back to article Dell reinvents the cardboard box

Dell will revitalize its server business by, er, shifting fewer boxes. The strategy may seem counterintuitive until you realize that we're quite literally talking about boxes - those cardboard things that go around the servers. Dell today revealed - a liberal use of the word - project Multipack. This initiative - still liberal …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah but...

    Why don't they offer like a $5 refund on every box returned to Dell? I mean if they're really serious about this, why not take it one step further?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great move

    I am no Dell fan-boy by a long shot, but wow, they should get the recognition they deserve for this. Big companies should start doing this every single day.

    Regardless of the math, even if this falls short of a massive environmental savings, they should be recognized for trying. There is so much waste in packaging these days, thi sis a huge step in the right direction.

    IBM, HP, get cracking. Same goes for every supplier to Costco and walmart...

    @bws: just recycle it, the transportation back to Dell alone would negate any environmental savings.


  3. Ian Damage


    They are willing to ship multiple servers in one box, yet when a corporate customer orders a bunch of systems, the power cords get sent out in individual boxes.

  4. Mark Hahn

    why cardboard at all?

    ultimately, any significant cluster winds up racked. so why not ship racks fully installed? the cluster I care for daily certainly arrived like that: ~30 racks, with a minimum of cardboard, no excess power cables, etc. there _were_ 30 skids, but the shipping company took them away. one rack arrived bashed in, but I'd guess that damage rate is comparable to the cardboard-intensive approach. naturally, preconfigured racks work well with putting leaf switches in each rack, for instance.

  5. Sean

    That'd be really neat!

    If Dell's blade offering wasn't so tragically inferior.

  6. Webster Phreaky

    Use Grocery Bags Instead ....

    So now my IT boss has to order 4 1U systems or 10 blades in a single box and I have to return 3 1U systems and 7 blades, so I can get the 1 1U and 3 Blades I need to keep the damn network up?

    Actually, with the crap Dell makes, they'll be using 4 Multipacks to ship the flaking servers they make back and forth three times before I get ones that will stay reliable for 12 months.

    I have a better idea, have Dell use recycled grocery bags, that way when the rip throught the plastic bags and splatter on the ground like a gallon of milk ... no respectable IT engineer will cry over "split milk".

  7. Tim Bates

    Good on them.

    Won't change my view that Dell make crappy products, but good on them for trying this.

    Here I am today unpacking new HP laptops, and wishing they had been shipped with multiples in a box so I didn't have so many little boxes of packing to fill the bins with.

    Takes time to open each box, manipulate the contents and packaging and then find space to put the rubbish before taking it out to the dumpster. One big box means less stuffing around.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Makes it easier..

    Shipping multiple blades in one box, it makes sense, after all most IT departments are short on storage space and if you've got to keep the boxes to return the crappy things in.................

  9. Vernon Lloyd

    Good one

    I think this is a good idea, especially with the save the planet stuff going on. Not wanting to start an arguement but we find Dell products very reliable, however having being forced to take the cheaper HP option we have already found that cheaper is nowhere nearer better:

    Dell replace a HDD in one working day, HP in a working week

    Dell send a techy in one working day, HP in at least 3 (Not good in an NHS hospital environment)

    Dell have never sent a PC with screws rolling around in cases, in one 40 pc batch I found 32 screws.

    Dells build quality is better.

    Us Techies think Dells are much better and more reliable

    Hp Laptops are a pain to get all the drivers for (thanks to a dire website)

    However the HP keyboards are better than Dells.....finally a good point......;-)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's All A Bit Confusing

    Shurely Dell should get credit for thinking outside the box on this one; but, just as shurely they had to literally think inside the box in order to think outside the box, or, outside the box first in order to properly think inside the box. Then of course the first thought must have been of boxes so a hierarchical complexity arises... I've a strange urge to go read Lewis Carrol.

  11. Brian Murray

    reuse or recycle?

    This is a long standing debate, and a far broader one than covered here.

    I do applaude Dell's efforts here - and hope others follow suit.

    Two approaches seem head-to-head here in that should we focus on enable the IT customer base (i.e. us) to recycle all our waste (as is proposed here with the extensive use of cardboard), or should we focus on the use of lasting and multiply re-useable packaging?

    In the case of the supermarket carrier this seems to be showing reuse as more practical (albeit perhaps paper bags just didn't pass muster).

    I do wonder what the environmental cost production and recycling is around the cardboard packaging.

    Perhaps the bigger issue surrounds the systems/components themselves? ... is it really just too complicated for the manufacturers to agree common chassis dimensions/etc such that components are standard and interchangeable?

    Come to think of it - why plastic? Given the evolution of materials science isn't there a paper/wood based substitute out there yet?

  12. Steve Evans

    There's a reason you have wood pallets

    ... and that's to stop some loon in a fork lift from sticking the forks through your motherboard.

    I fear the server on the bottom will be subject to above average DOA returns!

  13. Ian Ferguson

    What's the betting...

    ...that if you order ONE server, it'll arrive in a massive box, shrinkwrapped to the bottom and the rest of the space filled with packaging?

