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Fiber-based pallet collars

How can sustainable fiber-based pallet collars optimize one-way shipments in automotive supply chains?

It is believed that the use of reusable packaging goes back as far as 1930 to Ford Motor Company.

At first, the main goal was to eliminate massive amounts of waste, but over time, reusable packaging became a key logistical element to improve productivity and inventory control. For the past decades reusable packaging dominated the automotive industry thanks to high product protection, repeatable and standardized size for easier automation, and enhanced durability at a lower transportation cost than single-use packaging. Today reusable packaging materials are an industry standard and are predicted to grow up to 170 billion USD by 2030.

Wooden collars are one of the most popular materials among returnable packaging in the automotive industry, especially in the North of Europe. They are strong, durable, and reusable. However, due to the ongoing shifts in the supply chains, they are simply not the most sustainable option for one-way shipments. To meet customers' and markets’ expectations, Nefab developed a fiber-based alternative to wooden collars that provides a more sustainable future for supply chains. Keep reading to uncover the benefits of fiber-based materials for one-way shipments.

The challenge of a returnable system

According to Guardian Container Consulting’s research, OEMs commonly spend 10’s of millions of dollars annually to replace lost reusable packaging – much of which is avoidable. One way is to invest in a tracking system and monitoring devices to check the localization of the fleet in real-time. However, finding a lost or stolen container is only part of the solution because the OEMs still need to maintain, repair, and inspect it before it can be used again. With thousands of containers used in each fleet, for many companies, it’s too challenging to manage the returnable system.

Keeping in mind how disruptive the supply chain market is and the logistic challenges mentioned above, many automotive companies are leaning towards one-way flows. If they pick this road, they need to change the packaging material to optimize the costs, limit the packaging waste, and CO2 emissions. This is where Nefab’s latest straw-based collars come into play.

EdgePak Straw collars provide outstanding strength, faster assembly, and improved shipping ergonomics EdgePak Straw collars provide outstanding strength, faster assembly, and improved shipping ergonomics

Sustainability on a whole new level

Straw fibers are short and very stiff compared to wood fibers used in paper products, which gives the material great strength. As a result, the new collars system can withstand up to 800 kg in dynamic stacking. Additionally, the compact, wet mechanical process makes straw pulp more resistant to moisture than standard paper, which improves product handling in humid conditions. Furthermore, its standardized structure is perfectly compatible with the popular half-Euro pallet size, allowing for faster loading and unloading of the shipment.

Last but not least, straw collars provide a quiet, safe, and ergonomic working environment while also simplifying shipment. In fact, they weigh 58% less than a wooden solution with a comparable structure—one EdgePak Straw Collar set in half-Euro pallet size, including three collars stacked on top of one another, weighs 12.5 kg compared to over 30 kg of the wooden solution. As a result, the solution is easier and more ergonomic to handle for the staff, while the lower weight saves money and CO2 emissions in transport, especially if sent by air.
The unique combination of corrugated and foldable corners made of strawboard provides outstanding strength, faster assembly, and improved shipping ergonomics.

Straw-based future ahead

Based on a pilot case study with a Swedish bearings manufacturer, switching from wooden to straw-based collars in one-way flow helped the company save 53% CO2 emissions annually in this supply chain. This number is equivalent to 2,678 passenger vehicles driven for a full year and over 1.3 million kilograms of saved landfill waste. Naturally, the data can vary depending on each case, but the example provides a good overview of this solution’s potential to optimize one-way flows in the automotive industry.

It is important to underline, though, that straw-based collars are not aiming to replace wooden collars completely, but rather complement them. In fact, straw-based collars enable companies to use sustainable solutions for both one-way shipments and returnable flows. Regardless of the chosen material, sustainable packaging leads to a more efficient supply chain. Reducing packaging materials is one of the representative efforts, which improves environmental performance and reduces operational costs for a better tomorrow.

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