eCommerce Tips & Trends

Value-Engineered Packaging: What It Is and How It Can Save You Money

In this guest post, Packhelp covers everything that you need to know about value-engineered packaging, including tips on how to use it boost revenue for your store.
Value-Engineered Packaging: What It Is and How It Can Save You Money

By Jules


October 23, 2020

This is a guest post from our partner Packhelp. They bespoke packaging for eCommerce merchants and sellers of all sizes.

In the world of eCommerce, packaging is a cost that your business needs to wear.

That's because it's the role of your packaging to keep your product safe from the moment it's manufactured to when it gets to your customer. But it also plays the visual function of being the stage that presents your product to the world.

But many brands get sucked into the 'sexiness' of product development, brand management, visual communication or marketing. Finding the ideal packaging solution gets left to the last minute, and the quickest, most straightforward and most simple solution is rushed in.

And that solution is usually a cardboard box.

While this is a great solution, as your brand continues to grow and scale, your ecommerce expenses can really start to add up. But yet again, packaging is overlooked as a place to save money.

The truth is that an over-engineered cardboard box sucks in more money than it should - not to mention the warehouse space it takes up!

But, there is a solution - and that solution is value-engineered packaging.

If you want to lower your packaging costs and get more value for money out of your supply chain - and manage your warehouse more efficiently - then value-engineered packaging may be exactly what you're after.

What is value-engineered packaging?

Value engineered packaging is packaging that's been created from the ground up specifically with your product(s) in mind.

The final product is one that's optimised for your product, uses as little material as possible but also doesn't sacrifice on performance or security.

Brands can also use a single value-engineered packaging option for multiple products. Your packaging engineer (more on them shortly) creates a prototype solution for numerous products and then amalgamates them into one packaging solution.

This means that you have fewer packaging SKUs to manage, and can then leverage the economies of scale in your ecommerce business.

British cell phone startup Raylo worked with packaging engineers to redesign their packaging from the ground up.

The result was an 11% cost reduction and a 21% saving in weight. Not to mention the stunning branding that you can see in the image above.

Price, performance, security and assembly are considered when your packaging is being designed from the ground up.

The resulting solution is one that's tailored to your product, your fulfilment process, your sustainability commitments and, most importantly, your budget.

What is a packaging engineer?

In this article, you'll hear 'packaging engineers' being referred to regularly.

A packaging engineer is a qualified and experienced engineer with a background in design, materials technology and physics. Skills in the manufacturing and printing industry are also advantageous, as is a history with warehouse management and fulfilment.

A packaging engineer is a person who designs your packaging from the ground up. It's their role to create the ideal packaging solution, but also find facilities that can manufacture it.

They'll then work with your key stakeholders to implement this new packaging into your supply chain and fulfilment process.

The problem with corrugated cardboard boxes.

As you read earlier, a standard mailing box is the go-to packaging solution for many ecommerce brands.

That's because these triple-corrugated cardboard boxes are:

  • Cheap to manufacture
  • Have a wide range of finishing options
  • Are durable and tough
  • Are often recyclable and made from recycled materials

So it's obvious why many brands rely on them as their go-to packaging option.

But if you’re selling clothing or other apparel, a cardboard box is nothing but overkill.

Plus, as your brand starts to grow and scale, an-off the shelf packaging solution such as a standard cardboard mailer creates more problems than it alleviates.

A corrugated cardboard box is quick for your fulfilment team to assemble. Still, these boxes take up copious amounts of warehouse space to store. And, like most wholesale packaging supplies, you'll want to buy them in bulk.

Are you willing to add another 3 seconds to the time it takes to assemble a box in order for your unfolded packaging to take up 20% less space in your warehouse?

Your answers to these questions contribute to the overall design of your packaging when you decide to create your packaging from the ground up.

Here are some other ways that value-engineered packaging helps your brand:

Lower your per-unit packaging costs.

The first step in designing value-engineered packaging is an existing audit of packaging that's currently being used. Your packaging engineer assesses the existing materials, their manufacturing processes, as well as its end-of-life cycle.

A simple packaging audit takes into consideration the existing materials, domestic and international shipping and construction processes around your packaging.

