E-commerce boom results in ‘substantial and sustained’ hike in demand for cardboard packaging

AN automated packaging systems specialist has warned that a ‘growing’ number of online retailers are struggling to fulfil orders due to a shortage of cardboard packaging brought about by the Covid-related e-commerce boom.

Jo Bradley, business development manager for packaging solutions at Quadient, said that with some paper and sheet board producers ‘rationing’ supply to even their biggest customers, buyers are having to pay a ‘significant premium’ to secure the materials they need.

“The price of corrugated cardboard (OCC) has risen from around £60 a tonne in December 2020 to about £75.50 a tonne in late January 2021,” Jo explained. “The problem has been caused by the switch in consumer spending from the high street to online since the start of the Covid-19 crisis. Figures from the Office of National Statistics indicate that internet retail sales grew by 32% during 2020.

“Quite simply the switch to online retailing has resulted in a substantial and sustained hike in the amount of cardboard that is needed throughout the retail supply chain so, in the short to medium term at least, packaging buyers will have to cope with the ‘double whammy’ of longer lead times and higher prices.”

Quadient said it is estimated that e-commerce sellers are wasting around 30% of cardboard packaging by shipping orders in ‘vastly oversized’ boxes.

“It has never been more essential for retailers to reduce the amount of cardboard material that they use within their pack and despatch operation, and yet many continue to pack outbound orders in boxes that are way too big,” Jo added.

The CVP Impack and CVP Everest fit-to-size automated systems from Quadient are described as having been developed to reduce the waste associated with oversized packaging within fulfilment operations by creating ‘perfect sized boxes’ for every consignment.

Quadient explained that a single operator can construct up to 1,100 bespoke packages per hour with the CVP Everest.

Jo said, “The Quadient technology dramatically reduces cardboard use and, therefore, costs. With the upturn in demand for cardboard packaging forecast to be on-going and material prices set to continue their upward trajectory, the economic argument for investing in fit-to-size box making technology has never been more compelling. E-commerce retailers and their fulfilment services partners simply cannot afford not to make optimum use of their valuable cardboard resources and the best way to do this is to adopt technology that cuts down on waste.”