At Hewlett-Packard's Roseville, CA, parts distribution facility, a relatively new form of protective packaging has slashed packaging material costs by half, warehouse space requirements by two-thirds and packaging assembly time by 75%.
Roseville distributes repair and replacement parts worldwide-over 195 different components- for every product HP makes. For replacement printhead carriage assemblies for the company's popular DeskJet(TM) printers the Roseville facility had been using eight different packages of polyethylene foam cushions that are glued to corrugated. "And that wasn't enough" says HP packaging engineer Suzanne Keeler. "At times our material handlers were actually cutting and pasting packaging components to make products fit." The company sought a one-size-fits-all package that would cut costs reduce storage requirements and speed packaging assembly. Retention not suspension In the fall of '96 HP switched to a new style of packaging from Sealed Air's Korrvu Packaging Div. (Danbury CT). Though Sealed Air refers to it as Korrvu® it's not the suspension-type packaging that's usually associated with the name. Instead it's what the supplier calls retention packaging. It consists of a flat piece of corrugated with a clear flexible film membrane spot-glued near the left and right edges of the corrugated. The delicate printhead mechanism is immobilized between the film and the corrugated. The supplier declines to identify the specifics of either the film or the corrugated. Sealed Air admits there's nothing unique about the corrugated except for its shape which is customized to each application. The film is the same urethane-based elastomeric film used in Korrvu suspension packaging according to Sealed Air. To assemble the package a worker first folds side flaps upward which causes the film to loosen allowing for easy manual insertion of the printer mechanism. The side flaps are then folded back and then down away from the film surface which causes the film to tighten around the printhead assembly securing it to the corrugated board. Thus secured the product and package are then placed into a corrugated shipper. One size fits all Only one size of Korrvu is needed for all DeskJet printhead assemblies which vary quite a bit. "All those variations now fit into this new packaging" Keeler says. And since it arrives flat it freed up over 4 cu' of warehouse space compared to the previous corrugated/PE foam packages. The new pack requires only about a minute and a half to assemble compared to upwards of eight minutes previously according to Keeler. Drop tests show that the new package out-performs the old. The pack was designed so that the most fragile parts of the printhead assembly are held by the transparent film which absorbs shock. The package itself costs 50% less than the foam/corrugated combination HP had been using previously. "It was a huge money-saver" confirms Keeler. Finally the package which was awarded a WorldStar packaging award in April from the World Packaging Organisation is fully recyclable with regular corrugated containers. The film is separated from the paper fibers during the repulping process according to Sealed Air. "Korrvu retention packaging is 100-percent curbside recyclable" says Keeler.