Many retailers and their logistics providers were no doubt caught slightly unawares when orders started rolling in at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown. Those involved in the sale and distribution of home leisure and sports equipment were affected more than most. With the rush to set up home gyms and more people opting for pedal power as a means to keep or get fit while taking advantage of quiet roads, the media was flooded with stories of long delays in consumers receiving their online orders and even of stores running out of stock altogether.

‘Unprecedented’ and ‘challenging’ are words that have perhaps become over-used in recent times, but not without good reason. The reality for many retailers and their logistics providers is that keeping up with ‘unprecedented’ demand at the same time as needing to ensure the safety of their staff has been, to say the least, ‘challenging’. And when you add in the fact that the majority of home leisure and sports equipment is either big, bulky or heavy – or a combination of all three – it’s clear to see the pressure that some businesses have found themselves under, particularly where space is at a premium.

Fortunately, there are measures that can be put in place to create that perfect balance between safety and efficiency in ways that can benefit businesses not just for now, but long into the future. Here’s how:

1. Review your packing operation

Before doing anything else, it’s important to pause for a moment and take a look at every stage of your process. Where are the hold ups? How efficient are your packaging materials to use? Do they need to be manually cut to size? Do packers have enough space to work in while maintaining social distance? Do they regularly have to leave their stations to replenish stocks of materials such as void fill and cushioning? Depending on the set-up, the more people are forced to move around, the move difficult it can be for them to maintain social distancing.

2. