Good old-fashioned paper is continuing to return to the manufacturing process.
For some companies, environmental concerns prompted the switch back to paper from styrofoam peanuts, bubble film and other plastic-based materials in packaging since paper is recyclable and reusable.
Other manufacturers discover that customers are dissatisfied or simply refuse to accept shipments packed in plastic. This is the case in certain parts of Europe and states that have landfill restrictions, such as California. Customers and employees also appreciate the cleanliness of paper and its lack of static electricity, which can annoy handlers and be hazardous to electronic equipment.
Switching back to paper, of course, requires spending money on machines that process paper into fill, cushioning, carton linings and product wrappings. But that initial investment is likely to be offset by critical, long-term financial benefits. Here are a few:
- Labor and material costs drop. Kraft paper is slightly less expensive than plastic peanuts. But the major savings comes from labor. Packing speed is quicker and handling is trimmed, with fewer trips between the warehouse and packing area.
- Storage needs decline. Foam peanuts require vast amounts of space, while paper stays compactly rolled up until it is put into the processing machines, creating just-in-time packing material.
- Cleaning costs fall. Paper produces little dust, while peanuts create particles that settle everywhere on equipment and floors.
The paper processing systems are broadly adaptable to fit different production environments. Some of the potential benefits include:
- Flexibility. Dispensers can be set up in work cells, over conveyor lines or packing tables.
- Ease. An operator presses a foot pedal to dispense, crumple and cut the paper to a pre-set length. Automatic lifters can take the strain out of handling the heavy rolls and operators can replace an empty roll quickly.
- Adjustability. Both the speed of dispensing and length of paper can be altered.
A converter machine can turn a 30-inch-wide, three-ply roll of paper into 8-inch-wide pads that are suitable to replace the bubble film protecting shipments.
One manufacturer of medical instruments experienced an 18 percent drop in material costs after the switch from plastic to paper. In addition, the manufacturer found the pads require less space than bubble film to provide the same level of protection, allowing the company to trim its carton size by as much as 25 percent. This, of course, reduced shipping costs.
Consider all the issues involved in using paper packaging versus other materials. Getting rid of plastic and peanuts can save space, the environment and money.