Retail Ready Packaging - Challenges, opportunities, solutions.

Retail-ready, shelf-ready, display-ready – whatever the term may be, one thing is for sure, not being ready is hardly an option anymore. While large retailers continue to work on simplifying logistics across the entire supply chain to control costs and improve efficiencies, more and more manufacturers are hard-pressed to adopt retail-ready packaging to preserve their shelf space.

The umbrella term of retail-ready generally refers to packaging that combines the protective shipping case with the promotional display in one self-contained unit without the need to unpack or assemble anything. Shelf- and display ready are sub-categories that more precisely distinguish between on-the-shelf or end-of-isle displays. No matter the specific nature of the display though, all of them have to follow the principles of the “five easies”: easy to identify, easy to open, easy to handle, easy to shop and easy to dispose of.

Retail-ready packaging is not a new concept. Its advantages are well defined and universally accepted. Labor efficiencies, better on-shelf availability, less product damage, enhanced shopping experience and reduced out-of-stock situations are among the key benefits that drive rapid adoption among retailers, who incur a significant proportion of their supply chain cost between the distribution center and the retail shelf. A compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.57 % (2013-2018) according to Sandler Research leaves manufacturers hard-pressed to look for innovative ways to solving many of the challenges associated with the growth of retail-ready packaging.

While retailers benefit from huge rewards resulting from the initiative, the costs of adoption and change are largely carried by the suppliers, who are also confronted with a lack of common standards. Almost always, the transition to retail-ready packages requires a redesign of the packaging, with an overwhelming majority of suppliers relying on die-cut containers followed by shrink-wrapped trays. The reduced product count per case stipulates smaller boxes in higher numbers and increased speeds for the automated packing system. Machines have to be flexible to accommodate short runs and multiple different product lines, while the strength of the case or tray demands increased attention to endure the entire distribution channel undamaged.

Where there is a challenge, there is not only a solution but also an opportunity for improvement and new ways of doing things. Redesigned packages have helped many manufacturers significantly improve their branding effectiveness. In addition, sourcing new corrugate options often perfectly integrates with sustainability efforts that aim to reduce material and weight and increase use of recycled paper.  Many bliss boxes, for example, use less corrugate material than RSC cases without sacrificing their innate and superior strength characteristics. Continuous improvements in machine usability further allow manufacturers to realize performance and productivity gains, while accommodating a wider range of experience levels in operators.

Automated end-of-line packaging systems supporting retail readiness heavily rely on tray formers, bliss formers, customized conveying solutions and robotic top-loaders, in addition to case erectors and sealers specifically optimized for small and ultra-small cases - all of which are part of the wide product portfolio offered by Pearson Packaging Systems. Our long-standing presence in all applicable markets, from food and beverage to consumer packaged goods enables us to provide significant experience in helping to identify requirements and limitations and providing reliable and proven designs as well as unparalleled aftermarket support. In partnership with Fanuc Robotics, we offer a complete range of robotic packing solutions to accommodate product orientation, pack pattern forming and loading needs. Simple, fast changeovers, supported by HMI guided instructions are standard across the product portfolio.

For information on how to support your retail-ready packaging operations, contact us today. We look forward to learning about your application and helping you to optimize your automated packing line.