back to article HP excessive packaging world record put to the test

It is with heavy hearts that we today report that HP has shattered its own excessive packaging world record - set last year when it managed to expend 17 cardboard boxes in dispatching 32 sheets of A4 paper to a shaken customer. Of course, the competition wasn't going to take this lying down, and Dell subsequently weighed in …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    But ...

    At least it adds excitement to our dull grey lives when we receive a box the size of a house and wonder what it is, with raised hopes of something other than we were expecting.

    It's a shame it costs so much to send a pallet or we could indulge in our own massive Russian Doll like cardboard creations to send back a thank you note ( maybe carved on a grain of rice ). Most of us are limited by cost to just stuffing one set of junk mail in another's pre-paid envelope.

    What size boxes are Google data centres delivered in ?

  2. Big Al

    Guess that about...

    ...wraps it up for the competition then!

    Mine's the mac made of 100% recycled plastics....

  3. lIsRT

    ɹǝʌo ǝɯ uɹnʇ ǝsɐǝld uʍop ǝpısdn ɯ,ı

    Doubt I'm the first to point this out, but...

    Er, the message is on the sides of the box, not top and bottom.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Pins bent?

    Were any of the pins bent on those chips? If not the packaging worked a treat!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wish I'd Taken Pictures

    Of the time a book case I'd ordered from Argos was missing a small plastic gromet about 1cm long. After repeated phone calls and pleads on behalf of mother earth Argos insisted that it was impossible to get the book case manufacturer to pop a gromet in a jiffy bag to my address.

    Instead they shipped an entire book case from Hong Kong, placed it in the back of a giant truck (it was the only item in there) and drove it to where I work. I then climbed into the back of the truck, ripped open the book case packaging and retrieved the plastic gromet.

    I feel guilty to this day.

  6. Bilgepipe

    Packaging Fail

    And Councils want to start fining us for daring to put a sheet of paper in the rubbish bin without recycling it, while these morons get away with doing this.

    F*cking unbelievable.

  7. Greg J Preece

    The Sony one is astonishing!

    That one made me laugh my ass off.

  8. TeeCee Gold badge


    So, if it's seen to be on the top of the box it's inaccurate as the thing's not actually upside down but, er, sideside down? "This way up" with an arrow pointing in the appropriate direction would make far more sense.

    Still, I know a few people who'd be entertained for hours by being given one of those on its side, so maybe there's a purpose after all.

  9. pyroweasel

    Return to Sender

    If they have a freepost address, send it all back! It works for junkmailers, eventually...

  10. Bassey


    Certainly beats the occasion I ordered a 3-in-1 printer and printer cable from Amazon and the cable arrived in an identical box to the printer (and at the same time). Was too dumb(founded) to take pics unfortunately.

  11. B3vil


    A year or two ago I ordered a few things from Ebuyer, including a cable (didn't want to pay high street prices)

    The delivery came as two parts, at different times. The first was tightly packed had almost everything in it, and barely any padding (including Hard Disks etc.)

    The second, well the delivery guy certainly found amusing. He even asked me to make absolutely sure what I'd ordered was in the box. The box you see was large enough for several 50" Television sets, but weighed almost nothing. Inside were hundreds of air-filled padding bags, some polystyrene stuff, and right in the middle, a solitary HDMI cable wrapped in about 5 layers of bubble wrap.

    Needless to say, the actual thing I was interested in could have just been posted through the mailbox. Shame I didn't have a camera on me.

  12. deshepherd


    The ebuyer box for the memory stick looks a familiar size ... some years ago when installing (wired) networking at home I needed some short ethernet cables to go between sockets and switches and PCs. So I ordered 4x 1 or 2m ethernet drop cables from ebuyer. As they offered a variety of colours I decided to order 4 different colours to make it easier to work out which was which later.

    Few days later next door neighbour called to say a "large" delivery had arrived while I was at work and I went round to pick up a pile of 4 large boxes - each of which contained a single cable!

  13. David Ritchie 1

    As an ex warehouse employee I can see the other side

    In some of these instances, the Sony one for example, the item probably arrives at the warehouse in the packaging. The people that pick and pack the items to be dispatched, probably dont have a clue as to what is actually in the smaller boxes. Perhaps you would rather receive your chips all in one bag (not anti-static) after being handled by a burly bloke wearing a cheap fleece jacket.