    It happens. I once got a 1.5m^3 cardboard box from Viking Direct, with a single plastic desk tidy shrinkwrapped to the bottom.

  14. Brian Milner

    Viglen do this better

    Viglen now send PCs out in reusable plastic boxes. Which saves even more cardboard.

  15. Will

    Re: Vernon Lloyd

    "Dells build quality is better.

    Us Techies think Dells are much better and more reliable"

    Speak for yourself. We all have our anecdotal evidence. In our experience Dell laptop quality is just terrible; manufacturing and build cock-ups are not uncommon.

  16. Dan

    So that's where

    the £150 they charge me to deliver 3 laptops at once went......

    They should invent a box that can hold multiple items.

  17. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    Wonderful news, HP take note !

    When we get HP servers for customers they come as kits - a chassis, a pile of hard drives (all in separate boxes), cd/dvd drive (in separate box), etc, etc. After you've unpacked everything, there's a small mountain of boxes to dispose of.

  18. Kier

    Yeah but...

    This is all very laudible, but on several occasions I've had Dell send out a pair of screws in a padded A4 size box, and a two page manual in a gigantic cardboard monstrosity.

    They really need to deal with their multi-box insanity of power cords in separate boxes, manuals in separate boxes, screws in separate boxes etc. in addition to this initiative.

  19. Gordon Ross Silver badge

    Cardboard isn't the problem

    The cardboard is the least of the problems with packaging. It can be re-used and recycled.

    The biggest problem is all the polystyrene. We've tried getting it recycled and can't. That all ends up in the landfill.

    The other problem is all the mains cables. Manufacturers make up one box which can be shipped anywhere in the world, so they include a mains cable (and documentaion) for every country.

  20. JP

    I guess Dell must have improved from our past dealings with them...

    This is the same Dell that sent us sixty sticks of replacement memory in individual boxes when Crucial managed to send us that many in a single box using a plastic clamshell?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Us Techies think Dells are much better and more reliable"

    Yeah, funny that.

    Techies seem to have an irrational belief that the machine spec should be driven by what's convenient for the techies to maintain, rather than what the users require.

    It's an all too common scenario and it's why we end up with pieces of crap like Dell on our desks.

  22. Andy Bright

    There goes our weekly bonfire night

    Shame on Dell for spoiling the only fun we get - making cardboard effigies of our favourite customers and torching them in the car park.

  23. Sandra Greer

    Repackaging at the site

    When I worked for a small consultancy/reseller, we used to order several dozen of whatever system we were supplying as desktop. The minute they arrived we had to get the boxes open and start packing the systems 4 or 5 to a box (these were the small systems), plus a box of keyboards and mice, cords, software or whatever. Then we got to flatten the excess cardboard and put it out for the recycler. The pile of foam was, of course, a dead loss and didn't fit into anything. But at least we could put a whole bunch of these into our cars to deliver and install at the customers' sites. When you handle them this way you really appreciate the waste.

    On the other hand, we ordered a monster server and it was delivered dented. I never figured out what they dropped on it during shipping; we returned it immediately as we were not going to test something with a possible latent failure point. Dell were not pleased! It was a hassle.

    Quality varies a good amount at Dell; sometimes you hit a bad batch of motherboards and some poor customer experiences multiple failures. The good thing is that the techs replace them quickly; the bad thing is that they don't track the batches and recall them.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dell Versus HP

    As an IT worker at one of the country's biggest NHS trusts, including one of the country's biggest hospitals, I have had years of experience with both quality and customer service from both companies, who have supplied us with many thousands of PCs, laptops and servers over the years.

    Needless to say, a few years ago we managed to convince management to stop ordering any more HP products (except printers).

    Any quality difference there is was completely over-shadowed by HP's almost non-existent customer service: their lack of action on defective product, and their slow-motion action on any other issue.

    By contrast, as the above poster mentions, Dell respond instantly to support requests by sending hardware and humans onsite within 24 hours, and unlike HP they do not make a habit of throwing all sorts of obstacles in the way of having an issue addressed.

    Dell make good, cheap, gear, well-designed and which mostly works fine, and back any problems up with very - very - good customer service by comparison with their competitors.

    HP by comparison make similarly cheap product, some of it badly designed, and have the most appalling attitude to customer service.

    Anybody who still buys from HP has a screw loose.

  25. Keith Langmead

    Missing a trick?

    Superb idea and about time, but surely they're missing something by starting out with rack servers and blades.

    OK, so it's good for the large corporates who purchase multiple servers at a time, but not as much use for most smaller companies who are likely to just purchase one or two at a time.

    Why didn't they start off with the desktop and laptops? Most smaller businesses would certainly love something like this, after all you probably only have one or two servers, but how many companies refresh all or many of their PC's and laptops at one time, and end up with massive piles of boxes. I know I've been in that situation loads of times, both with our own companys PC's, and also with those for clients networks.

  26. John Foster


    Gillette: ====///// 5 blades on one razor

    Dell: [|||||||||||] 10 blades in one box

    Accordion: (squeezebox) [||||||||||] (looks about the same from here)

    A shovelful of recycled flattened boxes: (10 boxes on one blade)







    They should pay me to think up this stuff!!

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