Bioplastic shipping containers used for consumer electronics repair may cost more per unit, but they can be cheaper overall because they're reusable and can be recycled back into the supply chain in a closed-loop/reverse logistics setup. (Source: Ecospan)
Clinton, this is the comments board. For off-list communication about a possible story, you can find my email address on our website at Contact Us/Editorial & Production Directory:
I didn't see a way to email you other than choosing the "reply" button. However, this screen looks remarkably similar to the posting screen. We'll see if this goes to only you or if it ends up out on the message board.
I would be more than happy to speak with you. After we establish that this is a method that goes directly to you, I can send my phone number.
I am the Senior Designer of Plastic Products for Schaefer Systems International. One of our largest divisions is Returnable Packaging Solutions, which sells Close-Loop returnable solutions. Mostly plastic, our products replace disposable, easily damaged products (i.e. wooden pallets, paper corrugated boxes). These systems include plastic pallets and top caps with matching, multiple sized injection molded totes.
A primary user of such systems in the U.S. is the automotive industry. Their first tier suppliers are required to deliver their components to the assembly plants in approved packaging. This usually consists of: a plastic tote, reusable dunnage (packaging within the tote, i.e. the cardboard partition set inside wine cases) and labeling with tracking and routing information.
These filled totes actually travel to the workstations within the assembly plant. The totes are emptied one part at a time as each component is installed in a car or sub-assembly. The palletized empty totes are returned to the supplier to be restocked and reused. This makes up a closed loop.
These packaging systems are bought en masse at the beginning of a car program and, barring forklift interactions, last the lifetime of the car model. At the end of the program, all of the boxes/pallets/top caps can be ground up and recycled to make new product.
As in your bio-plastic example, plastic returnable systems are usually more cost effective than disposable systems. The upfront costs are higher, however, and saving money short-term sometimes gets in the way of real savings.
If you'd like more information, please ask. I tried to keep this answer short. :)
Could you clarify your statement, "I haven't seen plastic return packages, either, so I don't think they're very common yet."?
The reason that I ask is that the company I work for designs and manufactures injection molded returnable systems. But before I describe them in more detail, I wanted to make sure that it is those systems that you meant and not something else.
Thanks, Chuck. I was surprised to hear that ship-back cartons were still made of cardboard. Details about cardboard type weren't available, but I'd guess that it must have not been the corrugated variety.
Yes, it probably is a groundbreaker, which fits with your coverage. Environmental advances seem to be all over the place these days. And more and more, the green avenue doesn't seem to be a cost-added road. That's good news.
Thanks for the input, Rob. Good to know that reverse logistics has been integrated into supply chain management, which makes sense. I haven't seen plastic return packages, either, so I don't think they're very common yet. Another reason this looked like a groundbreaker.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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