  14. Havin_it


    Pardon my non-geekiness, but what are GBICs?

    Great Big Indigo Crayons?

    Goat-Biting Indian Crocodiles?

    Gordon Brown Impeachment Criteria?

    Enquiring minds want to know...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Unboxing Porn

    Have you noticed how similar this stuff is to porn?

    "Open it up then". Ahahah, yeh baby!

    Paris, cos she'd know how to slowly tease that package out.

  16. Doug Glass

    The Mailroom Clerk ...

    ... must have been given the job of taking out the trash. Nothing more than a typical corporate tact of getting it off my desk and onto yours.

  17. Rob Beard
    Thumb Up

    Discruntled warehouse staff

    I wonder if it's a case of the staff at some of these companies are discruntled, maybe low pay etc so want to cost the company as much as possible. Although I guess in some cases it's just plain stupidity.

    Surely these companies should be reported to Greenpeace or something.

    I had one recently although it wasn't half as bad as these ones.

    I bought a Microsoft points card for my XBOX so I could buy a game from XBOX Live. I sent the wife to Game to buy the card expecting just a credit card sized card in a plastic sleeve (like what you used to get with mobile phone top up cards). She got home and handed me a DVD case size package. I thought, okay maybe they use DVD cases, that's okay I'll keep it as a spare case, but NO, they provided a card in a DVD size case but it had a credit card size section moulded into it so when it was done with, well it was bugger all use and had to be chucked (it couldn't even be recycled!). At least with Nintendo they did at least provide a DVD case which could be re-used for Wii games.

    That Sony one though takes the biscuit :-)

    Great if you want a game of pass the parcel though :-D


  18. Richard 102

    One thing to remember ...

    ... is that 99.99999% of paper comes from trees grown for their quick growth and high wood content. Thus, while all this is wasteful, surely, the trees that are used to do it are a crop, like wheat, turnips, or corn/maize.

    And I, for one, refuse to give up Jack Daniels to save corn/maize.

    Mine's the one with the flask autographed by Colonel Chinstrap.

  19. Annihilator

    Answers on back of postcard

    "*Or on a postcard strapped to a pallet, if you're from HP."

    You really do owe me a new keyboard. Fcuking loved the whole article though!

    Dabs seem to come into a league of their own when it comes to packaging though. Although it's not toooo large boxes for solidary items (couple of sata cables in a 1'x1'x1' box combined with lots of empty air bags for protection), it is certainly consistant. They deserve a prize for that - these examples are (I hope) exceptions to the norm.

  20. Justin

    Jiffy Bags

    At least you can recycle cardboard (in most places) now. Is it possible to return the jiffy bags to HP as faulty products?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and they wonder why GreenPeace is after them....

    HP is probably using some sort of 6sigma process for packaging. Since variance == waste packaging a laptop mem chip the same way you package a blade server will obviously reduce your waste.....

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Cost cutting.

    All these boxes were not created just for your item they had them at the warehouse and want to get rid of them without all that hard work of cutting them up and paying for the recycling. "passing costs to the consumer"

    Paris, because ________ _______ ________ ________ box _________________ [ fill in the blanks]

  23. Christopher Rogers
    Paris Hilton


    how did you do your headline upside down?

  24. Rabbit80

    I see this all too often...

    We order OEM licenses on a regular basis, and quite often they will turn up in a box large enough for a 32" TV - despite comprising of a single peice of A4 paper in an envelope! Whilst I appreciate that we don't want them creasing, there is no need for the box to be so excessively large that it won't fit through our office doors!

  25. Nigel 11

    Jiffy Bags

    Jiffy bags are re-useable many times over- readdress them with a sticky label and reseal them with parcel tape.

    The chap with 768 used jiffy bags can probably make some beer money by flogging them in 20s or 50s on E-bay, especially if they don't yet have an address on them.

  26. Ben Cooper


    I feel totally ripped off by RS Components now - they only used one breadloaf-sized box, five stickers, two safety sheets and loads of paper bags to send me five watch batteries recently. What if they had got damaged?

