How to prepare your online business for Q4 2021 during a cardboard packaging shortage

We’re finding many e-commerce retailers are still struggling with the current situation on packaging supplies and looking for solutions due to the ongoing cardboard shortage, especially those concerned about the all-important Q4. There will be no surprises in that Christmas 2021 is expected to see more people shopping online which in turn puts increasing pressure on raw materials with manufacturers already struggling to keep up with cardboard box and paper packaging supply. You can read our guide to the facts behind the cardboard crisis here.

The ‘golden quarter’ at the end of every year is traditionally retail’s opportunity for recovery and growth but it all becomes a little bit difficult if you have a big online presence or are purely eCommerce – and you have no cardboard boxes to ship your stock out in!

So what steps can you take right now to make sure you’re able to maximise your sales this Christmas by having all your packaging ready to go?

 

5 ways to overcome the cardboard shortage

  1. Talk to your packaging supplier.
    Discuss your forecasts with them as soon as possible to ascertain whether they have what you need right now as well as evaluating their confidence in getting new supplies over the next few months. Also, understand how they see pricing panning out for you.
  2. If you know what you need – order now if you can!
    Yes, it may be 4-5 months before you require it, but by working closely with a supplier that can hold your stock for you for free for example, which you can call off as and when you need it is a great solution. You’ll also get the benefit of better pricing due to placing larger orders. In this way, you won’t run out of stock or be deluged with 6 months of supply to store! This approach guarantees to get your important Q4 sales out the door.
  3. Don’t be tempted by single-use plastic alternatives.
    Consumers will punish brands who talk about ethical packaging being part of their core values and goals and then switch to plastic due to the situation. Again, the answer is to find a supplier willing to work with you to achieve your packaging ambitions and if absolutely has to be plastic, be sure to make it clear to your customers about its recycled content and ongoing recyclability, such as these polybags.
  4. Get prices locked in!
    Finding and working with a supplier with a plentiful supply of eco-friendly eCommerce stock right now will undoubtedly be your best bet! If they have done their own due diligence with their paper mills and their own suppliers etc, they will no doubt have been hard at work on securing stock and resolving supply solutions for some time now, as we have. They should be able to offer you a good range with workable pricing, successfully navigating around the price hikes.
  5. Be open to something new!

    Beat the cardboard shortage with NEST eco-friendly packaging

    Beat the cardboard shortage with NEST eco-friendly packaging

Perhaps the cardboard shortage means it’s a time to re-look at your existing packaging, how it works with your products and the feedback from your customers. Is there room for improvement?  Try different solutions and discover innovative products that are really pushing eco-friendly boundaries. One such product is an eco-friendly void fill really maximising its green credentials. It’s called Zigglefil Kraft Eco and is probably the most eco-friendly void fill on the market today. Created as a manufacturing by-product of another very popular eco-friendly protective wrapping product called Snusghell, Zigglefil is delivered in reusable, recyclable cartons and sealed with paper tape. It doesn’t get much greener than that!

Beating the cardboard shortage together

Our cardboard shortage beater! The ecofriendly NEST packaging range

Our cardboard shortage beater! The eco-friendly NEST packaging range

We had the benefit of launching NEST, our new eco-friendly eCommerce packaging range last year which meant that we were sourcing and securing stock long before this current situation really took hold. Consequently, we have good supplies for cardboard boxes, mailers, wrapping and presentation products, void fill, paper tape as well as new paper document wallets.  You can shop our IN STOCK NEST range here

The beauty of the NEST range means you’re able to send a 100% eco-friendly parcel to your customer – both inside and out! This means the whole range is made from recyclable materials and is completely recyclable. Many products in the range are FSC accredited too. You can find out more about FSC products here.

If you have any queries on what eco-friendly products will work best for your product range, we’re here to help. We also offer free warehousing as well as direct to store delivery. Just pop us a message using the form below and we’ll get in touch. And if you’d like a sample of any of the range, we’re more than happy to send some for you to see and try.

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It may be the height of summer but we’re already thinking ahead to winter. If you’re an online retailer, the chances are, you’re doing the same. But rather than focussing on what you’ll be selling, your thoughts may be turning to how you’re actually going to get your products to your customers. We still find ourselves in the grip of a cardboard crisis and the latest information suggests that the next six months are going to be just as tough. So what can be done?

Did how we shopped last Christmas contribute to the cardboard crisis?

As you would have guessed, we all took to the internet for our festive shopping in 2020. UK Finance said that 33.8% of the value of ALL credit and debit card spending was online. This was an increase from 28% the previous year. To put that into perspective, Christmas online spending totalled £27 billion in the UK, and interestingly 43% of global online purchases were made from smartphones. This was against a background of continuing uncertainty as we headed towards a ‘segregated’ Christmas.

Stunning silver Zigglefil - eco-friendly void fill

Stunning silver Zigglefil – eco-friendly void fill

What this meant was that the majority of gifts and presents found themselves delivered to relatives and loved ones in cardboard boxes and packaging courtesy of the retailer’s courier network boxes rather than in person.  Many consumers took advantage of gift wrap options where available and that’s something to keep in mind for this year if you’re an online retailer and not set up for this Christmas, you can see some gift wrapping and product presentation ideas here. Many were sent to the buyer, re-wrapped and then re-posted out again to relatives in time for Christmas. This kept cardboard out of circulation for recycling for even longer and the increased demand depleted already dwindling supplies.

The Recycling Association reported that there were an extra 200 million home deliveries over the festive period. All this additional activity and use of cardboard boxes have all played their part in the cardboard crisis we find ourselves in now. There are further reasons that contributed to this situation and resulting price hikes which you can read about here.

The cardboard crisis affecting and driven by eCommerce

Just looking at Royal Mail parcel deliveries alone, nearly 500 million parcels were delivered in the last quarter of 2020, an increase of 30% on the previous year. And as we head into 2021, there are indicators that this trend will continue with 46% of shoppers purchasing items such as clothing and accessories online, as well as electronics and beauty products. The way we shop and what we now shop for online has changed forever and this, in turn, means an ever-increasing demand for cardboard boxes.

When you throw sustainability and consumer desire for eco-friendly packaging into the mix,  corrugated cardboard and paper packaging ticks all the boxes with 66% of online customers preferring to see their orders arriving in paper packaging.  And a very telling statistic shows that the packaging used for online orders can make or break future orders with 44% stating they would consider shopping elsewhere if their chosen retailer was not actively reducing their packaging’s environmental impact by using cardboard and paper packaging.

And when you look at the recycling rates, corrugated boxes are recycled more than any other packaging material, it’s easy to see why this is the consumer’s top choice and will vote with their ‘online feet’ accordingly! Consumers want to do their bit and expect the brands they shop with to do the same.

What’s the cardboard crisis forecast for Christmas 2021?

Our suppliers had already warned us that getting hold of paper in this second quarter of this year is going to be more challenging than at any time before in this crisis. We were in rather a better position having secured plenty of stock of eco-friendly packaging in anticipation of launching our new NEST eCommerce packaging range. 

Christmas is such an important time for retailers and their customers and if you’re sending fragile items such as glassware or delicate gift items, you’ll want to know that they will arrive in perfect condition, especially if you’re looking at trying something new to send it in.  Asking for free samples is a great way to see the products and do some testing. Any good supplier will be happy to oblige and we have certainly completed our own testing to ensure our products perform, have good functionality and will become a real asset to the production line and the boxing-up process.

So what are the indications for cardboard box supply for Q4?

