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Behind Amazon’s Packaging Strategy: Machine Learning-Powered Optimization

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Like many companies, Amazon is looking to do away with plastic-based packaging. While lightweight, waterproof, and requiring less materials, plastics are significantly harder to recycle, often requiring customers to take the materials to a drop-off location rather than simply putting them into their recycling bin.

“This has created a challenge that Amazon is taking head on — how to continue to find ways to minimize carbon emissions, increase recyclability, and reduce waste,” the company said.

As part of this initiative, Amazon has worked to eliminate the use of additional packaging altogether, and since 2015 has reduced the weight of packaging pershipment by 38%. This has eliminated the use of more than 1.5 million tons of packaging materials. Last year alone, Amazon reduced the average plastic packaging weight per shipment by over 7%. 

In cases where Amazon can’t eliminate the packaging materials, it is looking into alternative materials that can more easily be recycled. This includes the company’s curbside recyclable paper-padded mailer, which can be collected and sorted at a regular recycling facility, which has launched in North America. 

Additionally, in the U.S., Amazon offers a new curbside recyclable package that keeps its Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods Market deliveries frozen or chilled while eliminating the need for plastic liners or bubble-bag insulation. 

Packaging: A Business Domino Effect

Why is packaging innovation a significant achievement? The results are varied and can impact the entire value chain, from cutting down on shipping costs to reducing the impact on the environment to improving the customer experience. 

“Compared to electric vehicles, green hydrogen, or the next generation of photovoltaics, packaging may seem rather mundane,” said Amazon. “But as you consider practical ways to minimize carbon emissions, eliminate waste, and increase recyclability, packaging is critical.”

This is why so many consumer goods companies are looking to overhaul their own approaches, transforming either the back-end processes or those that directly impact customers when products reach the shelves. 

The Kellogg Company, for example, recently shared plans to manufacture four mainstay brands with NaviLens technology on their packaging in the U.S., designed to make them more accessible to consumers who are blind or have low vision. Also, PepsiCo recently announced it is expanding its SodaStream Professional business, collaborating with PepsiCo bottlers to build out refillable plastic and glass bottle offerings, driving accelerated growth in powders and concentrates.

“It’s the type of challenge that we thrive on at Amazon, and our dedicated teams are problem-solving how to execute solutions in different countries with varying complexities, simulating deliveries to discover ways to reduce packaging while protecting the product, and exploring innovative materials.” — Amazon

This article first appeared on the site of sister publication CGT.


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