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Sustainable Packaging in Supply Chain Context

sean sabre

sean sabre

Director, Supply Chain Planning Americas, ModusLink Global Solutions
Location: Raleigh, NC, US
Role: Supply Chain Management

Hello all

For those of you who know me (and this group travels in tight circles) I'm not shy by no means and like a bit of controversy. Maybe shake things up a bit and challenge the readership.

Maybe this is the first post along these lines, but shame on us in the sustainable packaging realm that we don't talk enough about sustainable packaging design and supply chain dynamics.

I mean, I like to talk about recycled content, recovery, the latest and greatest substrates and resins and dog bio/oxo like the rest of you but I can't get enough of the dialogue when it comes to designing within the context of a "system" ... or for this particular string the supply chain.

I don't think any of us who toil for a manufacturer will dispute that if you design in a vacuum (without the cross pollination and participation of procurement, planning, assembly or logistics) you are playing roulette with your time.

Some of the best designs die on the vine because they are too expensive to procure, too cumbersome to assemble, don’t nest efficiently in a shipper or fail in the field.

While we use and endorse modeling tools like COMPASS and the Wal-Mart tool we also use and endorse other tools like CAPE and supply chain optimization and simulation software like Supply Chain Guru. We don't talk enough about the environmental impact of an efficient pallet layout, why ISTA/ASTM testing is so critical to ensure you don't over-engineer a package and why deciding WHERE you assemble your package and WHERE your materials are coming from sometimes trump the embedded scorecard impact data of the materials significantly.

If you are switching from plastic to paper for an item that is consumed in New York but packed in Asia with a packaging to product ratio of 1:4 -- I'll smoke your environmental impact in materials shift by postponing the packaging of that item until it leaves a warehouse in Georgia ... and leave it in plastic.

Get my drift?

I'm not asking that we all take second and third jobs as buyers and logisticians but it would be nice to hear someone talk about distance travelled from source to consumption and what it really means when you buy millions of pounds of paper from Europe for converting on the U.S. east coast to ship to the west coast and what this really translates to in regards to environmental impact.

Let’s leave the comfortable and trendy discussions about plastic vs paper for a few minutes and talk about how we make an impact independent of the BOM.

Looking forward to the dialogue ...


Posted October 22, 2009

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