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Business

Delivery boom spurring package innovations in Japan

Materials makers read opportunity in tiny mailboxes, parcel lockers

Oji developed an envelope that fits in mailboxes for shipping CDs and similar-sized items.

TOKYO -- The popularity of online shopping has created huge demand in Japan for cardboard and other materials to package purchases for delivery.

However, it has also spawned some logistics challenges. For example, too much packaging and the parcels won't fit in mailboxes, meaning the delivery service has to go back another time if nobody is home.

Resolving these kinds of issues are business opportunities for papermakers and other materials makers, and they are stepping up their efforts to develop optimal packaging materials and packaging systems for the order fulfillment and distribution sectors.

Tokyo-based pulp and paper giant Oji Holdings will commercialize a new kind of envelope for the delivery of online purchases later this year that is small yet highly impact-resistant.

The regular envelopes used by parcel delivery services are made from thick paper and provide no protection, so are only good for the delivery of documents and the like. The kinds of envelopes used for items like music CDs typically have an internal layer of some material like bubble wrap, which protects the contents from shocks but adds so much thickness that the envelope may not fit in the mailbox.

Oji's new envelope replaces this bubble wrap with a paper sheet with a honeycomb structure that provides 40% more protection and is 40% more sturdy. The envelope will be able to accommodate items like CDs that are less than 3cm thick.

And the growing use of storage lockers for parcel delivery has created demand for packages that are easier to carry home. 3M Japan has developed a tape with adhesive on both ends that turns into a handle when stuck to the cardboard box. Due for release later this year, this sticky handle can carry loads of up to 12kg.

Amazon and other online retailers often ship products in boxes that are larger than necessary.

Even small products sold by companies like Amazon.com tend to be packaged in large cardboard boxes, which is wasteful and requires the additional task of filling the space with foamed peanuts or some other material to keep the item from moving around inside the box.

Utilizing boxes of an optimal size would allow companies in the order fulfillment and distribution business to operate more efficiently. This is the point of a new automated packaging system developed by cardboard giant Rengo.

The new Gemini machine folds the corrugated box into the optimal size for the product and also automates the steps of packaging and shipping. Rengo hopes to sell 30 units over the next three years.

(Nikkei)

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