The Effectiveness of RPCs in Optimizing Cube Utilization

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If you’ve ever packed a week’s worth of clothing into a carry-on bag in order to avoid a checked-baggage fee, or crammed the contents of a college dorm room into a Corolla at the end of a school year, you’ve got firsthand knowledge of the importance of packing wisely. In industry, that’s called cube utilization, and how well grocery retailers and suppliers do it (or don’t) directly affects their supply chain efficiency and costs.

Put too little product in a box, on a pallet or on a truck and you can end up with empty space, higher transportation costs, missing product and vacant shelves. Over pack and you can get damaged product, increased shrink and even penalties for overweight trucks.

Just like packing a small suitcase for a long trip, cube utilization is an art based in science. Not everyone knows how to do it well.

Improving cube utilization

Cube utilization isn’t just about filling a box, shipping container or truck all the way to the top. It’s about using available shipping and storage space to maximize the amount of product you can move in a given transportation or storage container, while protecting the product from damage and spoilage. Grocery operations must weigh many factors, especially when making the transition from corrugated to RPCs.

Tosca helps grocery operations understand how RPCs can affect their cube-utilization efficiency, right down to showing them how to pack a given product onto a truck using RPCs. We do this by first assessing the operator’s current practices and breaking down the associated costs to a granular level. We consider all costs, including but not limited to:

  • The costs of boxes, RPCs, and accessorial packaging
  • The cost of freight
  • Shrink due to damage
  • The time and costs associated with stacking and lumping different packaging solutions
  • Labor needed to pack boxes, pallets and trucks
  • The cost of worker injury from dealing with heavy or compromised boxes at both the shipment site and at the destination

Then we help them envision better scenarios with RPCs. By conducting a pack-out session, we can get a better understanding of how RPCs will affect these costs. It allows us to plug real-world data into our calculations so we can run a cost analysis for using RPCs. We can tell them how RPCs will influence the amount of product in a container, how they will affect the truck weight, and the potential savings due to reduced damage and shrink. We even provide training and best practices for how to handle RPCs in a way that optimizes product quality.

RPCs and right-sizing

Right-sizing packaging is a concept we hear a lot of these days. Consumers are concerned about the waste caused by packing a small amount of product into a big box. Grocery retailers are learning that right-sizing can help reduce waste on their end.

Right-sizing means placing product into packaging, storage or transportation containers that exactly fit the amount of product you want to move, with no excess room left over. It’s important for several reasons.

Loosely packed product can shift and become damaged during transport. A truck that’s not filled to capacity has a lot of excess room for its contents to shift around and potentially be damaged in transit. Or, consider a grocery retailer who receives a box of eight steaks they’ll sell for $20 each. The retailer knows they can only sell four steaks this week. The other four will go to waste, but the box held eight, so that’s what the supplier shipped.

Optimal cube utilization employs right-sizing to ensure less damage and waste. Yet corrugated boxes come in a variety of sizes and shapes that don’t always stack together smoothly and easily. RPCs make it easier to right-size transportation containers because they’re designed to work together. They have a standard base footprint, which allows for secure, optimal stacking and more efficient packing of trucks. Many of the RPCs can be cross stacked as well, eliminating stretch wrap and banding in many instances.  What’s more, the wall heights vary, allowing you to get just the right amount of product in a container. More efficient loading allows you to take trucks off the road – saving freight dollars and the environment at the same time.

RPCs create value throughout all phases of your supply chain, including something as simple yet critical as how well you pack. Tosca’s in-depth analysis of a client’s packing needs can also help shed light on opportunities for improving cube utilization. RPCs are the preferred packing container that makes greater efficiency possible, and we’re happy to help customers understand how to maximize their value.