Cost savings are found by assessing the performance of your current packaging solution in these fields and then improving upon them.

Does your product use both primary and secondary packaging? A single form of packaging that's designed to be more durable may remove the need for two ways of packaging supplies.

This also means that less space is taken up in your warehouse for packaging storage - a fine example of both direct and indirect savings for your brand.

Reclaim your warehouse space.

The storage capacity of your warehouse is quite costly to increase, so free space is at a premium. And while it's nice when every single raw resource fits snug on a standardised pallet, that doesn't always happen.

It's easy to see the appeal of raw resources that can be designed to fit nice and snug on a pallet to maximise storage efficiency.

And this is something that can influence the design of your value-engineered packaging.

Your packaging engineer can ensure that your flat, unfolded packaging product can be stacked and stored in the most efficient way possible. This leaves you free to store more materials more efficiently or purchase higher volumes of a resource for a lower price to help your brand scale.

Put sustainability at the core of your product.

More and more consumers are willing to change their preference for a product if that brand does not provide sustainable packaging.

Many brands A/B test the effectiveness of sustainable packaging, but the fact is clear: consumers are opting for eco-friend products and demand that packaging has the same properties.

But implementing sustainable packaging doesn't mean having to use cutting edge materials, which is often nothing more than greenwashing. It may be as simple as packaging your sweaters into a customised cardboard tube, rather than a heavy box.

More often than not, sustainable packaging is simply about using less, and using only what's necessary.

This is something that your standard mailer box does not cater too.

Yes, your product fits in the box, but:

  • How much wasted space is there?
  • How much extra material is used to create that wasted space?
  • How much extra packing filler do you need to add in so that it doesn't move around inside the box during transport?

Adding additional materials simply to stop movement isn't eco-friendly, no matter how eco-friendly that packing filler is.

Value engineered packaging uses as little raw material as possible to create the most secure packaging solution for your brand. If a fragile product needs to be held still in transit, custom inserts are designed to cradle the product perfectly.

That's because the process of value-engineering packaging is all about using less.

Get your fulfilment process working efficiently.

As you can no doubt see, value-engineered packaging is a game-changer in your warehouse. The benefits only continue when it comes to assembling packaging and fulfilling orders.

Is your packaging folded by man or machine? Similarly, are your orders fulfilled by man or machine?

On a smaller scale, this might not have much of a bearing on your efficiency. But as your brand grows and more time is spent assembling, fulfilling and dispatching, time becomes more valuable.

Value engineering can help create a packaging product that's tailored to be handled by either a machine or a person manually folding and fetching products from shelves.

Build a better image.

Imagine for a moment that it's your birthday. Your family brings you over a cake, and on top of it, 'Happy Birthday <your name>' is written in icing. Aww cute, thanks guys, you did something you shouldn't have.

Now imagine that same birthday, your loved ones bring you out the same cake, but rather than just 'Happy Birthday <your name>' on the top, there are edible figurines of your favourite childhood toy, and the cake is decorated with your favourite colours.

Your loved ones didn't have to go to this extent, but they did - because they care.

Packaging that's made specifically for your product is the cake that's decorated specifically for you.

The fact that your brand opts for an entirely customised packaging product makes a statement and says 'we don't do 'adequate."

While a generic option would suffice, your brand isn't generic.

It says that your brand has paid attention to the finest ways that it presents itself to the world. It shows that you believe in your product so much that you've gone above and beyond to create packaging specifically for your product.

If this is an attitude that you bring into your product development to create a quality product that fosters customer loyalty. Go full circle and bring this attitude into your packaging.

Your call.

Regardless of the size of your business, cash flow is important. Value-engineered packaging looks at an ongoing experience, packaging, and optimises it for (surprise surprise) value.

Value engineered packaging puts your packaging solutions under the microscope and creates small savings in a wide range of areas in your business. These savings add up over time and help to keep more money in your back pocket.

It also creates the ideal blank canvas for you to put your branding on, and create a more memorable unboxing experience.


Phil is a bearded Australian living in Warsaw, Poland. When he's not marketing Packhelp's custom boxes and packaging, he can be found trying not to kill his houseplants or writing for his blog Expatspoland.