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How Cartonization Contributes to Sustainable Packaging

FedEx and UPS deliver approximately 41 million packages per day around the world.  Capacity and space are at a premium.  Everyone has experienced placing an order online and receiving their merchandise in a large box with their small item rattling around in the bottom of the box.  The average empty space in a shipping carton is about 35%.  You don’t have to be a supply chain expert to know that waste of material can be costly.  Cartonization is an automated warehouse management system (WMS) functionality that uses product dimensions to calculate the best packing configuration for orders scheduled for shipment.  The WMS uses the product height, length, weight, and width as parameters to determine optimal packaging.

When you place an order online, your order is sometimes sent to an order management system (OMS) to determine the order fulfillment facility.  Then the order is relayed to a WMS for wave planning to begin the picking process.  Once picked, in many facilities the order is then placed on a conveyor belt and sent to a packing station.  The packer scans the item to verify the right items align with the order information displayed on the screen or handheld device.  The WMS can be configured to display packing instructions with a visual of how the items should be packed.

As e-commerce continues to explode and parcel carriers struggle with capacity, warehouse managers are focusing on cutting costs and improving efficiencies by customizing cartonization features within the WMS.  The WMS retrieves the total cubic volume of all items in a shipment, and then selects the smallest box that has a higher packable cubic volume.  Heavy and dense or fragile items may require stronger cartons and that information can be provided to packing personnel by the WMS.   The WMS also helps packers identify which products go into which boxes to help reduce shipping costs.  Less wasted space inside cartons, lower freight costs, and labor cost savings prove the beneficial use of cartonization.

Cartonization allows warehouse managers to meet environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals.  The Greenhouse Gas Protocol has defined three scopes of emissions categories that a company creates in its own operations and throughout the supply chain.  Scope 1 refers to direct emissions caused by the company.  Scope 2 and 3 refers to indirect emissions caused by sources outside of the company.  Scope 1 and 2 occur within the four walls.  Scope 3 is related to purchased goods and services, business travel, and waste management.  Cartonization and most supply chain-related emissions fall into the Scope 3 category.

For sustainability, cartonization reduces box sizes, allows for fewer boxes, and reduces cardboard and dunnage used per square foot per package.  Warehouses can potentially save acres of cardboard per year.  Although paper and cardboard are easier to recycle than plastic, there is still a carbon footprint associated with the materials.  One ton of cardboard equals three tons of CO2 released in its production.  If you can reduce the average size of the package by 15%, then you can also reduce the number of trucks by up to 15% to help meet ESG goals.

Effective cartonization, doesn’t just increase a company’s bottom line, it reduces the stress on our environment, benefiting everyone, and it all starts with a simple, but robust functionality in your Warehouse Management System.
—Ashley Rhodes, St. Onge Company

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St. Onge Company is Proud to Once Again Have Been Ranked Among the Highest-Scoring Businesses on Inc. Magazine’s Annual List of Best Workplaces for 2024

We have been named to Inc. Magazine’s annual Best Workplaces list for the second year in a row! Featured in the May/June 2024 issue, the list is the result of a comprehensive measurement of American companies that have excelled in creating exceptional workplaces and company culture, whether operating in a physical or a virtual facility.

From thousands of entries, we are one of only 535 companies honored.

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