It would seem there will be no let-up to the current cardboard crisis and is predicted to worsen as we head through the final 6 months.  As we go to press, there is nothing on the horizon that indicates prices are due to come down.  This is the general consensus coming from the paper mills and suppliers we are in contact with and work with. This will obviously be a concern for online retailers who are looking for ways to mitigate losses due to cardboard packaging shortages with the double-whammy of price hikes.

Working collaboratively with a trusted packaging supplier is the best way to navigate this cardboard crisis. Ask them about alternative ecofriendly innovative products and ensure that they perform as well as their plastic counterparts.  Trying something different is a good way to find plentiful supplies of stock. It could make all the difference to your preparation towards successful Q4 sales.

You can take a look at our entire eco-friendly packaging NEST range here to see full pricing and usage ideas. And if you would like some free samples to do your own testing, please just pop us a request using the form below.

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12 months that saw prices for cardboard boxes rise ten-fold

As UK society takes more tentative steps towards recovery in a post-Covid world, international markets have been faced with everchanging circumstances and trying to navigate through them – as indeed we all have. We all saw petrol prices plummet when we went into the first lockdown due to a drop in demand as we all stayed at home. Other commodities in sharp contrast have been in huge demand as well as being impacted by unforeseen events. So, we are going to try to explain the contributory factors behind the price hikes for cardboard boxes and why it’s now been coined the hunt for the new ‘beige gold’!

How cardboard boxes became hot property

So how did this all start?

Well as you have probably guessed, the 2 main reasons behind this have been Covid and Brexit – but what is interesting is just how these factors played their part in price rises and supply shortages.

The cardboard ‘lifecycle’ very much depends and relies on recycling. Before the pandemic, high street retailers played a huge part in this recycling process, returning used cardboard boxes for recycling that arrived in-store. With the start of lockdown, non-essential retail closed and along with that came the seismic shift to eCommerce and home deliveries – this situation turned into a perfect storm. This meant a significant amount of cardboard was no longer available for that all-important collection and recycling. The reality was it was all piling up in consumer’s homes or worse, ending up in the landfill. The delicate circular economy of the manufacture of cardboard boxes collapsed.

The impact of eCommerce on box supply

And so started the next chain of events

Doorstep deliveries in cardboard boxes

Doorstep deliveries in cardboard boxes

Non-essential shops were closed. With consumers afraid to go out and visit even essential shops such as supermarkets – the UK took to buying online. People who had never shopped online before were forced to do so. Consumers were panic buying ahead of Brexit and after seeing the shelves stripped bare in supermarkets. A year ago, retailers were predicting that the way we shop could change forever as 33% more of us switched to getting our groceries delivered at home. By August of last year, three-quarters of us were doing the weekly food shop online.

Online retailers were also stockpiling cardboard boxes out of their own concerns about supply, Brexit and border disruptions. Businesses such as pubs, breweries, garden centres, flower growers and nurseries and charities all had to suddenly pivot their businesses online to survive. And what did they all need? Cardboard boxes!

Demand continued to grow, reaching record levels of online purchasing with an increase of over 74% – pushing box supply into further scarcity.  There were winners and also losers and if you were a retailer in the home and garden space, the only issue was being able to keep up with demand! The Royal Mail reported that there were over 200 million extra parcels processed through their courier networks in 2020 alone.

Cardboard supply in 2021

As we entered 2021, prices of old board had risen to £118 a tonne compared to £10 in January 2020. An article at the beginning of this year described the UK supply chain as “utterly overwhelmed” for corrugated board. At the same time, online retailers were being quoted double the normal cost to purchase their cardboard boxes and lead times being extended from a matter of days to two to three months.

In March this year, the Confederation of Paper Industries said that demand was 5 years ahead of pre-pandemic levels.

Simon Ellin, of the Recycling Association, stated the shortage was down to the “Amazon effect”. “There is a monumental increase in demand caused by the surge in online deliveries during the pandemic,” he said. “It’s a global shortage – not just the UK or EU – given huge demand from China. People are going around stealing cardboard.”

Current prices of old board are being reported at levels around £140.00 per tonne so the last few months are still showing strong price increases.

A look to the future with eCommerce and cardboard boxes

The affect of internet sales on cardboard boxes

The continuing rise of internet sales will impact the supply of cardboard boxes

The mills and manufacturers we work with are continuing to talk of extremely difficult conditions. Mills have been operating non-stop with machinery running in continuous and additional shifts without planned and reactive maintenance. They are now being forced to stop in turn to carry out these essential works.

We are being told that we should be in no doubt that getting hold of paper in this second quarter of this year is going to be more difficult than at anytime before in this crisis. Here are the 4 current factors, some we have looked at already, that will continue to dictate price and supply:

  • Mill downtime
  • Cost of imported paper up by 40% 
  • Waste supply and prices
  • Panic buying

Paper supply will continue to remain tight for the rest of 2021 – there is no doubt of this. We will have to all prepare for further increases in the very near future. Our best advice? Work closely with your supplier and continue to relentlessly monitor and manage your own supplies. You may have to make concessions such as using non-branded boxes or work with box sizes that aren’t your top choices. Investigating different void fill to make the most of different sized boxes may be worthwhile too. Make sure you look at your own forecasting and get orders into your suppliers as quickly as possible.

There is also no doubt that the UK’s love affair with eCommerce, born out of necessity from shopping restrictions due to Covid, will continue to grow. Last year, it was forecasted that we would spend £80,678 million in 2021 according to Statista so the struggle for cardboard boxes is definitely with us a while longer.

Need support or advice? We’re here to help. Just drop us a quick email and we’ll get right back to you.

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Six benefits of eco-friendly packaging

Now more than ever, corporations and communities are realising the threat that climate change poses. While undoing the damage that has already been caused is impossible, we can prevent further damage to the environment. The fact of the matter is that changes have to be made if the situation is to improve. Companies must exercise corporate social responsibility by ditching the past and moving forward with renewables to promote a more ethically conscious business climate. A significant step towards accomplishing this is making the shift to eco-friendly packaging materials.

What makes packaging eco-friendly?

With sustainability constantly trending in the social and corporate spheres, many people may wonder what constitutes as sustainable, and in the context of packaging, what makes a package sustainable? The answer is not as complicated as you may think.

At its very essence, eco-friendly or sustainable packaging is packaging that’s recyclable, safe for people and the planet, and is made from recycled materials. Sustainable packaging uses materials and manufacturing practices that have minimal impact on natural resources and energy consumption.

Why should we care?

Eco-friendly packaging

Eco-friendly packaging

The fact of the matter is that there is no future in limited resources. The role that packaging plays in reducing product waste can result in a positive environmental impact on a global scale. This is both interesting and significant. Packaging indirectly affects volume and weight, which can in turn, reduce transportation dramatically and ultimately contribute to reducing greenhouse gases. Simply put, we cannot overstate the importance of investigating what affect shifting to sustainable packaging might have on our communities, companies, and the environment.

Even McDonalds is joining the movement; the global fast-food giant announced that its packaging will be 100% renewable and recycled by 2025. Consumers want brands to practice their social responsibility, so implementing eco-friendly packaging in your business operations is no longer an option – it’s a necessity.

What are the benefits of using sustainable packaging?

Besides the obvious one: that it’s better for the environment – there are many benefits of shifting to sustainable packaging options. The benefits of switching to sustainable or green packaging solutions include:

  • Reducing the amount of product package waste
  • Endorsing the use of renewable/reusable materials
  • Cutting back on packaging-related costs
  • Eliminating the use of toxic materials in the production of packaging
  • Decreasing your carbon footprint
  • Improving overall brand image which in turn increases your fan base

What Are Some Popular Eco-friendly Packaging Solutions?