  27. Jamie 19

    I love to shop at BigPockets

    But a couple of weeks ago I ordered a mini laptop mouse. The type which can easily get lost on any IT persons desktop. Along with this order I also ordered a laptop. The box with the mouse arrived two days earlier than the laptop. I was surprised to lift the box and find it so light as I thought it contained the laptop. No, it did not but the box the mouse came in was bigger than the box the laptop arrived in.

  28. NRT

    @ Chrisopher Rogers

    "how did you do your headline upside down?"

    It's easy, you turn the monitor over before you type it. :-)


  29. lIsRT

    @ Christopher Rogers

    stuff you never knew existed in character sets

    Some of them work better than others.

  30. Dave 129
    Thumb Up

    That was great!

    Just what I needed... unfortunately my laughing distracted the rest of the office ;) *hehehe*

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    And one for contrast.

    I once requested a bunch of developer info from AMD (back when the K7s first came out). The CD arrived in a cardboard envelope just large enough to hold the CD with a sticker containing my postal info stuck to the side.

    Not all companies are braindead.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Havin_it

    GBIC = GigaBit Interface Converter. They're about the same size as a matchbox.

  33. Mike 100


    Not excessive packaging, but I once had one sheet of A4, telling me a work-top was delayed, delivered by white van man...

    I'd had a phone call from MFI about 2 hours before telling me exactly what the piece of paper said..

  34. Anonymous Coward

    All your base are belong to us...

    in HP's case... "all our wasteful packaging are belong to you (now)!"

    No wonder Greenpeace is after them, along with Captain Kirk...

    You guessed it, my coat came from China bubble-wrapped in a SEMI-TRUCK SIZED CONTAINER.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    on the other hand

    doesn't it amaze you how hard drives get sent in their manufacturer's box popped inside a plastic bag and sent through the post? Seem to work ok tho'

  36. Kanhef

    I suspect

    practical jokers in the shipping department. They must have some competition as to who can make the most ridiculous packaging and get away with it. The company has to eat the cost of shipping as well; pallets must be expensive to send, but the customer is still charged only 3.95 .

  37. Anonymous Coward


    They have to be separately packaged to justify their cost. One standard sales trick is to quote a switch without GBICs so it seems like a really great deal

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Presumably Sony got all of CDW's ESD baggies

    as those Opterons look awfully vulnerable to random discharges there.

    And that dude with the NIC-in-the-box: I'm deducting multiple points for not using a box-cutter, or indeed knowing that you don't need any sort of sharp implement to open those plastic strap thingies which must have a proper name which I can't recall right now.

  39. P. Lee

    'tis not incompetence

    'tis a game played by HP warehouse staff to see who get get a mention in El Reg...

    "The media is the message."

  40. ThinkingOutLoud
    Paris Hilton


    Has Paris put her "box" up for comparison? Surely her box to content ratio must challenge all we saw earlier...

  41. Tom Maddox Silver badge

    HP - ditto

    I ordered a bunch of VMware licenses from HP, who shipped out a giant box . . . containing eight smaller boxes . . . each containing a plastic CD holder . . . each containing a VMware license redemption code. Not the license itself, mind you, which would have been almost useful, but a single-use code allowing me to get my licenses from VMware which were--wait for it--delivered electronically. The giant box was also packed with inflatable cushions, lest the effectively-empty boxes within be damaged.

    I'm now sad I didn't take pictures.

  42. This post has been deleted by its author

  43. Kristin McKechie

    Welcome to the 'Post and Packaging' scam..

    I wonder if the recipients of any of this stuff thought to look at the amount they were charged for frieght?

    I once ordered a $15 USB to Serial converter that arrived in an enormous box like those... the freight on the thing cost more than twice the value of the part... I complained VERY loudly, but could not get the charges reduced since once a parcel is larger than a standard letter, the cost is based on the size of the box, not its weight... and apparently I had 'agreed' to the charges as part of the Terms of Service in the purchase...

    If the dispatcher happens to get a nice backhander from the freight company... who's to know???

    Look hard at your incoming freight bills people... you might be more horrified by the impact of this scam on your wallet than you are on the impact on the environment...

