Lean may be new to some, but its a proven practice that’s been around for some time

Lean may be new to some, but its a proven practice that's been around for some time

All over the world, lean manufacturing is spreading from one industry to the next, with a focus on boosting productivity and eliminating waste to help firms lower overall operational costs.

But this method, pioneered by Toyota, has been around in the packaging world for a long time, and leaders in this arena say it has improved efficiency significantly, Pack World reports. 

According to the news source, packaging companies introduce lean operations for several reasons, including to eliminate any waste that doesn't drive value in the company and boosting product quality, mostly through improved maintenance management techniques. These are the exact principles many packaging companies have been working under since their inception, which has helped shaped the industry over the years. 

At the very core of packaging lie a few principles that were around long before the term lean was applied to them. These companies focus on getting products into the hands of customers exactly as they should be, and delivering them whenever and wherever the customer wants them. 

"Lean principles can't logically advocate for the elimination of packaging, but can – and should – advocate for the elimination of overpackaging," wrote certified protection professional Sterling Anthony. "What constitutes overpackaging can be subjective. That's why the analysis should be made in an application-specific context; that is to say, the minimum amount of packaging should be utilized in the fulfillment of the requirements of a given application."

Anthony added that the unit load concept is another area covered by lean operations that has been an inherent part of the packaging industry. This concept states that any load should be moved from its origin to its destination with the fewest handlings. There is zero value in handling a load several times, and therefore should be treated as waste and eliminated. This is especially important in packaging, which has three distinct levels – primary, or bottling, for example, secondary, such as a corrugated shipper and tertiary, which is the unit load. 

"It's unquestionably lean to handle a unit load rather than to individually handle primary packages, or to individually handle secondary packages," Anthony stated.

Lean drives sustainability, too
There is such an overlap in lean operations and sustainability initiatives that it would be difficult to have one without the other, the media outlet noted. When lean is implemented, waste is eliminated and consumption is curtailed – both of which are staples of a sustainable operation. 

This has helped lean become a mainstay in packaging operations, as sustainability has increasingly been noted as crucial to the industry. 

This has also led to the development of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, which is calling for more environmental awareness in the packaging sector, and hopes to create an industry that promotes economic growth and a sustainable outflow of products.

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