4 Steps to Optimizing Carton Sizes

Learn how to save costs and improve production efficiency by following the phases in this comprehensive guide for manufacturers.

Jessie Schwartz, Founder

June 20, 2024

3 Min Read
Carton optimization

In the competitive landscape of manufacturing, finding ways to save costs and improve efficiency is crucial for success. One area where significant improvements can often be made is in carton optimization. In this guide, we’ll walk through the key phases of optimizing carton sizes to help manufacturers achieve their goals.

Step 1: Discovery

The first step in optimizing carton sizes is understanding the goals of the opportunity and engaging with key stakeholders across various departments.

Make sure the correct stakeholders are involved — business teams, operations, sourcing, logistics, and sales and marketing. Consider objectives such as cost savings, shelf continuity, sustainability, and customer preferences.

For example, if a net weight change is in scope, a lot more opportunities exist for consolidating sizes. Additionally, ensure a competitive analysis is done to compare current and proposed carton sizes to ensure actual and perceived value is evaluated. Alignment on the goals and gathered insights on current carton usage and challenges is critical.

Step 2: Feasibility

Once objectives are clear, move on to assessing the feasibility of proposed changes. Conduct detailed calculations to determine factors like product volume, carton dimensions, and equipment compatibility.

Remember that a dimensional change, in any direction, of more than 20% will require a new UPC. Making changes to sizes may constitute the need for additional shelf life testing, too.

Consider how changes may impact other components and processes, such as palletization and manufacturing equipment. Engage stakeholders to validate proposed solutions and address any concerns.

Step 3: Development

In the development phase, request physical samples for testing and evaluation. These are typically CAD table-cut samples.

Distribute samples to relevant parties, including marketing, operations, and sales, for feedback and validation. Remember that CAD samples do not represent the physical properties of production sample, though. While they can provide directional impact to the product line, they should not be used to validate how the new packaging will run through the line. A separate order of production run samples should be used for line testing. This ensures proper physical properties for an accurate test through equipment.

Iterate based on stakeholder input to ensure proposed changes align with brand objectives and manufacturing capabilities.

The development phase is also a great time to assess the pallet pattern. If carton sizes can change, are you able to reverse engineer the carton design so the cases maximize the 40x48-inch pallet? Corrugated suppliers should be able to assist, if pallet design software isn’t available.

Step 4: Implementation

With solutions confirmed, implement the approved changes. Order production materials, conduct trials, and adjust manufacturing processes as necessary. Communication and collaboration between packaging engineers, operations teams, and suppliers are crucial for a smooth transition.

Ideally, a phased approach to implementation is used to ensure the change doesn’t negatively impact costs. Start with a simple four-hour run, then progress to a full day, and finally two to three days. Compare throughput data, downtime and quality data collected to ensure the change doesn’t impact cost of goods sold (COGS).

Post change, monitor performance metrics and address any issues promptly to ensure successful implementation.


Optimizing carton sizes requires a systematic approach and collaboration across departments. By following the four-step approach outlined here — discovery, feasibility, development, and implementation — manufacturers can effectively navigate the challenges of carton optimization and achieve cost savings and operational efficiencies.

Incorporate data-driven decision-making to validate the success of changes and identify areas for further improvement. By continuously optimizing carton sizes, manufacturers can enhance their competitiveness and adapt to evolving market demands.

Implementing carton optimization measures can significantly impact your bottom line while improving operational efficiency. By following this comprehensive guide, you can streamline your packaging processes and stay ahead in the competitive manufacturing landscape.

About the Author(s)

Jessie Schwartz

Founder, Strategic Packaging Partners (SPP)

Jessie Schwartz is the founder of Strategic Packaging Partners (SPP). The consultancy’s focus lies in optimizing packaging to drive savings and eliminate manufacturing complexities. With more than a decade honed at General Mills, Schwartz brings a wealth of expertise in cost-saving strategies and manufacturing streamlining. A proud alumnus of Michigan State University, she blends academic rigor with practical acumen.

SPP doesn’t stop at packaging optimization — though it excels in it. Whether you need project management, CAD expertise, or sustainable initiatives, consider it handled. The SPP team is both adaptable and resourceful, ready to meet your business needs head-on. From fiscal efficiency to environmental stewardship, SPP stands poised to assist. Together, you can collaboratively shape the future of packaging, with professionalism guiding your every step.

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