This opportunity may be considered as two complementary approaches: reducing the overall level of packaging; and optimising what packaging there is to permit efficient loading into the vehicle – for example, by allowing stacking without additional containers. These strategies allow maximum utilisation of the space within a vehicle body or trailer, improving its productivity (fuel or emissions per unit of payload).

Application relevance

Commitments and some progress have been made in this area under the auspices of the National Packaging Covenant, but this issue would benefit from greater focus by the freight logistics industry and its customers. By focusing on the condition and safety of customer loads, operators can work with customers to reduce or eliminate protective packaging from the supply chain, freeing up additional space for more product and therefore more income for the transport operator.

In some cases, improvements are easily captured with a small amount of cooperation between transport operator and freight customer. In other cases, a great deal of collaboration is required along the entire supply chain, and trials may be required to ensure service quality is maintained while reducing packaging.

Potential benefits

Fleets can offer increased customer service and reduce fuel costs by optimising vehicle utilisation. The freight customer also benefits from a product that has a lower environmental impact and lower transportation costs per unit.

Key implementation strategies

While a reduction in packaging weight can increase freight capacity, this should be pursued at the point where the greatest gains can be made (which may be at the point of manufacture rather than distribution). Significant investments may be required to ensure that goods are protected with reduced packaging. New handling methods may also need to be implemented.
On the other hand, collaboration between the transport operator and the freight customer can lead to long-term partnerships that make business planning more certain. It can also increase the operator’s appeal in the eyes of other customers.

Examples of implementation

Tesco

This case study examines Tesco, a UK-based supermarket chain, which achieved significant packaging savings (IGD 2009a). Tesco re-launched their chickens in a new 68% lighter form-shrink pack, migrating away from a standard tray and film pack. In addition, this pack has also improved supply chain efficiency through increased crate fill. The new design achieved 14,000 fewer pallets and 540 less vehicle movements. In Australia there are few companies that have such a wide-ranging influence on the total supply chain but this case study demonstrate how a freight company could work with its customers to achieve greater efficiencies with mutual rewards.

For more information, see IGD (2009) Tesco packaging reduction

For the full report, see Fuel for Thought – Identifying potential energy efficiency opportunities in the Australian road and rail sectors (opens in a new window) PDF 1.5 MB.