Sparck Technologies has a mission to make sustainable packaging the standard in ecommerce.
Companies worldwide are now able to benefit from the firm’s smart packaging systems by saving on box volume, packaging material and personnel costs.
Jo Bradley, Sparck Technologies business development manager in the UK, speaks to Warehouse & Logistics News.
What struggles is e-fulfilment facing when it comes to packaging?
There are multiple facets to it but they all culminate in the same problem which basically is there are more e-fulfilment orders being shipped and less people and boxes able to fulfil them. There have been drastic price increases over the last 18 months in the price of paper and card which have a direct impact coupled with the lack of labour it makes it very difficult to plan for that growth.
Is packaging automation a solution for oversized packaging?
Yes and we have seen it successfully implemented with our customers. For example, we installed our fit-to-size automation, the CVP Impack for ASDA. As a result of the installation they experienced positive results pretty much immediately. Due to the reduction in the size of the boxes they were shipping, they were able to take one 40 foot trailer off the road pretty imminently after installing the system. Previously they were using fixed sized boxes and with the introduction of our automation, it meant they create each and every box to fit-to-size.
The three dimensions – the length, the height and the width – can be individually measured via a 3D scanner to create the right size box for each and every order. The installation also increased their efficiency within the warehouse. Looking at optimization, they chose a stream of traffic to feed directly to the machine which meant they could increase their order pick rate and their productivity compared to previously. For them it was a win-win all the way through.
Has Sparck Technologies also worked with Boots?
Yes, we have a couple of CVP Impack machines installed at Boots. The machines are used for their e-commerce orders out of their Burton-on-Trent site. After the onset of Covid, for Boots the automation was not just about efficiency, it was about flexibility. The big challenge when Covid hit was the order profile of customers changed drastically. Due to lockdown, people weren’t able to pop out to the shops and pick up everything they needed all at once and the reliance on ecommerce became essential.
Shopping habits changed overnight and retailers were challenged to adapt very quickly. Being able to predict what the customer was going to order became very difficult. Flexibility and agility to change was essential. In addition there were very strict restrictions within the workplace and with the workforce including 2m social distancing. But with the CVP Impack it allowed people to still be able to operate the CVP machines whilst adhering to the 2m social distancing.
How did Sparck Technologies work with home décor retailer The White Company?
The White Company was where we introduced the CVP Everest machine to the UK, this is our, high-speed packaging machine. They reason they chose the CVP Everest in particular was because of the specific style of the box. It’s more of a premium style box which fits with the premium ethos of The White Company. In addition the consideration was also about sustainability – the fact they could reduce their packaging, void fill and reduce the amount of card was important for them in their journey to sustainability. The customer experience is also very important factor.
We all see and hear stories where people have received an oversized large box full of void fill – whether it be paper or plastic or bubble- and inside there is a USB stick or a refill for a pen. The customer experience in that example is a negative impact on the brand of a company. The positive impact of receiving a box with no unnecessary void fill, fit-to-size with no fresh air strengthens the branding of that company and confirms their commitment to sustainability and the planet.
Do you agree that peak season nowadays is not only during Christmas and Black Friday but is 365 days a year and without automation you can’t keep up?
Yes. Companies often used to spend nine months of the year planning for the peak season and before that peak was finished, they would be planning for peak next year. But it’s not just about the last 12 weeks of the year, it’s now about the 12 months of the year. It’s also about agility. It’s really important to be able to be agile in e-commerce, e-fulfilment and logistics because you don’t know what is going to come round the corner. We have seen over the last few years so many businesses haven’t managed to keep up with the speed of change within the world of e-commerce and e-fulfilment and have become victims of that market.
What effect has Brexit had on the supply chain?
It has made the movement of goods more difficult. It has been more difficult for UK-based companies to export to Europe so a lot of the businesses based in the UK are now looking at setting up European distribution centres because of the direct cost and the direct impact. It has also directly affected the labour market, with restrictions on entry into the UK. All the costs across the board have gone up.
Do you agree that packaging automation is not only for the big ecommerce companies but also smaller companies can benefit from automated packaging as it gives them the ability to deal with sudden peaks in demand, labour shortages or to pack more sustainably?
Absolutely. It is about future planning and future proofing, being ready now for what is going to happen in the next five years. E-commerce has grown unbelievably and it’s not going to go backwards. There is a massive growth in the entry level and smaller businesses and they need to find a competitive edge against the bigger people in their market. Things like automation for packaging is something that can help with that.