Storopack Optimizes Packaging Processes at iHerb- AIRplus® Air Pillows Improve Both Efficiencies and Ergonomics

Cincinnati. The American company iHerb has had great success over the years in marketing and selling dietary supplements online to customers in the US and around the world. iHerb sells and distributes close to 35,000 different products, such as vitamins, supplements and natural health products. Over 1,000 brands make up the business platform for the rapidly growing e-commerce business established in 1996. Many of the products are packed for shipping in Hebron, Kentucky. iHerb also has another distribution center located in Perris, CA.  Storopack, the expert in protective packaging, based in Metzingen, Germany, has been supporting iHerb in their goal of optimizing their packaging processes since mid-2014. By filling the packaging cavities with AIRplus® air pillows instead of paper, iHerb has increased packaging process efficiencies by around 30 percent.

iHerb approached Storopack with the objective of optimizing the efficiency of its protective packaging process, while reducing costs and damages occurring during transportation. Previously, iHerb had worked with a competitor's packing paper. However, the protective packaging process was too time-consuming. The paper packaging came out of the machine flat and had to be manually crumpled by the operators, and then inserted into the open spaces within the box. Furthermore, there were frequent paper jams which led to interruptions in the production and shipping process. Export shipments were at times damaged since the paper did not protect the goods properly. Pursuant to the process flow developed by the company, Storopack first ran a detailed analysis of the currently used packaging materials, the means of transportation, and the organization of existing intralogistics processes. For this purpose, protective packaging specialist Jason Leimberger from Storopack US, analyzed the packaging process at iHerb's warehouse in Kentucky, took stock of the products shipped, and evaluated feedback for the packing staff. "It came to light that each packer used a different amount of paper and crumpled the paper in their own way," said Leimberger. The first objective was then defined as the standardization of the packaging process, which included both the amount of packaging material used and the packing process itself.

Since there were no sharp-edged or heavy products in the iHerb product range, a decision was made in favor of air pillows from the AIRplus® Void brand and the corresponding AIRplus® Mini machine. This decision not only met the standardization objective, with the same amount of air pillows always being used to fill a certain void. This meant the packaging process was no longer being influenced by individual packers. Another major advantage was that the packaging process became much more simple and ergonomic. Whereas the staff had previously worked with a foot pedal to produce the paper, which was then followed by manually crumpling and inserting the paper into the voids, the protective packaging solution provided by Storopack is almost fully automated. The packers simply pull the air cushions from an overhead hopper and place them into the shipping carton, while all other process steps are performed automatically. Total packaging costs were significantly decreased thanks to the new solution. Efficiency increased close to 30 percent per carton. It took an average of 9.3 seconds to fill a shipment with the previously used paper. With Storopack's air pillows, the time required for packaging was reduced to an average of 6.6 seconds. Up to 2,000 shipping boxes can now be completed per hour. The Storopack solution enabled personnel costs to be reduced by 19 percent.

As per Storopack's overall sales process, the production and supply of a protective packaging solution is always followed by ongoing customer support and consulting on further improvements. Following the customer's request, Storopack developed proposals to further automate the packing process. iHerb is very satisfied with the results of collaboration. "Storopack understands our business and develops pragmatic solutions that perform very well in our workflows," says Kurt Cheek, Director of Operations at iHerb. "The services provided go beyond the personal attention given by packaging specialists like Jason Leimberger and the on-site service. They also include the ongoing development of our protective packaging solutions in terms of new technologies, materials and processes. During our time working together, I have become a big fan of Storopack and I am very interested in Storopack supporting us in optimizing our delivery processes."

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