  44. Steve Roper
    Thumb Up

    @ Kanhef

    You, sir, are right on the money there. When I was working in the store section of a factory back in the 90s, we did indeed have such contests as you describe. The record, at the time I left the factory, was held by a man who had packed 20 x 10cm long, 4cm diameter moisturiser vials into around 10 metres of bubble wrap, sealed in a carton designed to contain a disassembled shop-display gondola, surrounded by about 2 cubic metres of styrofoam packing chips in a washing-machine carton, the whole stretch-wrapped and strapped to a large pallet. We were cacking ourselves laughing as it was forklifted onto the delivery truck, I can only imagine the expressions on the faces of the client's receiving staff when they got it!

  45. Moss Icely Spaceport


    Does no one understand the trials of struggling box-art artists?

    These warehouse creations are intended as a thing of industrial beauty.

    It's art that can be recycled!!

  46. currynut


    Err... you don't need to be a geek to use Google - "What are GBICs?" works a treat.

  47. Sonya Fox
    Thumb Down

    Must have been shipped UPS

    Considering UPS' standard practice of running each package through a wood chipper, using a catapult to lob packages between distribution centers, then delivering it to your home via air drop from 10,000 feet all that bubble wrap might not be a bad idea. I'm reminded of the time I mail-ordered two expensive Kino-Flo fluorescent tubes, the supplier had wrapped them in 12 inches of bubble wrap, inside a stiff carboard box, followed by another foot of bubble wrap and another, thicker carboard box plastered with "FRAGILE: GLASS" stickers and somehow UPS still managed to break one by bending the entire two foot thick package in half.

  48. Matt Newton

    Hmm I wish I'd taken pics of mine now...

    We ordered a plastic Mylar strip for one of our scanners at work - this thing is about ... 20cm long, 2cm wide and about as thick as a piece of cardboard.

    It came in it's plastic wrapper, itself inside some heavy-duty fibre-board to stop it bending, THAT was inside a box which itself was inside a box filled with shredded paper and packaging materials.

    So really, for something that weighs about 2 grams, and could be fitted in an envelope (maybe with some cardboard inside to help prevent bending), we ended up with a 2 foot by 2 foot by 2 foot box stuffed with crap.

    Oh, it was from HP :)

  49. Nigel 11
    Thumb Down

    "Fragile: Glass" - red rag to a bull?

    I suspect just as the bored staff in the packing department have contests, so do the bored staff in the shipping depot. In their case, "can we break it"? I'd suggest that the value of "Fragile" stickers is negative, it just encourages them.

    A long time ago I took delivery of a disk drive (back then, 80Gb was the size of a washing machine). I spotted a hole in the cardboard and noted it on the delivery note before signing "contents not inspected". Good thing I did that.

    When the engineer arrived and uncrated it, it was clear all was not well. The first sign of trouble was that the "washing machine" was no longer rectangular. A little more instection revealed a rectangular hole through the cabinet. Inside, the wreckage of the controller circuit boards was rattling around. (Today, several square feet of electronics has shrunk to a couple of square inches).

    Total insurance write off (back then, ££££). A fork-lift driver had impaled it, and then, for good measure, dropped it from a considerable height. I guess drastic action was needed to get it off his prong before anyone noticed. Or I suppose it might have fallen off a stack in front of him moving at speed. Either way they were happy to send it on its way to become "Someone else's problem".

  50. uncle sjohie


    ESRI used to have a habit of sending ~50 retail packages if you have 50 licenses, we had to alter our contract just to get 1 box shipped, no matter how many times we told them we do a network install including the demo data, and we really didn't need a pallet full of those boxes 2 times a year.

  51. Anonymous Coward

    That explains the 20% pay cut then

    All EDS staff in the US now working for HP are getting slapped with a 20% pay cut, I guess they have to pay for the packing somehow.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    maybe you need to post this on more pages?

    You know if you put one word or maybe one letter on a separate page you will get even more page views, this article should of been 2 pages tops. I find it insulting that you think I have nothing better to do than keep pressing the next page button like some trained monkey. The article was good but way to many pages, I probably won't read another piece on this site because of this, DONT WASTE MY TIME WITH THE CHILDISH, AMATEUR PAGEVIEW TRICK.

