Justice is served by low-cost, compostable cushioning
Posted by Rick Lingle, Technical Editor -- Packaging Digest, 9/18/2013 11:18:57 AM
As with any customized product, the lighting fixtures manufactured by Justice Design Group are made-to-order. So when the president and the plant manager of the California-based designer of residential and commercial lighting began considering new packaging solutions, product protection was a top priority.
"Our products are highly customizable, which means we have to manufacture them again if they are broken in-transit," explains Brandon Levin, president of Justice Design Group and grandson to the factory's original founder. "While damage can be particularly costly to our business, the state of the construction and building industry means that we had to find a protective packaging solution that offered premium protection at the greatest value."
The company's Sealed Air sales representative, Ann Regan, introduced Justice Design to Sealed Air's new PakNatural loose-fill solution. Made from non-food renewable materials, PakNatural loose fill not only met his company's criteria for product protection and value, but also offered environmental sustainability as a certified compostable packaging solution.
Hundreds of SKUs
With more than 250 different shapes and 30-plus different finishes, Justice Design fixtures are sold through a network of approximately 1,500 distributors in the U.S. and Canada that display and stock the product. The business requires a packaging solution that will protect the company's unique and fragile ceramic light fixtures as they are shipped across the U.S. and Canada.
Before, Justice Design used an interlocking corrugated solution for blocking and bracing the fragile products. "We found that our employees had a hard time handling the previous packaging solution, which required them to wear gloves for protection against the sharp edges of the interlocking pieces," says Levin. "We already had an existing relationship with Sealed Air from the installation of PackTiger paper packaging systems that create paper cushions for blocking and bracing our retail-facing boxed items during shipping. When [Regan] approached us about a new sustainable loose-fill solution that could reduce our costs, we told her to bring it in for testing."
"We found that PakNatural loose fill was the best fit for their products and operations for a number of reasons," adds Regan. "The fixtures have a lot of curves and pressure points, and this product can easily get into those areas to protect and support them."
"I've described Sealed Air's PakNatural loose fill as the ‘next generation of packaging peanuts,'" remarks Levin. "It does a great job preventing our products from moving around in the box and is lighter than the interlocking corrugate material we were using before. On top of that, the product is environmentally sustainable, which is increasingly important to many of the architects and designers we're working with."
Solution shines in tests
The Justice Design Group conducted initial drop tests internally and then sent product to Sealed Air's Packaging Design Center in City of Industry, CA, for additional drop and vibration tests. From there, Regan worked with the local Unisource Worldwide representative to perform drop tests and cost analyses, the results of which were presented to Levin.
After two to three months of tests, Justice Design began integrating the solution slowly into its shipping by the end of 2011. It continued to track shipments to ensure the new material was protecting their products. By the beginning of 2012, the company completely switched over to Sealed Air cushioning products.
Changes were minimal because Justice Design's packaging operations were already set up for loose-fill packaging in the form of two overhead supply bladders, which hold approximately 60 cubic feet of PakNatural loose fill. When packing fixtures, employees first fill the boxes with about two inches of material dispensed from a bladder. Once the product is added, the remaining space is filled with at least another two inches of material before the case is tape-sealed for shipment.
"Depending on demand, our packaging operations will pack 300 to 900 packages a day," explains Justice Design's plant manager Natividad Urrutia. "While demand isn't highly seasonal, shipments do tend to pick up in the spring and again around October." She notes that the supply bladders are refilled about twice a day.
Urrutia reports a positive employee reaction to the changeover: "The old solution involved a machine that would fold the interlocking corrugate material, and employees reported that it was very noisy when packaging a particularly large item. Now they no longer have to wear gloves."
The external reaction to the changeover was positive as well. "Our shipping partners are very favorable to Sealed Air packaging solutions from an insurance standpoint," says Levin. "We included cards in our boxes to educate our customers about the new solution and the sustainable characteristics as a compostable material.
"It can be difficult to get all of our products packaged and shipped from the West Coast to the East Coast in one piece, so we've been very impressed by the performance. The fact that Sealed Air's PakNatural loose fill is an affordable, sustainable material that can keep our costs down by maintaining low claims rates and reducing the weight of our shipments is huge to us."
Sealed Air Corp., 800-648-9093
Unisource Worldwide, 800-864-7687