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  • Thomas Pannell

How packaging design can reduce shipping costs.

A topic that I’m really passionate about this time – and something most importers, suppliers and designers often overlook. This one seems to be relevant at the moment too, plus with shops starting to gear up for Christmas brought it to the forefront of my mind. Boxes and Packaging.

From Brexit to Covid and a fuel shortage, 2021 has had many ups and downs. But there is something that’s been affecting importers for a while and its now impacting everyone as we head into the busy shopping season. The container shortage and cost of shipping.

Every importer I know is struggling to get goods into the UK at a reasonable cost. This isn’t just from the Far East, we have goods from Germany that used to take a couple of days to bring in that are now taking around 5-weeks, with the added bonus of costing more than double.

My intention here is not to talk about causes of the crisis, moan about the cost (or profits the shipping lines are making!) or even look at the impact on consumers. I am rooted in practical things and how I can make a difference for my customers. I can’t magically make more shipping capacity or lower the freight cost, but what I can do is work a bit of magic to get better value out of a container.

Before I get into it I wanted to give you a bit more background about me.

For the last 8-years I have been living and working between the UK and Taiwan. My father-in-law runs a not so small manufacturing company in Taiwan and I started out working with him to bring new customers on board – exhibiting at trade shows, working on product designs, pricing up new items and understanding the end-to-end manufacturing process. I was exceptionally lucky to get this opportunity and develop and understanding of manufacturing, Chinese culture and how factory bosses think.

Having spent countless months overseas I also got to know many manufacturers in Taiwan and mainland China. This grew from simply offering their products to my UK contacts into the business we have now – Pinpoint Product Sourcing. We are in a position where we can source or make almost any product for our customers using a trusted network of manufacturers.

My experience working on the buying and selling side with factories lead me into an area I really like. Something that has be proven time and time again to be a win-win for suppliers and customers. Efficient packaging design.

One thing that factories love is selling more items. One thing importers love is getting good value from a container. One thing I love (don’t judge) is designing packaging. No, not wonderful colour boxes with cut outs and beautiful graphics. I mean bespoke cartons that fit together in such a way that you get a lot more on a pallet than you ever thought possible.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. I work with a fantastic company in the UK that makes dual purpose items (bathroom accessories, plant pots, etc.) that double up as support rails. Quite an innovative concept, but bulky enough that a regular box meant only 132 of their lead item could fit onto a pallet.

The item is actually two rails welded onto a bracket, but spaced out so a plant pot holder goes in the middle. At first glance – and to a non-lover of functional and efficient packaging design – there might not seem like a good way to repackage it… but I set to work finding a better way.

I took the shelf off and put it in a small envelope with the hardware, so it could be re-attached after the item was installed. That gave me two open ends, and an idea came into focus, U-shaped boxes that interlock in the bulk carton, with the shelf and hardware slotting neatly into one of the sides.

The layout was drawn. A couple of samples were cut by hand. The tape measure came out to check. Perfection – a pallet would now hold 208 items. An increase of 57% and 76 more items than before. A big cost saving when it comes to shipping, plus fewer pallets in a warehouse after it arrives.

Now, bespoke packaging isn’t free – it’s probably around US $100-$200 for the cutting die used by a packaging factory – but I am yet to find an item that I can’t design new packaging for that makes this amount seem insignificant. Given the price of shipping costs at the moment, getting over 50% more items into a container is going to be saving you thousands of Pounds. It could even be the difference you need to have a better price than all of your competitors.

So what are you waiting for? Give Pinpoint Product Sourcing a call and see if we can help you to get a better price for your items – and ship more of them for the same price you pay now!

You can email us at or call our MD Thomas Pannell directly on 07917 606 208.

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