  53. Anonymous Coward

    Check this one out

  54. Luke McCarthy

    More ebuyer

    I once ordered a small bag of about 50 hard disk jumpers from ebuyer, it came in a plastic bag sellotaped inside a rather large box. To top it off, it came completely seperately from the rest of my order, which was packaged more appropriately.

  55. A J Stiles

    Seriously, we need legislation

    How about this: Make the disposal of used packaging officially the vendor's responsibility, not the purchaser's. So suppliers must accept empty packaging for return. (Yes, this means prices are going to go up. Deal with it. Prices going up means they've been too low for too long. You'll save money anyway, with less waste to dispose of.)

    Give them a little get-out clause, though: no need to take it back if it's biodegradeable with a half-life of less than 10 days.

  56. Havin_it


    I truly struggle to understand the mindset that encourages you to make a snide remark when I have simply asked a question, as people occasionally do on these threads. Many of these other questions could just as easily be answered with recourse to Google, but asking them here can be seen as a sociable activity. I don't believe it violates any code of conduct written or unwritten, or I am sure the estimable Ms. Bee would not have published it.

    So why do you care enough to respond with your nose in the air, but not enough to provide the answer which you've gone to such effort to research (if you didn't know the answer already)? I don't get it.

    Thanks to the AC who kindly answered my question. This pseudo-beer's for you, mystery person!

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Mostly missing the point people

    Okay some of these examples are plain silly (a NIC delivered on a pallet - WTF?) But the real reason is to keep costs DOWN in the logistics dept!

    As any amateur eBayer will know you can waste hours finding suitable packaging.

    So a commercial dispatch department has the least number of different boxes available for the packers to grab, chuck your stuff in and thow it in the trolley

  58. Christian Berger

    We also had one

    I work at an electronics company producing measurement equipment. For our new product we needed SD-card slots. Well the first one we ordered were in a nice tray. You could almoust have the SMT mounter mount them automatically. Such a slot is a mostly mechanical device costing less than an euro.

    However we ordered them again, from the same company and they came in a large box, containing little boxes each one containing one slot wrapped in a hand-cut piece of bubble wrap.

  59. Cap'n 'Erb Saggin' Sails

    Its a money-saving scam

    The reason this occurs is because they have too many pallets from their own suppliers to dispose of in a way that isn't noticable on the bottom line.

    So they pass the problem onto us; bastards - the cost of disposing of their rubbish is extreme to say the least - factor in the CO2 costs, fuel, time etc, several times for this packaging in its lifetime, and it is an unmitigated abuse frankly.

    No Beer for these cynical suppliers...

  60. A J Stiles
    Thumb Up

    @ Cap'n 'Erb Saggin' Sails

    Exactly. Which is why I proposed what I proposed.

    A tax on virgin materials might also improve the market value of recyclable goods.

    Another blatant abuse I have seen: packs of AA batteries on sale in pound stores, branded Kodak and labelled "not for sale". What's the betting they had come out of single-use cameras, and somebody worked out that as the batteries still had a fair bit of juice in them after doing no more than 27 flashes, it was cheaper to blister-pack them and sell them to consumers (who then were allowed to toss them into landfill sites), than to pay someone to recycle them properly?

  61. Graham Marsden

    @Its a money-saving scam

    Have you read Bill the Galactic Hero?!

    For those who haven't, Bill solves the problem of the increasing amount of rubbish on a planet by shipping it to other planets as "free gifts"!

  62. mariushm

    The NIC is not that bad

    In the case of the HP 4 port network card, I wouldn't say the packaging is that bad.

    If it would have been a very small package the chances to be ignored or lost or damaged would have been higher. This way the package is handled better, less chances to be lost, customer definitely knows he got the package (rather than having a secretary collect the small box and forget about it in her office for days) and for them the shipping cost difference is minimal.

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Our DCX

    Our DCX-4S came with the SFPs in boxes of 8, with a few cm between the SFPs enf the perimiter of the box, and about 1cm between SFPs in their plastic try thing.

    I was getting slightly bored standing behind it in the back and opening what I though was a lot of boxes and plugging in SFPs (Still not sure what I make of the Horizontal blade design.

    Ours was from Brocade themselves BTW.