Paper tape on parcel

Paper tape on parcel

It’s a common misconception that shifting to a more eco-friendly option means you skimp on quality, when in fact, green packaging is often more durable. In addition, sustainable packaging solutions offer brands a variety of packaging options. With so many eco-friendly alternatives on the market at competitive prices, more businesses are investigating their options. Packaging tape is one area where significant improvements can be made with products like paper tape, which is completely environmentally friendly meaning it can go straight into kerbside recycling. You also need to use much less of it compared to standard vinyl tape so there is a cost saving there too.

Another innovative green packaging product is the Grip Film system. A high performance, pre-stretched pallet wrap that reduces plastic wastage by 40% and costs by up to 25%. This eco-friendly wrapping solution is quick, easy, safe, and offers a cost-effective option to wrapping pallets every single time.

Shifting To Sustainable Packaging Solutions In 2021

If you want to make the shift to introducing more sustainable packaging options into your business operations, there’s no better time to go green. Green packaging can reduce the amount of packaging you use, promote packaging reuse, decrease your carbon footprint and save you tax with the impending plastic packaging tax looming in 2021. These are crucial aspects to your business and your bottom line.

We’re committed to helping you leverage these critical points with our range of sustainable packaging products. We can help you create a sustainable and eco-friendly packaging approach that boosts your brand, products, and operations. After all, we only have one earth and must band together to make the change – starting with one eco-friendly package at a time!

Some eco-friendly packaging options to think about

NEST eco-friendly packaging solutions for ecommerce

Paper tape

Grip Film hand pallet wrap

iWrap machine pallet wrap

 

Need some help to get started? We’re here to help – just pop us an email using the form below

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Bespoke printed boxes are the ideal way to improve or maintain your brand’s first impressions in a world where packaging has become the new customer face to face. The most common question is: How much do custom printed boxes cost? With so many factors to consider, the answer isn’t a quick one. It will depend on (and is not limited to) the size you need, the volume you want and even your deadline. Then you have to decide whether you are happy with an off the shelf product or do you need something more bespoke? You will also need to think about your product and if this might require single or double-walled boxes for better protection depending on how it will be sent? Who knew choosing a humble cardboard box could be complicated! So, let’s take a closer look to see exactly what you get for your money when purchasing customized printed boxes.

Custom printed boxes

Custom printed boxes

What are the Factors that Contribute to the Cost of Custom Printed Boxes?

The size of the box

Generally speaking, the bigger the custom printed box you need, the more expensive it will be.  This is because the more material that’s used in the manufacture, the more the base cost will be.

Also, going over a certain size may necessitate printing the box on a larger and often slower print machine, which can double or triple the print element of the cost, just because the box is a few mm larger than the maximum size on a faster print machine.

When using multiples of sizes of boxes in your packing operation, you can save costs by getting multi-scored boxes.  Rather than ordering several short runs of cartons with varying depths, you buy larger numbers of the deepest size you use.  Remember that each size of box will have its own print set up cost, and so having a ‘one-size fits all’ will reduce the costs significantly due to economies of scale, especially on short runs of custom print. Cutting down with a knife will enable you to adjust the depth to accommodate what you’re sending out. Multi-scored boxes don’t affect the cost but it will take a little longer to complete the packing process due to the manual adjustment. The multi-scored solution does mean you will buy bigger boxes than you need some of the time, so there’s that to bear in mind.

The strength of the box

carboard Box construction profiles or cross-sections

Box profiles – which one you choose can affect prices on printed boxes

If your packed products are large, heavy or fragile, it’s unlikely that single wall will be sufficient. The first option is to upgrade to double wall, which adds that extra rigidity and strength.

If the carton must be light but extra-rigid, a heavier board grade to standard would mean a slight price increase. Kraft (K) is the normal outer of corrugated board. Available in a range of thicknesses; 125, 150 and 300, with 150KT (Kraft Test) as the standard used for printing on. You may be glad of professional advice on which one to choose.  It comes either brown or white (unbleached or ‘bleached’ respectively) and provides a smooth medium on which to print. The inside face of the board is generally a term called Test (T). This is softer and provides some cushioning to the contents of the carton. It is also weaker because it contains 100% recycled paper.

For very large boxes, an EB flute carton (see illustration above) would achieve strength but is more expensive than single or double-wall. A professional would be able to advise if and where this may be necessary.

The colour of the box

Obviously, the further processing of paper to achieve a white finish increases the cost of the custom printed box over natural brown, but it will be necessary to use white if your artwork requires print colours to be accurate. Brown Kraft is rarely printed on with colours other than black (and possibly dark green and blue) because the darker background will tend to affect the ink colour.  Full-colour flood print is best on white boxes, whereas a simple black logo print will show up well on brown boxes, allowing you to benefit from the lower cost of the brown carton, as well as single-colour print being a lower cost than full-colour print.

The quantity of printed boxes you order

With branded boxes, the higher quantity that can be made at one time the cheaper the unit price will be. In other words, it’s a numbers game. That explains why plain cartons in standard sizes for stock are always so much more of a commodity product. Some manufacturers can print in smaller quantities, but there will be a minimum order quantity depending on the style and sizing you require.

One very effective way of getting the cost down is to use a supplier who is able to print a larger quantity of cartons and hold them in stock for you until you require the next batch. Commonly known as consignment stock, this will help avoid filling your own storage facility with pallets of boxes! 😊

The style of the custom printed box

FEFCO Box styles for custom printed boxes

Some of the FEFCO box styles available

The style and complexity of the box can also affect the cost. Whilst the range of styles may appear to be bewildering, the FEFCO carton style 0201 is most popular and cheapest to produce. Supplied glued and flat, the long flaps meet and the short flaps come well short (except in the case of a square-bottomed carton). The economies come from the cartons being made on a high-speed slitter machine and don’t require a cutter (like a die-cut carton would). You will most likely need to use a fair bit of tape to close the ‘gap’. The use of clear self-adhesive tape will avoid covering your printed message if your design comes near the top or bottom of the box.

This style is considered to be low-security. A die-cut product such as 0203 or 0205 will greatly reduce in-transit losses if you are packing desirable items such as consumer electronics, perfumes and expensive giftware. Your supplier can discuss these options further with you.

And last but not least, the print on the boxes.

  • The fewer colours that are used, the cheaper it is.
  • It doesn’t matter about the coverage of the box, if you want to flood coat the box it would be the same cost as having a small logo on just one side of the box. However, there would be an extra cost for the setup due to the number of printing plates required.
  • Is the above really true? I thought if it was a high ink coverage it adds some cost but the extra cost is really in the set up due to the size of the plates required?
  • For shorter runs, the box may be printed digitally in a few colours. There are no further origination costs after finished artwork, but the unit cost per custom printed box will be more substantial than in-line print using ink.
  • Where custom branded boxes are for retail use (not transit outers) any special finishes will increase the box price. The carton will be die-cut (See FEFCO styles such as 0429) and use a fine corrugated board (such as e-flute). Options can include printing full-colour including photographs, foil blocking or spot UV, having the box PE coated, UV varnished, or laminated. These options can be explored further with your supplier.

Examples of the cost of custom printed boxes.

Below you can see how much you could expect to pay using standard sizes of Double Wall cartons.  This is based on a quantity of 500 cartons (so buying more would be cheaper) and on 1 colour print.  Additional printing colours will add to printing and origination costs. From this example, you can see how the 6 things we have looked at here all play their part in the ultimate cost of customised boxes and branded boxes. A word of caution here too as we find ourselves in a perfect storm of a post-Brexit UK, the Covid crisis as well the huge spike in demand for online shopping – this is all playing a part in escalating prices. Working with a trusted supplier right now is the best way to safely navigate through this current situation. So these prices are correct as we go to print but maybe subject to change due to market fluctuations.

