Going Green Safely

Lenny Kochuba belief It should come as no surprise that inside virtually every board room and back office the topics of “going green” and “sustainability” are being discussed more than ever. Interestingly, those search terms have far more Google results than “increasing profits, “customer satisfaction,” and “improving quality” combined. The momentum of this business objective is hard to deny, but what is really driving the push to be a part of the green movement?   Many companies today see being green as their social responsibility to conduct their business affairs in such a way as to lessen the impact on their global neighbors, and pass down to our children a better place than they inherited. Other businesses perceive “getting green” as a marketing tool offering a competitive edge, and fostering good will with their customers. Another significant group of companies realize that taking the green approach can improve their bottom line through packaging material reductions.   There is no destination that represents the end of sustainability; all efforts, whatever the objective, reflect corporate social responsibility, protecting the environment and conserving resources in daily operations. But, whatever the reason, it’s imperative to evaluate your packaging materials with a green perspective in mind from a spherical point of view. Simply put, although material reduction addresses the “greenness” of your packaging materials, taking a machete to those materials will most certainly lead to disastrous results! Understanding how those reductions need to be made, and where to make them, will lead to the best savings and the peripheral packaging can result in the savings only on the container and increase the costs of shipping, palletizing and storing. The scope of these changes can cause events as simple as minor product damage and customer complaints, to major spills — to hazmat clean ups and threats to employee safety. The ramifications are unpleasant in either case. You can risk spending tens of thousands of dollars all in the pursuit of saving a relatively small amount of money ($.02/bottle or $.05/box or $.25/pallet). 1 According to the U. S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there were an average of 130,000 transportation accidents resulting in the release of materials. Of these, 2,500 were on average hazardous material (HM) releases. In conjunction with these accidents there were 110,000 injuries and of these 5,000 were fatal. The costs associated with the accidents reported in this study were a staggering $44 billion dollars per year in total damages, injuries and shut down costs. This is not to say that all reductions in packaging materials causes accidents, but inadequate product protection is a major cause of load shifting and product spillage during transit.   The safe way to go green begins with a thorough understanding of the designs and relationship between all of your packaging materials and the equipment you use to handle them, including your customers’ uses. It is important to use a packaging professional who possesses those skill sets. There are various testing laboratories that will analyze the final unit load to guarantee the strength and safety of the results. It is important to qualify your suppliers, and see who is capable and has experience to support this in-depth study. 2 Your packaging professional may find you more than you bargained for, and might even present you with a few surprises as a result of this study, so be prepared. At the conclusion of an independent audit the results could indicate that you have been “over packaged” and wasting money all along based on modern analysis, and therefore savings will be easy to acquire. Or the original packaging (bottle/pail) you wanted to downgrade is totally adequate, but the real savings are in another area (carton/stretch wrap/pallet), or by changing your conveyors your total package design could be reduced.   The key here is to understand the interaction between components and how they strengthen and/or weaken each other. This is referred to as “Unit Load Management” by the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association (NWPCA). The NWPCA developed and leases a state-of-the-art CAD software program, PDS™, to assist in the design and virtual testing of a variety of packaged conditions.   Whether it’s with this software system, or another sophisticated analysis technique, these 700-505 pdf tools are needed to put safety into the green box. References Comparative Risks of Hazardous Materials and Non-Hazardous Materials, Truck Shipment Accidents/Incidents, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Washington, DC, March 2001.  Lenny Kochuba is a sales specialist for Berry Industrial Group. He may be reached at 570-824-9019 or lenny.kochuba@berryindustrial.com.