  64. smashIt

    reminds me of logitec

    i had a mx1000 replaced under waranty a few years ago (logitec let me keep the defect one, thx)

    what i got was 2 boxes filled with a total of 11 mice (logitec let me keep them too :D)

  65. Glen Turner 666

    HP GBIC fail

    Those SFP GBICs for the SAN would have come from the manufacturer in plastic trays of 20 (at about US$25 each), shipped in boxes of 20 or 40 trays. So someone within HP unpacked the tray into the Jiffy bags and shelved them at the warehouse before they ended up in that pallet (where they left at about US$300ea). Rather than send them a box or two with no handling.

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Its a money-saving scam

    If memory serves, Scan used to do this. I remember getting all kinds of unwanted "free" crap from them with my orders - 56k internal modems, and the like.

  67. Eric Hood


    I once ordered 100 CMOS batteries and sure enough each one came in a separate box 12" long 4" high and 5" wide.

    100 boxes. No photographs sadly as this was 1997 or 1998.

    I rang the supplier, to complain, as the company I purchased them from had a free freight policy if you purchased a certain dollar value of goods from them.

    Finally they asked me why I was complaining, I said you're paying the freight and I have to dispose of the boxes.

    Surely they did not make any money from this. I kept the boxes to mail small pieces to people as each box was filled with 2 pieces of soft foam like you might find in a pillow and an adult carefully could stand on the box and not crush it.

    In the end my employer thought the boxes were better value than the CMOS batteries.

  68. bluesxman

    Didn't take a picture, but...

    A few months ago I ordered some overpriced wax filters for my old Shure earphones. Ten of them come stuck to a piece of paper about the size and weight of 2 postage stamps side by side. Advanced MP3 Players decided that this would require a Jiffy bag into which one could fit an entire ream of A4 paper, with room to spare.

  69. Wize

    Its even more annoying

    when they can't stick the small item through your letterbox and you have to collect it from the post office instead.

  70. Mountford D

    Ebuyer's overpackaging is quite common

    By the looks of things, Ebuyer does this sort of thing all the time. I have had a solitary SD card delivered in a box big enough to hold 50 3.5-inch hard disks and on a different occasion, a single cable arriving in a similar sized box.

    The stupid thing was that the SD card was in a padded Jiffy bag which could have been sent in the post. I guess it keeps the courier in business and saves them the trouble of recycling packaging material by passing it on and letting the customer do the disposing for them.

  71. Kevin Reader

    There are sometimes reasons....

    In all seriousness I think the more normal online shippers (eBuyer ,et al) often use a minimum sized box for many reasons:

    a) there is some hope it will get some padding added and most devices may arrive working.

    b) its less likely to get crushed by a larger package in the back of a van or courier depot

    c) its harder to accidentally find its way out of a depot or van.

    I suspect its usually assumed by the light fingered that something from say a PC place has value, so small packages may disappear more. As an example a guy in the USA has recently been trying to get a UMPC shipped from europe, TWO deliveries have so far disappeared between london and the USA.... They need to use a larger box!

  72. Max Watson
    FAIL have a terrible habit of putting smaller boxes in really large oversized boxes. It's mainly annoying for me because I have to collect all my packages from across campus and carrying a box suitable for carrying a flat pack garden shed isn't exactly easy.

  73. Anonymous Coward

    not the worst

    i had a chat with the CAB about money problems so they sent through some forms that I had to pay £1.60 for !!!

    wtf i goto them saying i go tbugger all money and then they make me pay to get the forms !!Wut !

  74. Wayland Sothcott 1

    Memory chip from Aashima

    which came bubble wrapped and packed in a CRT monitor sized box filled with air bags. I asked a friend who worked there and he said that it was their smallest package and they usually ship larger orders.

  75. Paul Isaac's

    Adobe postal tubes for CS4

    Excess packaging and meaningless advertising mailshots that use those huge cardboard tubes to convey 1 silly poster from Adobe CS4 adds to the emissions nightmare.

    The message of CS4...who cares... but the wastage... I care.

    Adobe STOP it!

  76. Lee Dowling Silver badge


    Okay, slightly embarassing but...

