Transport packaging

Manage a reusable transit packaging system


Systems that reuse transit packaging will only save you money if the containers are actually reused and the system is operated efficiently. This means keeping the number of units to a minimum and recovering the packaging quickly.

Managing the scheme

With large schemes, it may be cost-effective to have a dedicated manager with no other duties. You may also wish to consider asking a specialist third party to manage the scheme. This can sometimes be more cost-effective than doing it in-house.

Number of units required

It is important you work out the correct number of containers required, especially as at any given time some of them will be in transit, at customer or supplier premises or being prepared for reuse. The longer the delay, the greater the total number you will need to maintain the flow of goods.

Transport and logistics

Ideally, you should collect reusable packaging as you deliver and then backhaul it. This is straightforward if only one delivery is being made, but when several deliveries are made in one trip, the recovered packaging has to be carried onwards to the next delivery.

Other potential issues to resolve when operating your own packaging reuse scheme include:

  • limited influence with your customers in ensuring the timely return of containers
  • complicated arrangements when it's necessary to collect a small number of containers or irregular consignments from several sites

Scale of the scheme

Small-scale schemes can work well when you have a limited number of suppliers and/or customers, and where they are concentrated regionally.

Large-scale packaging reuse schemes are generally more efficient than smaller ones. These larger schemes offer two main advantages:

  • you can negotiate better prices for larger container orders and tend to have more influence over the prompt return of containers
  • having more site locations, journeys and containers involved makes it easier and cheaper to smooth out local variations and maintain packaging stocks at the level required to match demand

Tracking and timely return of containers

One of the key issues in any scheme is to track containers and make sure they are returned promptly by suppliers and customers. One option is to draw up a formal contract spelling out each party's responsibilities. If you feel that this approach could sour your relationship with your customer, opt for a more informal 'gentlemen's agreement' - but remember that such agreements are hard to enforce.

It is also important to have some sort of tracking system that allows you to identify the number of containers at each possible location.

Container cleaning and refurbishment

Make sure that reusable packaging is separated, cleaned, checked for damage and refurbished as appropriate before each reuse.