Custom printed box prices

Custom printed box prices

Does the cost depend on the supplier?

In a nutshell, yes.

Online companies where you can make your own choice, upload your artwork and process your order without talking to anyone will likely be cheaper.  However, you may receive something that isn’t as expected and there could be costs incurred to put it right. We recommend you speak to an expert who understands the industry. They can advise what is going to work for your requirements before you spend any money.

Packaging partners and larger companies could be slightly more expensive, but you can have peace of mind that you’re not just a number on the system. You will also be given expert advice on what works best for your requirements. The supplier may also agree to supply a one-off sample, cut specially to the dimensions as ordered if the size is bespoke.

What’s the process to get a quote for custom printed boxes from Acopia?

A member of the team will get in touch to discuss your ideas.

  1. Together, we’ll establish what you’re looking for and make sure we’ve understood your requirements and can share your vision.
  2. We will agree the style of your box that best fits your products/s and review your artwork if you have any. If support is needed to adapt your artwork, we can help get this sorted for you.
  3. We’ll then find the best solution for you. We’ll get back to you within 24 hours with the costs and sometimes options that could work best for you.
  4. Once you’ve chosen, we’ll get the artwork drawn up and back over to you for your approval.
  5. Once everyone’s happy, your boxes can go to print. We can either deliver to you or hold in our warehouse ready for you when you need it.

Ready to start your next project or just need some help?  Talk to us today – get in touch using the form below.

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With 5 Billion corrugated cartons circulating in the UK every year, we are never far from them. When in the supermarket, look out for corrugated trays for fruit, vegetables as well as outers for almost everything displayed on the shelves. In the home, most households these days receive deliveries from online retailers and huge volumes are received and despatched by businesses of every type. But how do you decide on what board grade will work best for the products you’re despatching? Let’s take a closer look at the different protection capabilities, or flutes, of the humble box.

Surely a box is a box is a box?

You might think so but, if so, why do some cartons feel extra-light (or extra heavy?) And some feel ‘soft’ while others feel ‘rigid’? How can one box absorb water and another repel it? Experts in packaging can ensure that boxes will be supplied time and again to perform to a certain standard, using a set of codes that pinpoint which of the variables need to be selected in order to produce a carton that will meet your specific criteria.

What criteria is relevant for deciding on board grades?

As with so many decisions in life, we end up with a trade-off or compromise between what we would like and what we can afford. If not, there might only be a couple of automobile manufacturers to choose from or a couple of retailers. As a simple example, you can reduce the weight of cardboard (and/or the dimensions) with a view to saving money, but the revised box must not jeopardise the safe arrival of the contents!

Demystifying the board grade codes

So what does 125/125 KTBC 457 x 305 x 305mm mean to you? It’s a popular size of rectangular carton that can accommodate A3-sized items and may be useful when moving house and combining a number of smaller items.  And in what way will it differ from a 180/180 KTC of the same size? Starting with the dimensions, they are expressed as Length x Breadth x Height (or Depth) and denote the internal capacity.

The prefixed digits relate to the weight of paper used in grammes per square metre or GSM. The higher the number, the stronger the construction will generally be and the more will be the cost.  Unlike polythene, paper cannot be stated in terms of thickness because papers can -and do -vary in density. This figure will give the first clue to the strength of the board and is known as the board grade and may be expressed as follows: 115/125 GSM; 140/150 GSM; 185/200 GSM; 300 GSM.

Paper Types

After paper weight, then the first capital letter, in this case K, stands for Kraft paper which makes the outer layer of the corrugated sandwich. It is resilient and usually consists of pure virgin softwood fibres in the pulp mix. These fibres are long and bond together strongly. Occasionally there may be a small percentage of recycled fibres added which are inevitably shorter. Kraft is naturally brown and will print up nicely, while white Kraft is the same pulp that has been through a bleaching process and makes the best medium for colour printing.

T for Test

The next capital refers to the other side of the sandwich which becomes the inside of the box. In this case it is T which stands for Test. This is made from something near to 100% recycled pulp and is a 2-ply layer bonded together. It is soft and cheap, but not very strong. The short fibres cannot make a good bond, but the sheet serves as cushioning and works well in this role. Where a box is required to have great strength and rigidity, then both sheets could be made from Kraft.

On the other hand, where price is paramount and the contents are not unduly heavy or sharp, then the construction could be Test/Test and can boast the environmental benefit of almost entirely recycled content. All of this needs to be considered when selecting the correct board grade for your products.

Flutes made easy

Corrugated board flutes

Corrugated board flutes

The fluting size comes next and may be one or two letters depending on whether the construction is single wall or double wall. The fluting is glued in as the filling of the sandwich using high speed machinery. It makes for the strength and rigidity of the board’s construction and is itself available in different weights of paper.

 

 

 

Single Flute Board Profile

Single wall flute board profileFor where the contents are lighter and/or non-fragile.

Double wall flute board profile

Double wall flute board profile

For medium-heavy consignments and where the goods will be stacked on top of each other. Both flutes are identical.

Triple Wall Flute Board Profile

Triple Wall Flute Board Profile

For the heaviest contents and strongest of boxes and sheets

 

BC flute board profile

BC flute board profile

A popular configuration for price and strength.

EB flute board profile

EB flute board profile

Mostly used in smart retail packaging with smooth, sealed white surface and able to support full colour printing.

What next on choosing a board grades and flute?

Hopefully this guide has provided answers to questions you may have had regarding board grades and flutes.

However, should you have any other questions, or would like to see if you can improve your packaging  – please don’t hesitate to contact Acopia. We’d be happy to talk through a solution for you.

Want a sample? Please use the form below to tell us what you would like us to send you.

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Gummed paper tape (or Water Activated Tape as it is otherwise known) has been around since the 1800’s and was the only viable way to seal a cardboard carton. The mass production of pressure sensitive tape from the 1930’s by the Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Company (now known as 3M and a global organisation) commenced the steady decline of gummed tape usage. By the end of the 20th Century, the demise of gummed tape seemed to be complete.

It took the advent of Amazon and other e-commerce operators to reverse this trend and fan the dying embers into a furnace. And for the right reasons too.  It ticks all the environmental boxes without having any ‘nasties’! So is that the only reason why Amazon use it? Let’s find out more about the tape we’ve all become so much more familiar with thanks to Mr Bezos!

Is paper tape cheaper and easier to use?

It’s generally considered to be more economical in use. So for the rest of us without huge buying power (like Amazon) the tape may not be cheaper per metre. However savings accrue because fewer metres are needed per package. So a single ‘U’ strip on small and an ‘H’ on larger parcels would certainly do the job!

Then there is its compatibility with the more fibrous surface of recycled (or re-used) corrugated boxes that many like to use these days. It soaks into the paper surface creating a tamper-proof, permanent seal which will help ‘rigidify’ the package once dry. By contrast, cheaper plastic parcel tapes generally struggle to adhere properly to fibrous surfaces. Plastic tape can ‘unstick’ overnight. This means it could cause the contents of parcels to be strewn around the distribution chain and not arrive at the intended destination!

