Why IKEA Hates Air

July 2, 2020

This article is part of our series of strategies to reduce packaging costs throughout your supply chain. Want the full set? Download our guide with all 30 strategies.

Peter Agnefjäll, the CEO of IKEA, has a simple dictum: “We hate air.”

Air is invisible, but if you're shipping it, you're paying for it. The economic and environmental impact of shipping air finds its way throughout the lifecycle of your packaging.

Shipping less air is a strategy that reduces costs throughout your entire supply chain. By reducing the amount of air around your product, you can use less material, fit boxes on each pallet, ship smaller, and potentially ease the packaging frustration for customers.

IKEA famously eliminates air from their packages by selling their furniture in ready-to-assemble parts. In 2010, when they started selling their Ektorp sofa disassembled, IKEA eliminated enough air to reduce their package size by 50%. With this smaller packaging, IKEA was able to remove 7,477 trucks from the roads annually.

Their flat-pack boxes and assembly instructions are iconic, but IKEA isn't just optimizing furniture. By shrink wrapping candle sets instead of selling them loose in bags, they can fit 108 more packages of candles on a pallet. It doesn't have as big of an impact as a couch, but all in, this small packaging update equated to a significant 400 less trucks on the road.

 Why IKEA Hates Air

These lessons don't just work for ready-to-assemble furniture empires. Rethinking the packout for your ecommerce business can open up a lot of cost-saving opportunities.

Ecommerce is on the rise, but many default decisions in the packaging status quo are tied to shelf space, not shipping. For example, cereal boxes are packaged with more air than necessary to increase their prominence on the shelf. When your customers aren't shopping from a shelf, this added air is not only impractical, but the excess packaging could hurt your brand image.

Even if you're leaving space in your packaging for void fill to protect your product, you may be overcompensating. Companies often suffer from loss aversion, and overpackage products to avoid rare shipping issues.

 Why IKEA Hates Air

How to ship less air

To ship less air, you have to first determine how much air you're shipping. You can estimate this volume by filling empty spaces with packing peanuts, sand, beans, or other granular materials that can be poured into a measuring container. For a more precise approach, Lumi packaging engineers can perform volumetric analyses.

From there, rearrange your items based on common product combinations to find an ideal number of packaging SKUs that allows you to ship most orders with the least amount of air. Reconsider oversized inserts or other cosmetic elements and strategize your marketing spend within a smaller container size. You might even consider an IKEA-like instruction manual.

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Reduce Your Packaging Costs: 30 Strategies

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