Materials Handling in a New World Economy

“Packaging of inter-plant shipments has been one of the most overlooked areas in corporate cost-control.”

- Jaime Villafuerte, Advanced Manufacturing Technology,
ASME Conference, November, 2006

The manufacturing process today is a very different one from the time when Henry Ford stockpiled raw materials at one end of the factory and drove Model Ts out the other. Labor-intensive work such as assembling small components is performed in a country where labor is cheap (China, for example), the components are assembled and packaged in a closer low-cost country like Mexico whose proximity keeps transportation costs down, the final product is shipped to the central warehouse and distribution center (in the US, in this case) and then shipped to distributors and retailers around the world.

In each part of the process, goods need to be packaged and shipped, sometimes in ships, sometimes in aircraft, sometimes by rail or truck. The packaging required to move the product from point A to point B is different at each step and the costs of returning it (if it is even reusable) are prohibitive. That leaves the company with only two options: throw it away or recycle it.