maximizing pallet space, freight charges increase on every step of the transportation route.

Put another way, your shipping container has a fixed space. Your product takes up a fixed space. Yet, the number of products you can put on each pallet and the number of pallets that can fit in your shipping container are variable, based upon your packaging choices and the way you use your pallets.

For example, many plastic pallets are designed to be used with straight wall totes and top caps. Many plastic pallets have a lip around the edges so totes fit perfectly, thus maximizing space on the pallet.

Collapsible pallet containers are another way around the standard pallet/package scenario. Both collapsible and non-collapsible bulk storage containers boast the same dimensions as a standard pallet, and are able to protect and safeguard your materials. Heavy-duty bins can safely hold up to 2,500 pounds. Containers can be customized with no doors, 2 drop doors, or 4 drop doors for easy loading and unloading of materials.

The non-collapsible container without drop doors are usually selected when goods are loose or in bulk, thus creating side pressure on the container. These containers are also excellent for shipping powders, granules, or other substances that would require solid bottoms and floors, and a complete sealing.

You might also consider the wood crate. As with wood pallets, wood crates must be heat-treated. This makes them reusable as shipping crates for other products for export. They are also cheap enough to be used as a one-way shipping option.


Another way to save huge amounts of money on packing and shipping costs is to make use of reusable containers. Not only are used containers cheaper than buying them new, but if you ship containers back and forth within your infrastructure, you do not need to constantly purchase disposable commercial packaging materials.

Remember, when selecting commercial packaging materials, the main consideration should be ensuring the package contents arrive to your customer in good condition. Whether new or used, disposable or re-usable, commercial packaging materials must be able to stand up to the wear and tear of shipping, and the environmental conditions to which it will be exposed, including rain, heat, pests, humidity, snow, freezing conditions, and so forth.

Once you find the commercial packaging materials that are right for you, reusable containers can greatly reduce expenses by reducing packaging, labor costs, and product damage. Of course, you need to pick the right containers in order to maximize cube utilization, thereby decreasing overall freight costs. After all, your commercial packaging materials may be reusable, but your freight charges just keep adding up. Your freight options may contain fixed dimensions, but the containers you choose to package and ship your products are flexible. This is where you save your money.

Consider the difference in footprint between a 48″ x 45″ pallet and a 36″ x 36″, a 48″ x 40″, a 43″ x 43″, etc. If using a 40′ shipping container, an extra three 36″ x 36″ pallets can be fit per level. If stacked two high, that is an extra six pallets per container. Granted, this pallet size may not work for your particular goods, but the point is valid. Pallets can be matched to shipping containers. If the packaging is then selected for the pallet, you can maximize cube utilization instead of wasting space and commercial packaging materials.

Reusable packaging comes in a number of different styles and varieties. Many times businesses feel as if corrugated cardboard is all they have to choose from. This may have been the case in years gone by, but today reusable containers can be found in countless forms. From bulk and straight wall containers to handheld, collapsible, nesting and stackable varieties, you can pick the container size and style that meets your needs and maximizes your storage potential.


When companies think about packaging and image, they typically think about marketing and advertising. Sadly, this isn’t a cost-saving solution and requires a significant amount of money. Commercial packaging materials go well beyond the cute cartoon character or clever schematic on the box. Once again, the primary purpose of packaging is to protect the product.

Yes, branding is important, but how many people are going to keep a broken product just because it was branded? Inferior commercial packaging materials cost businesses billions of dollars each and every year in damaged goods. The proper packaging will ensure that the product is safe, secure, and protected.

Corporate image is also impacted by the type of packaging selected. We live in a world where the ideas of being green and sustainable are becoming more important each and every day. When your packaging is not environmentally friendly, this sends a message to your customers about your commitment to environmental sustainability. Reusable containers are a great way to show your support for green shipping.

Being kind to your customers is also meaningful when sending out a message of corporate image. This can be as simple as using commercial packaging materials that can be easily broken down and stored, or easily reused, or which meets their requirements for long-term storage.

After all, the old adage says “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” The first thing your customer sees of you and your product is your packaging. If your packaging is frustrating, you’re off on the wrong foot. However, when you are known for your sensible, green, ergonomic packaging and excellent, cost-effective use of space, that is not a bad reputation to have.

When considering the price of commercial packaging materials, there are many considerations that can impact your bottom line. Using Container Exchanger is one of the most effective cost-saving solutions out there to maximize your return on investment. Not only can you match packaging and containers to your specific needs, but the reusable containers send a clear message that you are cost-conscious and environmentally friendly.