Corrugated cardboard boxes are one of the main packaging materials used in production around the world. From the single wall tiny boxes used to protect fine jewelry inside larger shipping containers to the massive triple wall, multi-piece boxes used for industrial shipping, corrugated boxes have become a necessity in a world with increasing national and international trade. Corrugated boxes are lighter than wooden crates, provide more rigidity than material sacks or flimsy plastic bags and can combine with materials such as bubble wrap or Styrofoam packing materials to protect delicate or valuable items. Manufacturing
The first cardboard box was produced somewhere in England around 1817 (Hook, n.d.). From that time, cardboard box manufacturers have added specialty sizes and configurations, fiber strands for strength, custom inserts and easy opening closures. The manufacturing process starts in the forest with trees that are felled to create wood pulp which is ground, pressed, rolled and heated into sheets of cardboard paper. A machine creates the flutes which are the middle material between two flat sheets of paperboard. This gives a layer of cushioning between the sheets and also adds strength to the walls of the box. Some boxes use two layers of flutes sandwiched between with three layers of flat paperboard which are called double wall boxes. The next step up is triple wall which uses three layers of flutes between four layers of paperboard. The next step after the materials are gathered is to look at the box orders to see what sizes are being ordered by the distributor. Most manufacturers have a set group of boxes that they produce at all times.
Specialty boxes, for such products as wine, flowers or musical instruments, usually require a large order and test boxes to see if the desired size is easily produced with their machinery and if it can stand up to shipping or storage needs of the customer. Custom printing is usually available as well as specialty coatings such as wax or plastic to prevent damage from moisture during shipping. This is especially important when shipping frozen items that may sweat moisture or shipping to damp climates in the equatorial zones When the order is assembled, the cutting and assembly machines must be set for the appropriate cutting, folding and gluing sequences. Once produced, the boxes are stacked on top of pallets, bound with strapping tape and sent to the docks to be shipped either directly to the retailer or to a distributor such as Uline, Schwarz or Corrugated Containers, Inc. These pallets are usually shipped in bulk orders by railcar or tractor trailer loads. Distribution
Once at the site of the distributor, the pallets are typically broken up into smaller groups which will become the minimum order for retail customers. Smaller boxes are generally sold in groups of 100 while larger boxes are sold in groups of 25 (Discovery Channel, 2010). Specialty boxes for items such as large framed paintings and pictures may be sold individually due to their high price and limited need in the market. The distributor generally produces either an online listing or paper catalog that advertises the box sizes available and usually has instructions about how to place orders for custom boxes.
Corrugate Containers, Inc. in Columbia, South Carolina keeps a regular stock of 144 different box sizes available for both bulk and retail purchase (Corrugated Containers Inc., 2014). If the distributor extends credit to retailers, it may be in the form of in-house credit or they may outsource the credit line to a commercial loan company such as Synchrony. This allows the distributor to be paid immediately while the retailer repays the loan with interest to the loan company. Upon payment, the required sizes and quantity of boxes ordered is repackaged or strapped on to pallets and shipped by tractor trailer to the retailer. Retailer
Large box company retailers usually carry other shipping items such as clear or fiber packing tape, foam or cushioning materials such as Styrofoam sheets or packing peanuts and specialty inserts for delicate items such as computers or cameras. All of these items are typically sold in small quantities or individually to consumers who can buy only what they need, when they need it. Office supply retailers such as Staples or Office Depot may offer bulk order discounts or free delivery with a minimum dollar amount purchase but generally sell to the public on an as-needed basis. If shipping a comfort package to a college student during exams, the average consumer may only need a box a few times a year. Stores such as FedEx Office and The UPS Store offer packaging services to consumers not interested or too busy to package their own items. Prepaid packages through the United States Post Office (USPS) are available to allow discounts for specific sizes of packages which makes sorting through the system easier. Conclusion
Cardboard boxes have become the standard in product packaging throughout the world. Without boxes, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to ship wines from California, fine china from England and care packages with delicate cookies to soldiers in the Middle East. Cardboard is also recyclable which saves natural resources such as lumber and water which are used to create new cardboard. Although new packaging materials such as polymer plastic may eventually take the place of cardboard in the future, for now, cardboard remains the main packing material used around the world.
Corrugate Containers, Inc. (2014). Boxes. Retrieved from http://www.corrugatedcontainers.com/Items.aspx?cat=15 Discovery Channel (2010, May 1). How it’s made cardboard boxes [Video file]. Retrieved from Youtube website: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i3riKvCYkM Hook, P. (n.d.). A History of Packaging. Retrieved from http://ohioline.osu.edu/cd-fact/0133.html