External cover with functional content

Optimal packaging of a product is a critical factor in logistics. And the reason is clear: Without it, many logistics processes could not be performed at all or could be carried out only at great additional cost. The function of the packaging is not just to protect the product. It performs many other jobs as well. These include providing information about the contents as well as enabling and facilitating other logistics processes - including transport and handling as well as storage, order processing and warehousing.

No logistics without packaging

The different logistics functions of the packaging - that is, protection, storage, transport, information and handling - are an outstanding example of the interdependencies that exist in logistics. As a result, the packaging may be regarded only as a part of the entire logistics system. In packaging design, a compromise that addresses all functional areas must be found. The correct design of packaging can help lower overall logistics costs and raise the level of supply and/or delivery service [1].
In addition to the logistics functions, packaging must also fulfill production functions, marketing functions and usage functions. This means [1]:

  • Through the choice of suitable packaging, it is possible to produce directly from the packaging or into the packaging without intermediary processing procedures.
  • Packaging can lend a special character to a product, enabling it to be distinguished from the competitors’ products. Important functions can also be assigned to packaging, including roles in advertising and sales promotions [2].
  • In light of environmental considerations, it is essential for packaging design to meet these needs. Ideally, the design should make it possible for a customer to recycle the packaging or facilitate its use for other purposes.


Protective function

Good service includes the ordered good’s arriving in satisfactory condition. The packaging should protect the product from mechanical and climatic stresses during delivery.


Warehouse function

Packaging is required to facilitate the storage of a product. If possible, the packaging should be stackable and meet the demands of the storage equipment. In addition, it should facilitate practical storage of the packaging supplies - e.g., through collapsible boxes.


Transportation function

The packaging also has the task of facilitating the transport of a product or actually enabling the product to be transported. Likewise, the packaging’s form and size should permit the optimal use of the transport space with the lowest possible packaging weight.


Handling function

The goods should be combined by the packaging into units that simplify their processing during transshipment and delivery. The form and size of the packaging units must also facilitate the employment of technical aids such as forklifts or storage and retrieval systems. If the commodity is handled manually, then grip holes in the packaging can be necessary.


Information function

The packaging should be marked in such a way that the products in it can be identified easily - e.g., by color, pictures or labels. Furthermore, packaging of fragile, perishable or similar products requiring special treatment during delivery should be clearly marked with pictures, symbols or explanations. During automated transportation and processing procedures, automatic product recognition is facilitated by suitable information appropriate to the packaging, e.g., barcodes or RFID tags.

The logistics functions of packaging
Source: Logistiksysteme | Pfohl 2004

Recommended reading

Logistiksysteme | Pfohl 2004

World-Class Warehousing and Materials Handling | Frazelle 2002


[1] Logistiksysteme | Pfohl 2004
[2] Marketing | Nieschlag / Dichtl / Hörschgen 1997

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