The LAB: Creating New Logistics Packaging with SIT (May 2012)

Cardboard boxes are one of the most widely used forms of packaging in the world.  90% of all products are shipped or displayed in corrugated packaging at some point in their lifecycle.  It’s a $57 billion dollar industry globally, but it is not growing.  Could it be a lack of innovation?

For this month’s LAB, we will apply the corporate innovation method, SIT, to the corrugated box to see what potential innovations could fuel industry growth.  But first, a bit of history from Wikipedia:

Corrugated (also called pleated) paper was patented in England in 1856, and used as a liner for tall hats, but corrugated boxboard was not patented and used as a shipping material until December 20, 1871. The patent was issued to Albert Jones of New York City for single-sided (single-face) corrugated board.  Jones used the corrugated board for wrapping bottles and glass lantern chimneys. The first machine for producing large quantities of corrugated board was built in 1874 by G. Smyth, and in the same year Oliver Long improved upon Jones’ design by inventing corrugated board with liner sheets on both sides, thereby inventing corrugated board as it came to be known in modern times.

Students* from my Innovation Tools course at the University of Cincinnati created these concepts and portrayed them in a Dream Catalog for their client, a local packaging materials company.

Airbox1.  AirBox

  • Description: The Reusable Air Box is a lightweight and protective packaging solution for fragile shipments. The outside air pocket reduces the weight of the packaging while still offering a protection and storage. The interior pocket has a foam protective tubing that forms to the variety of size of objects placed inside the tubing.
  • Benefits: The Reusable Air Box allows for short term packaging of fragile shipments and storage without adding weight or need for a variety of shapes. Could design smaller types that worked as fillers for large boxes to hold things like bottles.
  • Challenges: Would need to make sure they do not pop or lose air easily A mechanism to remove the product easily.
  • SIT Tool: Subtraction

Snap Wrap2.  Snap Wrap

  • Description: Snap Wrap is a flat piece of perforated cardboard that can be bent in different directions. Flat sheets come with printed folding template and instruction for particular products.
  • Benefits: Stackable, lightweight and inexpensive for both supplier and clients Cardboard gets the shape of the product inside and does not need extra fillings or protective foams Perforation lets the box aerate, which is beneficial particularly for produce and fresh food Items Inside is visible without opening the box.
  • Challenges: Patterns of folding should be calculated and designed for each type of product individually
  • SIT Tool: Subtraction

3.  Self-expanding Box

  • Description: Decreased pressure at higher elevation will cause the bag to further inflate. This could be applied to the void filling bags of air used in packaging. This means that when you use them to package fragile items in a box they will expand as the plane climbs and provide additional protection against turbulence while serving the same purpose on the ground.
  • Benefits: Additional lightweight protection of the package contents from turbulence and rough handling. Orientation of the box won’t matter. Lightweight and more environmentally friendly than using additional foam/Styrofoam or other packaging materials.
  • Challenges: Bag may burst with too much pressure.
  • SIT Tool: Attribute Dependency

Tear Tape4.  Tear Tape Box

  • Description: A tape, which when pulled, also tears the box along a perforated marking.
  • Benefits: It allows a user not to open the entire box, but just as much that it shows what is inside or to put something more in it. It can also be used for products, which need to be open fast or in a specific direction or position.
  • Challenges: The cost of such a tape as compared to the value it provides to a low involvement low cost product like a box.
  • SIT Tool: Multiplication + Task Unification

Know tape5.  Know Tape

  • Description: Tape that changes color with time. Innovations in pigment technology can allow colored tape to change color with time. By creating a visual signal among the array of brown boxes, Know Tape-equipped boxes can signal whether they are on the same time table as the packages they are with.
  • Benefits:  Users can easily identify packages that have been in transit too long or been stored for too long. Warehouse supervisors can ensure that packages are being handled efficiently. No extra weight and application steps
  • Challenges: Increase cost of Know Tape must provide a sufficiently superior consumer delight to be worth the additional cost.
  • SIT Tool: Attribute Dependency

*Special thanks to my students: Chetan Bhatia, Teresa Litzler, Rian Masanoff, Jessica Donnelly, Jinghru Wang, and Sepideh Shahi