The remedy has been to either a) upgrade to premium PVC tape and b) upgrade the carton outer skin to contain more virgin fibres or c) cover the same cartons with huge amounts of the same tape. All these outcomes are expensive, tipping the financial scales strongly towards paper! Throw into the mix the risk of pilfered items from your consignments. Where brown plastic tape is used for sealing, it’s easy for a thief to lift up or cut the tape. It’s even possible for items to be removed and the box be resealed without showing any sign of damage. This means paper tape provides more security for your parcels, hence the prolific use by Amazon.

Speeding up the process

For volume users, the fastest and most economical use of paper tape involves the investment in the latest generation of electronic dispensers. Not only will a ‘magic eye’ size-up the critical three dimensions of the carton, but it means it can produce the 3 pieces of tape to the correct lengths. Programmable so they will also arrive in the right order, the strips are ready-creased and pre-wetted. The tape is manageable and will not curl back on itself either. Rather nifty!

If the budget is less creative, then gummed tape dispensers start from about £40 but rely on the operator’s judgement to pull through the right length of wet tape for the task. Somewhere in the middle  price-wise are lever-operated dispensers. These can produce the exact strip lengths that the operator pre-selects.

The packer benefits in other ways too. Instead of needing to manoeuvre a loaded hand carton sealer all day, tape can be placed precisely on the parcel using once it has been ejected from the compact dispenser sitting handily on the bench-top. In this way, risks of RSI and fatigue are all eliminated.

Loading a Water Activated Paper Tape Machine

Loading a Water Activated Paper Tape Machine

Pressure sensitive paper tape

Have you decided that you need to move away from plastic tapes but gummed paper tapes are a step too far? There is a middle ground and it incorporates the best of both worlds. The medium is still paper which may be crepe or smooth, with either hot-melt or natural rubber adhesive. The tape can be applied by hand or by using any standard hand case sealer at a cost of about £9. The bonding is as instantaneous as when using plastic tape. The rolls are 50 meters and standard widths are 1”, 2” (48mm) and 3” (70mm). The tape does not need to be removed from the paper or cardboard because it’s also recyclable! Paper tape may be branded with one or more ink colours to build brand awareness and increase security in transit.

And the best benefit of all with paper tape…

Reinforced paper tape

The tape of choice by Amazon – reinforced paper tape!

Finally, we’re back to where we started. The benefit to the environment can be the game changer. The recycling of cartons and paper sacks that have been sealed with gummed paper tape could not be more straightforward. The main product is Kraft paper which is exactly the same ingredients as the box or paper bag. The adhesive is made from corn starch and the printing inks (if branded) are generally vegetable-based which all ensures it’s green credentials. No extra processes are required on the part of the paper tape. Sadly, that’s not the case with plastic tape which is notoriously difficult to separate and is never fully recyclable or degradable.

If your packages are generally heavy then it would be best to use paper tape with a fabric reinforcement. This adds good resistance to tearing under load. Most households in the UK will have received a parcel from the largest of etailers and experienced the tough reinforced paper tape.  Generally this performs better than all but the dearest of plastic tapes and the reinforced version is fully recyclable.

What next?

You will find paper tapes used for purposes such as picture framing, both traditional (using gummed) and modern (using pressure sensitive). One of our art gallery customers uses it both for its aesthetic qualities as well as its green credentials which means they get the best of both worlds. The adhesive is generally permanent and this makes the distinction from paper masking tape.

Paper tape use is definitely making a comeback.  Time will tell how much of the market-share it will claw back from plastic. By sourcing thicker, more resilient papers, manufacturers can offer a range of paper tapes that will increasingly match or exceed the performance of plastic tape. Sometimes, ‘going green’ can cost a lot of money. But not always. Paper tape does give the benefit of similar pricing and similar performance with a sound and visible environmental benefit.

So that’s good news all round isn’t it?

Got a question on getting set up for your business? Pop it over to us on the form below!

 

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Plastic or paper – the big debate! Unfortunately there is no black-or-white, simple yes-or-no answer to this question. Plastic can take hundreds of years to decompose and finds its way into our waterways and oceans in alarming quantities. We have all seen distressing images of the harm it causes to wildlife. One of the most widely used methods of trying to deal with this is to put biodegradable additives into plastic during manufacture.

However there is concern that this results in the material breaking down into smaller pieces, but not completely. This potentially causes even more pollution and harm to wildlife. Paper decomposes (usually) much quicker and is also much easier to recycle, but does use more energy to produce and transport. Plastic is manufactured from raw materials that are not easily replaceable. Trees can be replanted in increasing numbers to offset those that are used for paper production worldwide.

So let’s take a closer look at today’s big environmental debate. What’s better in the long run?

Reducing environmental impact

The key to reducing the environmental impact of any kind of packaging is to re-use it as much as possible. An Environment Agency study found that a paper bag needs to be re-used 3 times to have less overall impact than a single-use plastic bag. A plastic bag for life must be re-used 4 times. It should be noted that this study was in 2006 and improved efficiencies in paper manufacturing since then may have reduced the re-use requirement for paper.

In addition when paper does get disposed of, recycling is readily accessible.  These days it is normal for paper and card to be separated from other household and business waste.  Whilst paper requires more energy to produce than plastic, it is much more efficient and economical to recycle.

Making an informed choice

The fact is both the paper and polythene industries, and their industry associations, are working very hard to reduce their respective impacts on the environment. Plastic packaging will not go away as it has many unique benefits. These include reducing food waste, by example, by keeping it fresh for longer.

On the other hand, paper is generally more consumer friendly and more likely to be re-used or recycled. Plastic manufacturers are working hard to find alternative raw materials such as plant-based rather than fossil-based, whilst paper manufacturers are constantly striving to reduce energy and water usage.

Avoiding landfill

The worst thing that can happen to either paper or plastic is for it to find its way into landfill. The very nature of landfill sites results in materials being protected from air, light, and water. This means that even degradable materials are prevented from decomposing.

Responsible producers and consumers of both materials are doing everything they can to ensure that recycling is promoted, facilitated and practised. At the moment this is easier with paper products than with plastic.  This is a very good reason why consumers tend to view paper packaging more favourably, and something the plastics industry and government need to work hard to change.

Customer preference for plastic or paper?

Plastic or paper

What’s easier for consumers to recycle?

Perhaps the most important consideration for a supplier or manufacturer when considering the question ‘plastic or paper’ is consumer perception. Due to the high visibility of plastic waste and publicity surrounding the amount of plastic finding its way into our oceans, consumer preference is unsurprisingly in favour of paper.

An independent report commissioned by Two Sides in March 2020, found that 63% (69% in the UK) of European consumers perceive paper and cardboard being better for the environment. It discovered that 66% would prefer their online purchases to be delivered in paper packaging. 70% of consumers asked are actively taking steps to reduce their use of plastic packaging. And 73% of consumers preferred their purchases to be delivered in properly fitted packaging. Getting the packaging size right means a reduction in need for excessive void-fill.

Where does this leave us?

So this all means there are pro’s and con’s on both sides. At the moment consumer preference is heavily in favour of paper-based packaging. Remember, what’s good for consumer perception is also good for your brand, so ignore it at your peril!

If you want to find out more about packaging materials, please take a look at our other blogs on What does FSC stand for and What is Ecommerce?

And if you need help with weighing up either paper or plastic for the best packaging solutions for your next project, please get in touch below.

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Taking time to think about the best protective packaging for your products is certainly worth the investment, but not overly exciting! Whether it’s for your own e-commerce operation or you’re fulfilling and despatching products for a customer – protective packaging can make a difference. It can improve on packing time, reduce breakages and returns as well as cost. Eco-friendly or more sustainable solutions may also be on your wish list. So out of the array of solutions on the market, have you considered Air Pillow film?