    Since the credit crunch I do nightwork at a local very famous hardware store... totally mind-numbing work, especially for an IT-Manager-by-day. Basically we see the WORST of inefficient deliveries possible.

    Generally, each day at least one large truck from EVERY company pulls up (e.g. wood company on Monday, lighting company on Tuesday) to every individual store in the country. They drop off pallets full of boxes of their products. The pallets are moved by forklift by person A into a warehouse. Person B checks it off without opening it and documents it. Sometimes person C is involved in getting it into the right place in the warehouse. During the day, person D checks the stock in the store and person E will determine what stock to put out overnight.

    At night, person F will check the stock requests and, usually, person G will use a forklift to deliver pallet to the front of store once it's closed. Then persons H, I, J, K, L and M will randomly open pallets (lots of plastic and carboard) and hand-move the merchandise still in their containing boxes (so not even NEAR a product-box yet) onto ordinary store trolleys. They will then wheel said trolley (containing basically random mixes of stock by now) through the store and then unpack it from its boxes (usually multiple levels of packaging) to get to the bare product. Then they will put it on the shelf. If it doesn't fit on the shelf (about 25% of the time), they place the box on the floor.

    Rinse and repeat until about 10-15 pallets (approximately 10-15 tons or more) are emptied in trolley-load batches. Towards the end of the night, persons H, I, J (or possibly K, L, M, depending who gets their stock done first) will go through the store and move (by hand) anything on the floor onto a high shelf out of customers reach. Meanwhile the others are probably moving the extraneous cardboard, plastic, etc. back out to the warehouse and generally shifting stock about.

    Then, should stock spaces occur during the day, persons N, O, P will take said stock down (by hand), unpack and put it on the shelf. Very rarely are A-P ever seen by the public.

    Now consider that stock can consist of lightbulbs or 40kg worktops, drills or 1.5 tons of tiles, a lightswitch or 200 pieces of timber. The product has a box. The product is boxed (sometimes singly, sometimes with others) by the manufacturer. That is then boxed (sometimes singly, sometimes with others) into larger batches. That is then packed onto pallets and wrapped in plastic. The pallets are then stacked and loaded on a lorry / several lorries. The inefficiency is just rife.

    And, yes, we have had four-foot-cube boxes for, say, two lightbulbs, or a lampshade. It's not even unusual. We usually end up at the end of a four-hour night shift (maybe 10-15 pallets of stock) with about 3-4 cubic pallets of cardboard, 1-2 of plastic, and about 0.5 of plastic strapping. That's before you even get into what the product box itself contains (i.e. one lightbulb in a fancy packet).

    Now consider the manual effort (and wages) of all those people doing silly tasks like literally hand-loading a trolley from a pallet and wheeling it ten feet, the emissions from the vehicles (forklifts, lorries, etc.), the weight of stuff delivered needlessly, it's just a complete waste.

    Though the company in question are now stopping the "overstock" (where stock that is over-ordered is stored over the normal aisles) but only because they've killed people by tumbling stock onto their heads.

    I estimate about a 0.1% efficiency in terms of energy used to the "optimal" mathematical solution for getting X tons of stuff from several manufacturers onto a store's shelves.

  77. Cameron Colley

    RE: As an ex warehouse employee I can see the other side


    There's also the fact that smaller packages with fewer layers are more likely to fall out of cages or become soaked through if dropped when loading.

    To those who think it's a money making scam: In some ways this could be said to save money -- as has been mentioned it allows packers to use standard sized boxes making the process quicker and allowing a better bulk discount on the box purchases. Whether the company passes the savings on to you is debatable though, I suppose.

    As for excess packaging -- I recall a warehouse I worked in receiving a pallet with a cardboard box covering the whole pallet and standing around 4 feet heigh. The box was full of "Wotsits" style packaging and turned out to be a lucky dip for an oven knob.

  78. John Doe 1

    Ah, optimisation... Calculus, perhaps?

    May I propose HP's packaging engineers consider taking a few Calculus courses to become more familiar with the principles of maximising volume -- within other real world criteria, naturally.

    My alma mater had such a programme for their packaging design students, and they did a pretty good job of it from what I've seen of class projects.

    Good going, HP!

This topic is closed for new posts.