The top strategies to reduce unit carton costs (also called folding cartons) include optimizing packaging material usage, designing efficient packaging, making smart use of both bulk purchasing and digitally printed packaging, and working with printers knowledgeable in packaging logistics and automation. Also, and perhaps surprisingly, the use of sustainable paperboards, materials, and processes leads to better long-term revenue and margins. Lastly, regular product packaging audits also lead to reduced packaging costs.

Taken together, these six packaging strategies can streamline a company’s product operations, reduce costs, and lead to solid long-term growth. Let’s look at each.

1 – Optimize Unit Carton Material Usage

optimize unit carton material thickness

While it might seem insignificant, using thinner carton materials can drastically cut costs by reducing the amount of material used. It’s a simple, yet effective strategy for achieving cost efficiency. It’s something that packaging suppliers and consumers alike can get behind.

For example, reducing carton thickness by .001 or .002″ can reduce material costs by several percent. That’s not just good for the budget—it’s also a step towards reducing material waste. By optimizing material usage, we’re not only keeping production costs in check but also contributing positively to the environment.

Naturally, there is a tradeoff because carton strength is reduced with thinner boards. Testing of various boards will determine an optimal thickness for any given product. A supplier, such as Clear Print, will make stock recommendations and supply a free custom-designed CAD-cut sample to fit your product.

2 – Use Efficient Packaging Design

efficient packaging design

Building on the idea of material optimization, efficient packaging design presents another avenue for significant cost savings in unit carton production.

Consider these unit carton design tactics:

  • Use standardized sizes where possible. Standard sizes typically cost less than a full custom design and production run. Standard sizes can be laid out efficiently on standard paperboards. Dies already exist, and the folding-gluing process won’t present any new problems.
  • Where custom packaging designs are used, optimize the unit carton’s outside dimensions to fit well into standard shipping boxes and containers. Unusual designs that take up space will cost more to ship and store. Also, when it makes sense, design the package to eliminate void areas and more closely fit the actual size of the product. A packaging company, like Clear Print, can help design your unit cartons (consumer boxes) and corrugated shipping cartons that fit together.
  • Reduce package complexity. It’s easy for designers to create incredibly intricate, beautiful packages, but keep in mind spot colors, metallic foils, specials coatings, or other print finishing options can add cost.
  • Consider lighter packaging materials. Lightweight materials not only reduce packaging costs, they reduce shipping expenses too.
  • Think about the package filling process. Easy-to-assemble designs minimize labor costs and enhance efficiency.
  • Keep design aesthetics in mind. Smart packaging design stands out on the shelf which in turn moves products faster and reduces inventory costs.

3 – Match Volume to Process – Leverage Bulk Purchasing and Digital Folding Cartons

best print process for unit cartons

Matching production volume to the most suitable printing process is a simple strategy that improves efficiency and minimizes costs. For example, digital printing of folding cartons is a cost-effective solution for small to medium quantities with shorter lead times. The flexibility of digital folding cartons lets companies adapt swiftly to changing market demands.

Bulk purchasing on the other hand, can drastically cut down on per-unit costs, with businesses often seeing savings between 10-20% or more on average. This strategy leverages the economies of scale, allowing companies to reap additional cost savings when higher volumes are necessary.

The integration of both bulk purchasing and digital folding cartons into the company’s packaging production process reduces packaging costs and improves their bottom line. Working with an experienced folding carton supplier can make this a seamless process.

4 – Use Eco-Friendly Paperboards and Materials

sustainable paperboard

Packaging companies, like Clear Print, only use sustainable materials and vegetable-based inks for eco-friendly packaging which has a favorable impact on product sales.

Package reusability is another consideration. Paperboard packaging that can be used more than once holds a great deal of appeal for eco-conscious consumers. It also reduces costs and minimizes overall waste.

5 – Work with Folding Carton Suppliers Who Understand Logistics and Automation

folding carton supplier automation with folder gluer

Working with unit carton suppliers who are well-versed in logistics and automation can greatly reduce packaging costs. They can offer efficient digital printing solutions for versioning, short runs, and testing, which reduces waste and saves money.

Additionally, automatic package filling, when appropriate, can streamline operations and minimize labor costs, offering another opportunity for cost reduction.

Developing strong relationships with packaging suppliers like Clear Print can lead to better pricing, more favorable terms, and in-depth advice on other cost-saving measures specific to a company’s products.

Digital printing for versioning, short runs, and testing

Digital printing can benefit a company’s packaging strategy in several ways.

  • It enables versioning without the need for expensive plate changes and additional make ready charges.
  • It’s perfect for short runs which reduce storage costs and minimize the risk of outdated packaging.
  • It allows for quick, efficient testing of different designs.
  • The on-demand nature of digital printing offers flexibility that fits with just-in-time and lean manufacturing practices.
  • Digital printing operations are inherently sustainable. Digital uses near zero setup waste. It uses fewer toxic chemicals and doesn’t require costly printing plates.

In essence, digital printing is a smart, sustainable choice for businesses that want to keep packaging costs down while still delivering quality and consumer appeal.

Automatic package filling when appropriate

There is significant cost savings and efficiency to be gained by implementing automatic package filling when appropriate. Automation reduces labor costs, minimizes errors, and streamlines the packaging process.

Working with printing companies that understand automation can further optimize these processes. Automatic package filling systems, capable of handling high volumes of cartons with precision and speed, offer consistency and a reduction in packaging costs.

Folding Carton Logistics

Folding cartons take up space, especially with larger quantities and/or larger carton sizes. A moderate quantity can fill a warehouse and multiple trucks in no time at all. An experienced folding carton supplier knows how to handle the logistics of printing, converting, packing, shipping, and storage.

6 – Do Regular Product Packaging Reviews

product packaging internal review

Regularly review packaging needs and costs. The market for materials, consumer demand, and the technology for packaging production is constantly evolving, offering new opportunities to reduce unit carton costs.

A folding carton packaging audit can include questions such as:

  • What components are currently used in each product package?
  • What materials are they made from?
  • Can we substitute different material anywhere?
  • Can any components be discarded altogether or combined with another component?
  • Should any new components be added?
  • Can any or all components be reused, reduced, or recycled?

The article Picking Apart the Packaging Problem has an excellent overview of how one company uses successful packaging audits to grow their brand.

Main Points – Reducing Folding Carton Packaging Costs

To sum up, businesses can greatly reduce folding carton packaging costs by optimizing material usage including sustainable materials, implementing efficient package designs, leveraging both bulk purchasing and digital printing, and working with knowledgeable folding carton suppliers.

With smart packaging strategies, companies do far more than simply cut costs. They can enhance their brand image, contribute to a more sustainable world, and increase long-term revenue.

Published On: May 15th, 2024 / Categories: Folding Cartons /