Perhaps you’ve been put off in the past because it looks like it might be a bit complicated or difficult to use. You might have thought it required specialist expensive machinery to get it up and running?  So let’s see how it stacks up against void-fill and protective packaging alternatives.

Firstly, how does Air Pillow film work?

Air Pillow film works with Air Pillow machines to create sealed air ‘pillows’ or ‘cushions’.  It comes as a roll of flat plastic perforated at specific intervals. This makes it easy to tear off exactly what you need.  One edge of the film is attached to the Air Pillow machine and air is blown into the film and the side sealed creating a tough bubble of air.  Essentially the bubble is 99% air and only 1% plastic!  You’re effectively packing with air!

You can even control the amount of air that inflates the bubbles according to how fragile your products are. You’re also in charge of how fast the machine runs.  If you have lots of parcels requiring similar levels of cushioning, you can set it up and run it quickly ‘go ready for packing’. Alternatively, if you want smaller amounts or the levels of cushioning are different or complex, slowing down the speed gives you greater flexibility and reduces waste.

How much do Air Pillow machines cost?

There are 3 machines available, of which two can be rented and one bought outright.  The Airtech Meteor machine (pictured) is the entry-level machine in the range and can be bought for around £900. Another bonus is that it comes with 2 free rolls of film.

The Air Pillow Meteor Machine

Bench top, post room and workstation friendly – the Airtech Meteor Air Pillow Machine

All other machines are available to rent, costing £35 per month per machine.  However, if you have a contract of 3 rolls or more of film per month there is no rental charge for the machine.

Servicing and spare parts are also free of charge if you’re renting. An engineer would be available to fix your machine should anything not be working correctly. That’s great peace of mind to know that should you have any issues, you won’t be left on your own. Spare and replacement parts can also be posted out to you.

How much does Air Pillow film cost?

There are 4 different types of Air Pillow film – recycled, bio, degradable and ESD (Electrostatic dissipating)

The cost of the rolls does depend on the quantity you require, the width (200-700 mm wide) and whether you want them printed with your branding.

As an average cost, a standard 200 mm wide roll of film with 120 mm perforation lengths would be £75-£95.

Degradable film would be quite a lot more expensive, with a minimum order quantity of 65 rolls at a time.  The film has a shelf life of 6 months so it’s definitely a solution for high packaging volume users!

Air Pillow film vs bubble wrap – costs, storage, plastic usage and other features

There are a couple of factors to think about when comparing air pillow to bubble wrap, which include:

Cost

Taking the standard 200 mm roll with 120 mm perforations as an example, 1 roll of this would equate to 18 bundles of 1500 mm bubble wrap.

Bubble wrap has a high cubit volume meaning couriers find it a challenge to deliver and this reflects in the cost.

On average one bundle of bubble wrap would cost £15-£25, so buying air pillow film would save on average £250 per roll when used as a void-fill.

Storage

Storing bubble wrap is similar to making up flat pack boxes and trying to store them that way; it takes up a lot of room but is easy to use when you need it.

The benefit of Air Pillow film is that the rolls are roughly 9” diameter and 200-400 mm depending on the width of the roll.  Compared to 18 rolls of 1500 mm high bubble wrap, the storage space air pillow film rolls take is hardly comparable!

Plastic usage

Depending on the environment qualities of your Air Pillow film or bubble, Air Pillow film is generally a better option to reduce your plastic usage.

Air Pillow films are mostly air (actually 99 %), so compared to bubble wrap there is a lot less plastic compared to air.  The pillows are also about 10x thicker than bubble wrap.

Other benefits include

Durability

As well as the plastic usage, air pillows are very tough and not easy to pop compared to bubble (who hasn’t enjoyed popping bubble wrap in their lifetime 😊).  This is due to the seal on the pillow, the thick construction of the plastic and pressure setting.

Reliability

Air Pillow film machines provide a consistent film quality produced to match your usage. It takes longer to use a roll and as it’s easier to store so you shouldn’t run out too quickly.

Diversity

There’s an air cushion type for every application, and it can also be used as a void fill. Bubble wrap isn’t really economical as void filling.

Professional

Air Pillow film looks professional and can be used with high-quality goods.  It can also be printed with your logo to make the un-boxing experience even better for customers and end users!

Air Pillow film vs Loosefill chips – costs, storage, benefits and more

As a void fill, Loosefill chips are very flexible and easy to use.

Are you currently using void fill as well as another option for protective wrapping like bubble wrap?  In case you didn’t know, Air pillow film can actually be used as both which in turn can simplify your processes.

So let’s look at the comparison between Air Pillow film and Loosefill

Costs

Taking the standard 200 mm roll with 120 mm perforations as an example, 1 roll of this does the job of roughly 12-14 bags of Loosefill

Couriers find Loosefill a challenge to deliver. This is because it has a high cubit volume and weighs very little. Delivery costs of Loosefill can vary vastly.  If we take an average cost of £12 for 13 bags of Loosefill it would cost £156. Using Air Pillow film would save you on average £70- per roll!  (And more if you’re currently using it as a protective packaging as well as Loosefill)

Storage

To be honest, Loosefill is a bit like bubble wrap. It’s a bit of a headache to store as each bag is 15 cubic feet.  You can pile them up, but this is not the sort of thing you can keep in any normal sized cupboard!

The benefit of Air Pillow film is that each roll is roughly 9” wide and 200-400mm (depending on the width of your rolls).  It’s possible to fit quite a few rolls of Air Pillow in the same area that you would store just 1 bag of Loosefill!

Plastic usage and environmental factors

The beauty about Air Pillow is that not only is it made from 50% recyclable plastic, it is also recyclable by the end user. These qualities really make it a protective packaging and void product of choice.

The Loosefill options stack up like this. Biofil is 100% biodegradable, conforming to EN-13432 standard. It is a natural product made from plant starch whereas Fastfil is made from 100% recycled product and is CFC free, however it will end up in landfill.

When it comes to reuse, both Air Pillow and Fastfil Loosefill can be used repeatedly. Although the Biofil is greener, we wouldn’t advise re-using Biofil as this tends to crush on repeated use with heavy items.

Flexible – when it comes to use, there are pros and cons for both. Loosefill is very simple to use and that’s why it is a popular choice. It packs quickly around products and is perfect for providing protection for irregular shapes and absorbing shock. It certainly fills narrow gaps better that than Air Pillow however, it doesn’t quite protect delicate and vulnerable corners like Air Pillow can.  Air Pillow can be used to create multiple layers of protection whilst being flexible enough to act a void fill as well as protective packaging.

So where does this leave us?

Time and money savings are important for every business. Devoting storage space for your own profitable products in your warehouse rather than vast volumes of void fill may be another reason to look at alternatives. It may also be the perfect time to move to some more sustainable packing solutions too.

And what you might have thought of as fiddly and expensive option may actually be the space, time and money saving solution you were after all along!

Want to try it out? Please get in touch below.

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Everyone loves a bargain. It’s a good feeling when you find a quality product at a great price. Right now, you’ll certainly be looking to make the pounds go farther. But buying purely on price might not necessarily add up to the savings you thought you were getting in the long run. It’s the same for packing tape. What might seem like a cheap option at the time might not end up the bargain you were hoping for. Yes, you want to save money for your business (who doesn’t?) but you do need to make sure a cheap packing tape does not end up costing you double!

So what options are available on packing tape (or parcel tape) right now and which performs best for the money?

