Archives for February 2017

Wrap Battle: Why It Might Be Time to Take Issue With Your Supply Chain Packaging (And Where To Start)

By Contributing Author | 02/16/2017 | 3:00 PM

By:  Rajiv Saxena, APL Logistics

Picture this:  You’re at a celebration where the guest of honor has received a huge package that contains a microscopic present – a fact he or she discovers only after unwrapping a series of increasingly smaller packages that are included inside.

Sound familiar?  It should, and not just because it’s a common form of gift-giving humor. 

The transportation of raw materials and finished goods has a similarly superfluous practice. It’s called supply chain packaging – or more accurately supply chain packaging complacency.

There’s no question that this outer shipping layer is often essential for securing and protecting items during transit.  However as a longtime engineer who has spent most of his career working in the logistics industry, I can safely say that many businesses are using far more of it than they need to – and spending more for everything from packing materials and freight to warehousing and waste management because of it. 

The question is, why?  Where are the potential pockets of inefficiency?  And as logistics professionals what can we do do to encourage our companies to address it?


Why Is Some Supply Chain Packaging Inefficient?

It’s not difficult to see why this excess happens. 

For one thing, the typical contract between many companies and their suppliers usually leaves suppliers responsible for getting products prepared for long-distance shipping.  Since most of these contracts hold suppliers liable only for product damage – and not for shipping inefficiencies like higher freight bills – it’s only natural for them to play it safe and over-package.

For another, many companies aren’t overly diligent about monitoring or discouraging the potentially inefficient packaging decisions their suppliers make.  Few routinely question whether the supply chain packaging materials, measurements and configurations their suppliers have chosen are optimal matches for their products’ requirements.  And most don’t have disincentives in place to make suppliers think twice about using poorly designed or bloated packaging.


How Can You Spot Supply Chain Package Inefficiency?

It’s not too difficult to find the answer to the second question either, because even a little bit of observation at DCs, cross-docks or stores’ receiving docks will often uncover a good number of potential packaging “misses.”

For example: Your packaging might be a candidate for dimensional reductions if you notice a substantial size differential between a product and its exterior packaging; larger quantities of cushioning material than you’re used to seeing; or a significant amount of airspace in each outer package. 

It could have a stackability or cubing limitation if crates or boxes can only be stored in single or double rows/layers in your DC or there appears to be considerable empty space (especially at the top) in each incoming trailer or container. 

And if a box, package or crate can’t be picked cleanly via a standard forklift or other common material handling method, it could indicate a major throughput problem just waiting to happen – or explain why one recently occurred.   

Plus, while it’s only natural for there to be SOME packaging materials that require disposal after items have been unloaded, unpacked and processed, the presence of too many of these materials could be a sign that overstuffing is taking place – or that it’s time to consider a switch to reusable materials.


What Are Some Of The Possible Solutions?

In an ideal world, this would be the place where I tell you that supply chain packaging inefficiencies are just as easy to cure.  However in the real world, it’s not quite so simple.  

Many of the most effective antidotes -- including identifying alternative packaging configurations; conducting packaging optimizations; performing simulations; and building and testing prototypes – aren’t the kinds of things a company can administer overnight.  And most require skills the average shipping professional doesn’t possess. 

Ultimately you will probably need to tap into the expertise of your in-house engineers, packaging consultants or one of your 3PLs’ engineering departments and be willing to give the process some time. 

But in the long run, you’ll be glad you did, because a new and improved supply chain packaging approach has the potential to pay major dividends in terms of freight savings, carbon footprint reductions and other material handling improvements.  Eventually it could help transform this long-neglected area of the supply chain from a mere check in the box to a true strategic performer.


Rajiv Saxena
Rajiv Saxena is head of supply chain solutions at APL Logistics, one of the world’s largest global supply chain management providers. APL Logistics is the go-to global supply chain specialist for companies in the Automotive, Consumer, Industrials and Retail sectors.The company has a global network covering all major markets; backed by a multinational workforce of about 7,700 people. APL Logistics is a member of the Kintetsu World Express group, a global logistics services provider. 

IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations Updated to Reflect 2017-2018 ICAO Technical Instructions

By Contributing Author | 02/09/2017 | 7:06 AM

By Neil McCulloch, Senior Manager, International Product Development, Labelmaster

Businesses need and want predictability – particularly when it comes to government regulations.  So the fact that ICAO updates its Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods every two years is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because industry knows the changes that are coming and a curse because there are changes coming.

