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.
BMW has already incorporated more than 10,000 3D-printed parts in the Rolls-Royce Phantom and intends to expand the use of 3D printing in its cars even more in the future. Meanwhile, Daimler has started using additive manufacturing for producing spare parts in Mercedes-Benz Trucks.
SABIC's lightweighting polycarbonate glazing materials have appeared for the first time in a production car: the rear quarter window of Toyota's special edition 86 GRMN sports car, where they're saving 50% of its weight compared to conventional glass.
Design engineers play a big role in selecting both suppliers and materials for their designs. Our most recent Design News Materials Survey says they continue to be highly involved, in some ways even more than the last time we asked to peek inside their cubicles.
Daihatsu is one of the first carmakers to customize car exteriors using 3D printing's mass customization capabilities. Effect Skins -- small exterior bumper and fender panels in different colors and textures -- can be ordered for its Copen convertible.
Several new products in this group of new adhesives, coatings, and sealants are formulated to protect sensitive electronic components, or to seal components of commercial and military aircraft. Others are designed to operate in tough, messy, dirty oil & gas operations, or for rotary applications and motors.
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