Packaging Corner: Technology manages returnable packaging, cuts loss
August 01, 2013 - MMH Editorial
With an investment in reusable transport packaging—such as plastic trays, containers and pallets—comes the added challenge of keeping track of it all. Even within a closed-loop system (with products or components shipped in returnable packaging from a supplier to a manufacturer, or from a distribution center to a retailer and sent back empty), assets can disappear.
To help users better manage their returnable investment, Rehrig Pacific (rehrigpacific.com) has expanded its asset management service offerings.
“We offer everything from behavioral usage training—teaching the associates and truck drivers who handle packaging about its value to the bottom line—to attaching modern sensing technologies for hands-free management,” explains Kaley Parkinson, the company’s national sales manager of supply chain technology services.
The evolution of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and readers makes the technology a much more cost- and process-effective way to monitor returnable packaging, he says. “Because RFID tracking is at the each level, it gives visibility to what every asset is doing and highlights weak points.”
By implementing an asset management program, Parkinson’s customers have seen 30% to 50% reduction in reusable packaging losses in the first year. Plus, there’s an extra benefit beyond loss mitigation, he says.
“Reusable transport packaging has a unique place in the supply chain; it’s everywhere. Adding RFID allows it to be leveraged for greater business intelligence,” he explains. “You can tie it to the goods in the containers to improve freshness, reduce shrink and manage personnel because it adds a layer of accountability.”
To locate reusable packaging that’s gone AWOL outside of a known loop, Rehrig Pacific applies global positioning system (GPS) technology to a few assets to see where they roam.
“We’ve uncovered incidents such as theft to recycle the plastic for money, misuse by another trading partner, confusion by drivers over ownership of similar, unbranded packaging and even misappropriation by a different location within the same company,” says Parkinson. “Using RFID and GPS takes a problem that often comes down to finger pointing and lays clear facts on the table.”
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