Packing tape fit for purpose

The first thing you may need to ask yourself is where you are planning to use your tape? You will see on the table at the end of the article that plastic tapes can have one of three main types of adhesive. The cheapest has its limitations, so it would be wise to test suitability in typical conditions before investing in bulk supplies.

Parcels that become unstuck are unlikely to arrive with all the contents intact and in best condition – even if they arrive at all! If lack of adhesion becomes an issue, then operators will tend to use huge quantities of tape to be on the safe side. A quality tape would have done a quicker, neater job with minimal tape used per parcel. Take time to look at how your parcels appear at point of departure, then imagine how they will present when a customer receives them…remember they won’t improve in transit!

The very cheapest and thinnest of tapes sometimes acquire a bad reputation for tearing and snapping. Operators can then become frustrated if it is hard to find the end when it keeps breaking in use. This can lead to significant wastage of material and time, while the bin fills up with part-used rolls! Will the package need to cope with any unusual conditions or extremes of temperature? It’s no good thinking you’re getting a great deal on a cheap general-purpose tape when you actually need it to work in refrigerated conditions for example. This would just turn out to be a false economy for you.

Let’s take a look at some of the brands you may come across.

Bonus Packing Tape

This tape comes in long 200 metres rolls. Its selling point is based on these longer rolls requiring fewer roll changes. This saves time in the warehouse, speeding up the despatch process. That’s good news all round isn’t it? On the downside, due to the longer roll length, the roll is much heavier to work with.  This can have an impact on the user, especially over time with RSI concerns. In terms of use, it is an all-round tape, fine for general packaging and has its own noise-reducing dispenser. The tape generally sells for about £2 a roll when purchasing a box of 36.

E-tape packing tape

A newer derivative of Bonus Tape is E-tape which has proved to save money and time in the warehouse.  The rolls also have small cores,  2”/50 mm, 3”/75 mm used for 66 meter rolls, yet contains 150 meters per roll whilst using only a fraction more volume. There is an additional saving here with space and storage with 36 rolls of 150 metres is much the same volume as a box of 66m tape. Productivity is increased through reducing down-time spent changing the roll by almost three times compared to 66 meter rolls. Similarly, there are savings because less than half the number of cores are used, along with reduced tape wastage. A variety of types is available to suit most applications (including cold rooms).

Where brand awareness is important to the user, this is a really simple and relatively cost effective way to go with custom printing of logos and messages. Certain standard stock-prints such as ‘Fragile’ printed in red ink on white complete the range. It comes with its own ergonomic noise-reducing dispenser to fit the smaller core.

E-tape is available in a variety of grades and adhesives with different finishes such as white, buff and clear. (Although the range does include a premium PVC tape which has a high-grab solvent rubber adhesive, this is not a cheap option, so is outside of the scope of this article).

E-tape can be purchased for 78p a roll depending on quantity bought.

Envirotape range

One of several copies of E-tape is Envirotape from Kite Packaging, with a similar core size and roll length to E-tape. Again, the long tape length helps to reduce the frequency of roll changes. The range includes acrylic and hot melt adhesives. This is an all-rounder for general packaging use. Price is from 67p a roll depending on quantity bought.

Where are the real savings to be had if cheapest is not cheap in the long run?

 It is important to grasp that the savings gained by using the longer tape rolls are mainly through economies of time and material and particularly the greatly increased productivity.

What does this mean for you? More parcels being processed per operator per day.

What else?

Custom-printed tape provides a simple and cost-effective means for the sender to promote the company brand and helps to visually identify the consignment. E-tape is the only tape in this comparison that can support bespoke printing.

Something else to consider if your operatives need to place 2 strips of tape across the box to seal it. A wider 75 mm wide option will give you an immediate saving by only using one strip of tape!

Bringing it home

Our table below shows you some of the pros and cons of strengths and weaknesses you can expect from your tape choice in a little more detail.

Parcel tape comparison table

So why should all this be important to you? Because it can save you time and money – the most critical elements for any business. If you think of a warehouse full of operatives working inefficiently day in and day out, that adds up over every month, over every year. Yes you might have saved 20p on a roll but what did it cost you?

Want to find out more? Please get in touch below

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In today’s time-poor commercial environment, it is vital to remove bottlenecks in the packaging process. Whether your goods arriving in the packing area are intended to be shipped swiftly or to be stored for later processes, few machines will do that work faster than an electric strapping machine. If you need to collate a number of packages into one, closing single boxes, or adding external protection – all in a timely and secure manner everyday – then read on!

What’s on the strapping machine market?

Have you had an initial look around, only to think the various different options are baffling? On the one hand, some machines are large enough to fill a small room. You’ll see other businesses benefiting most from using hand-held apparatus. Let us help you by categorising the main types of strapping machine. They all serve a purpose, so working out the best one for you requires some analysis of the numbers in your own operation.

Automatic strapping machines

Fully automatic strapping machine

Fully automatic strapping machine

Do you handle hundreds of small-to-medium packs say from the size of small, fat book up to a boxed domestic microwave? Adding a fully automatic strapping machine to the end of the line is likely to be hugely rewarding in terms of labour saved and efficiency. Output in excess of 35 straps per minute can be achieved, while high speed machines offer around 50 per minute. Warranty is for 12 months and reliability is good. Operators should not need to be involved with any more than the most basic maintenance.

Will the budget stretch to something around £4000? Spreading the cost may be an option. There’s finance up to 3 years available to successful applicants, along with possible tax relief on capital expenditure. You could save money by having a model with button or foot control instead of a magic eye to activate the sealing cycle. Strap widths range from 9 mm-15 mm.

Semi-automatic strapping machines

Semi automatic strapping machine

Semi automatic strapping machine

Choosing a semi-automatic machine is not necessarily a poor option at all. For those with a huge variation in package sizes (here the ceiling’s the limit, just so long are able to move the item safely and directly against the ‘stop’ of the machine’s loading position. This can be tricky if the item is an irregular shape). Feeding the strap out and back in will take longer – and the sealing cycle could also add a second or two, subject to the gauge of strap and settings. The shear versatility is what wins here.

Packages per day could be counted in tens rather than hundreds to be viable and one machine could conceivably be shared by a few of operators. They can be moved around too on 4 lockable castors to minimise the distances for packs to be transported. Moderately fragile items may be accommodated (such as boxed fresh flowers) thanks to adjustable tension control. Strap widths from 5 mm-15.5 mm. Depending on model, prices start around £700.

Hand held strapping machines

Why use a hand-held strapping machine? These are cordless and so can be carried to the product that needs to be packaged, saving loads of time, energy and machine handling. Employed vertically or horizontally they tension, heat-seal and cut at the squeeze of a trigger once you have fed both ends of the plastic strap into the machine. Expect up to 400 straps per charge of a new battery, subject to variables such as the prevailing temperature. Components may wear and need replacing and regular servicing is advisable.

They are favourites in timber yards for example, where long lengths of cut timber can be bundled speedily, ensuring orders are collated and made rigid. Any number of bulky items may be handled just as well. These are best not lost in the yard though. Expect to pay something around £2000 per unit.

Manual strapping machines

Let’s go back to basics with a manual machine. This is where it all began, with sealing achieved using metal clips that have to be crimped onto the strapping where both ends meet after tightly encompassing the package. The popular combination tool will tension, crimp the seal and sever the unused strap in one multi tool, but this operation is many times slower than the electrical options above so best only for a handful of uses per day. These are best used on a horizontal surface such as the top of a carton or low, flat pallet. Where this is not possible, then the use of a separate tensioner and crimper-cutter is recommended. Expect to pay around £70+ for either kit, depending on quality.

