January 24, 2013, 9:49 AM

Bags trump peanuts for shipping

Kingston Brass keeps items intact and improves packing efficiency with airbags.

Lead Photo

Storopack airbags

Catalog and online retailer Kingston Brass, which sells specialty plumbing items such as faucets, bathtubs and shower hoses, last year switched from using Styrofoam popcorn and peanuts in its shipping packages to airbags filled in its warehouse with a machine, says Tony Martin, a sales manager at Kingston Brass. Vendor Storopack supplies both the machine and airbags.

The switch has helped eliminate breakage during shipment, reduce the time warehouse staffers need to pack items and freed up space that previously held the 10 to 12 bags of Styrofoam—each roughly six cubic feet—the retailer was using weekly, he says.

“[Styrofoam] was fine when we were shipping 100 packages a day, but now with over 400 packages a day on average, it’s more of a nuisance,” Martin says. In addition to being more efficient, training temporary employees to operate the machine takes only 15 minutes or less, he says.

The Storopack machine is roughly two cubic feet in size, Martin says. A single employee feeds one-square-foot rolls, each containing about 3,500 square feet of plastic, into the machine as needed, he says. The process of filling bags for one box taking about a minute. Apart from large items that require crates for packing, like claw-foot tubs, 95% of the items that Kingston Brass ships in boxes are filled by Storopack bags, he says.

With peanuts and popcorn, even hard-to-break items like brass handles still occasionally arrived at shoppers’ doors with scratches on their finish, Martin says. Worse, more fragile items made of glass and ceramic materials would sometimes break in shipment. With airbags, Kingston Brass has yet to have an item break on its way to a customer, he says.

Another benefit to airbags, Martin says, is their easy disposal—consumers can just pop and deflate them—which cuts down on the hassle of dealing with hundreds of pieces of Styrofoam. The plastic is also recyclable. 

Storopack provided the machine to Kingston Brass at no cost but with the agreement that the retailer would use its plastic exclusively, for which the vendor declines to share a price, a spokesman says. Martin says the system has paid for itself already in savings and the costs of the materials have proved economical. 

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