However, these are important safety requirements covering everything that’s transported by air from cargo in the hold of the airplane to the cell phones carried by passengers.  With the recent concerns over certain types of phones and tablets, the 2017 update to the regulations has a direct impact on almost every business everywhere.

No one is more focused on airplane safety than the airlines themselves and their record on that score is amazing with millions of people flying daily in complete confidence. Through their global trade association IATA, the airlines develop their own procedures based on government regulations to ensure that aircraft are as safe as possible. So it’s not surprising that 2017 will see the 58th edition the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) published.

Based on the 2017 ICAO Technical Instructions, the IATA DGR manual gives detailed instructions on how airlines, passengers and cargo shippers should comply with the national and international regulations on dangerous goods in air transport. These are far more common than people think.

Every day about $18.6 billion worth of goods are transported by air. We take our laptop computers, cell phones, hair spray and even our duty free liquor for granted. But each of those has significant hazards if mishandled, poorly manufactured or simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Consequently, ICAO, the airlines and the government have identified them as “dangerous goods” and places a number of restrictions on their carriage by air.

So, what has changed for 2017? And how will it affect your business?

Well, if you ship any kind of lithium battery powered device, these changes will affect you and your shipping operations. If you conduct any kind of dangerous goods training, ICAO is giving advance warning of changes to how training will be evaluated in the future and you would be advised to study these changes. If you ship aerosols, the so-called packing instructions for these have been changed. If you ship any type of machinery, the way these are described on the shipping papers is changed. And many other changes will affect such products as stabilized materials and even uranium hexafluoride.

In short, the 58th edition of the IATA DGR manual is a comprehensive update on the regulatory requirements for the carriage of many substances and articles and should be considered required reading by anyone responsible for transport compliance in your organization.

Here are some highlights of major changes:

  • Specific airline requirements – users of both FedEx and UPS services should note these companies have extensively revised their airline “variations” and check with their service representative for full details of any changes, particularly with respect to lithium battery powered products. These are major changes and should not be underestimated.
  • A new lithium battery handling label (more properly called a mark) has been adopted by all modes of transport to facilitate multi-modal operations. Designed for multi-language, multi-modal use, the label contains no wording.
  • A new lithium battery hazard label has been adopted. Again a multi-modal initiate designed to make the transport chain more efficient, this label clearly identifies the miscellaneous hazard of lithium batteries by adding a pictogram to the existing class 9 label. It’s probably worth reiterating at this point that class 9 dangerous goods should and indeed must be considered just as hazardous as any other class, it’s simply that their hazards don’t fall neatly into the hazards 1 – 8, such is the case with lithium batteries.
  • An interim change to the regulations prohibited lithium batteries from being carried as cargo on passenger aircraft. This is now fully reflected in all sections of the regulations. Some airlines even have further restrictions and have amended their “operator variations.” While the DGR contains the latest list of these variations, they can change at any time. Shippers are well advised to contact their airline for any addition requirements which might have been imposed.
  • The DGR requirement for the shipping paper, known as the Shippers Declaration of Dangerous Goods or “DGD,” must be signed and the title and place of signing included with that signature. The requirement for Title and Place has been deleted.
  • Some new special provision numbers must now be shown on the DGD indicating to the airline that the shipper is aware of these and that those provisions have been correctly applied.
  • The classification for UF6 has changed, reflecting the toxic nature of that substance.

Note, a number of these provisions are grand-fathered, meaning that that the prior requirements are still permissible.

Year after year, no transport mode sees more Dangerous Goods regulatory changes than air transport. That’s why it’s essential to have a complete grasp of each year’s changes as soon as possible.

Neil McCulloch Headshot

Neil McCulloch is senior manager, International Product Development for Labelmaster, which provides dangerous goods and product regulatory support to customers worldwide. He has vast experience and knowledge of hazardous materials regulations through his extensive network of dangerous goods professionals. McCullouch may be reached via email at nmcculloch@lablemaster.com. More information on shipping DG compliantly is available at www.labelmaster.com or by calling 800.621.5808.


The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About One-Off Sound-Off

Welcome to "One-Off Sound-Off," a blog page devoted to guest commentary on all things supply chain. This is a space where industry leaders can share their opinions and expertise with the logistics and supply chain community. If you have an article or commentary you'd like to share, please consider sending a guest blog proposal to feedback@dcvelocity.com.


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