Our own experience

In our own stores environment back in the early ‘90’s, we procrastinated for a while, but once we bought our own semi-automatic machine, we never looked back! Now we are two machines down the line. We found that delivery drivers much preferred taking our packages if they had 2 straps across the trunk and one across the length. They could carry a bundle in each hand by using the long strap as a handle. This speeded up loading and unloading times, as well as keeping orders for each site more accessible in transit and greatly reduced the number of instances where items became lost or forgotten. Quite a win-win!

Strapping materials

The most popular strapping material by metres consumed is polypropylene, being both tough and economical. It is suitable for light to medium weight packages and pallets. Generally, the thicker the band, the greater the breaking strain. Although quoted figures may sound high, starting around 130 KG for 12 mm strap, you must bear in mind the forces in a drop or collision will multiply the weight of the package by a factor of several times according to the terminal speed.

There are colours available in most sizes and where greater security and branding is required, then colour printing is available. Fact: Parcels and pallets secured with plain, un-printed packaging are more susceptible to pilferage. Bespoke printed strapping will not be opened it seems and resealed in transit!

Plastic or paper strapping?

For scenarios where greater tensional strength is required then polyester is superior to polypropylene banding. It has substantially higher retained tension and flexibility. Polyester has often been introduced in the packing of heavy items where in the past steel strap would have been the only option. (Environmental impact: packaging need not be single-use if we close the loop….!)

Polypropylene (PP) is a plastic that can be recycled for use in other items such as plant pots. Polyester (PET) strapping is available with recycled content. It can be effectively recycled for further use as strapping without the need to ever go to landfill. Paper strap is a recent addition for those seeking an environmental presentation. Suitable for both auto and semi-auto machinery, it can also be recycled.

At a glance

Strapping machines comparison

So what’s the right one for me?

In summing up, be assured that considerable amounts of time can be saved by using the above machines. When the (ever-rising) cost of labour is factored in, then the outlay is quite readily justifiable, subject to proper analysis. There is a right ‘horse for the course’ for you out there.

It is crucial to know your figures. For example, number of of packages to be processed per day/hour/minute, number of straps per parcel, usual weight per pack, size range of popular packs (to ensure you specify the correct arch dimensions for the automatic strapping machine). With sufficient space to circulate (or the adoption of conveyor belts) the flow rate can be little short of amazing.

We recommend you discuss your own challenge with a packaging professional, ideally on-site, before pressing the green button. The best use of resources will likely include a designated pathway from A to B, ensuring the minimum amount of labour to achieve the maximum throughput.

And remember, success brings success! Your happy customers will come back to you, so the chances are you’ll soon be exceeding your projected figures!

Want to know more? Ask your questions here:

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We are all being asked to do more with less and taking time to review existing operations and processes is the perfect place to start. It maybe just the opportunity to apply new thinking or seek advice in simplifying and streamlining work flow and logistics in the warehouse, gaining greater control and enhanced efficiencies. So if maximising productivity, remaining competitive and creating an agile, responsive packaging operation is important to you for 2019, then being able to automate your packaging process may be the key to not only lowering costs but also a way to introduce safer and leaner working conditions.

Lean Green Clean

Increasing productivity as well as reducing costs are most certainly your key drivers but your end users and customers will also be interested in your process from an environmental aspect. Automating your process still supports you in making those necessary environmental changes in terms of the materials you use for your protective packaging. We supply a number of options for void filling which are all either recyclable by the end user or made from sustainable sources. We also supply machinery that allows you to create your own void filling from card. Whether you require automation for box erection at the start of the process or with strapping and securing prior to despatch, we have an automated solution for you.

Create Protect Secure – Automate

At Acopia – we supply machinery for every step of the process and all equipment is equally at home in a manual packaging setting or integrated as part of a fully automated process. We can identify where to make the optimal changes to your process to yield the greatest results. Experts in packaging and procedure for over 40 years, we work with many clients on process improvement and delivering greater returns on investment. Each setting is unique and the amount of automation needed is different. We don’t adopt a one size fits all approach – we analyse every aspect and suggest change where we know it will make a real difference.

If you would like to know more, please get in touch. Let us know about your current challenges, bottlenecks and headaches and we can help you to achieve effortless automation for your packing line.

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    As the final quarter of a challenging year approaches, reducing business costs and delivering greater efficiencies in your warehouse will no doubt be high on your list of resolutions for 2019. Did you know that a simple product change to your existing despatch and logistics operation can yield staggering savings both in productivity and cost? The answer lies with e-tape! The humble reel of adhesive tape has been re-imagined and transformed to deliver real business benefits.

    How e-tape can work for your business

    The clever bit is in the revolutionary redesign of the size of the core. So simple, yet this change has the power to transform the bottom line.

    In a recent study, a packing line was observed using standard tape, 66 mm rolls fitted on a core size of 75 mm. Each operator would replace the tape every 39 boxes, on average. What this meant was every 16 minutes, the roll needed to be changed. That’s a great deal of downtime over every day, every week, all year – it all added up.

    When e-tape was introduced to this company, the results were startling. The clever core design of 50 mm came into its own. With an increased length of tape on each role due to the smaller core, it meant each roll had two and a half times more tape on every reel!

    The results!

    What did this mean? For this particular company – it saved 45,000 roll changes in 12 months!

    What did it mean every day for the packing line? The rolls only needed to be changed 9 times instead of 20 times a day – which meant the operator could pack up to 10 more boxes a day.

    So much more than a roll of tape!

    So not only can cost savings be found, but there are also the storage benefits as fewer boxes are required. You can also do your bit for the environment too with an eco-friendly variation. It’s also possible to have tape custom printed as well as the recognisable Fragile etc.

    Still need convincing?

    Acopia is delighted to bring you this incredible product and we have an excellent offer to get you started. We are so convinced your team will love using this product that we have a special offer on your first order – just call us on 0845 075 6111 to find out more.

    Call the team now to start saving or shop e-tape now!

    Or fill in the form below and we will be in touch!

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      Choosing the perfect packaging for your product is as important as your product and your product design itself. Packaging that is both consumer friendly, cost effective and has the protection capabilities you require can be difficult to source.

      Our quick tips can help you focus on how to determine what’s right for you!

      Set Your Budget

      Before you even start your selection process, you need to think about how much you are planning to spend on protecting your product. Once you have defined a cost, this will determine what options are open to you in terms of materials, the quality of the packaging and if there is money to spend on printing or making the most of bespoke opportunities.

      Think About Your Product

      You will also need to consider your product. Would it be vulnerable in minimal protective packaging? Is it fragile and easy to crush? If the answer is yes – you will need to think about a more robust material to keep it safe in transit. If your product is food produce, for example, you will need to think about the best packaging methods and materials that will keep your food fresh and prevent contamination.

      How Are You Transporting Your Product?

      How your is being stored and transported is another area for consideration. Is it going by post, courier or air freight for example? Will it need to be stored in a freezer or temperature controlled conditions? Is your chosen packaging be robust enough to withstand this duress. You may need to invest in testing your packaging in these environments to ensure it can still perform.

      Does the packaging reflect your brand?

      Finally, does your packaging reflect your product as well as your brand? If your company core value is in support of the environment, you will need to make sure your packaging is recyclable – customers and end users would expect to see this. Your brand values should not just be empty words, it’s the foundation of your company and product line.

      Maybe what you require is not an off the shelf product and you need some help in  innovative packaging design and functionality. You can see some useful hints and tips to start the process of bespoke packaging here. 

      Talk to your provider about all the options available to you to ensure your packaging not only makes an impact, it keeps to your core values too.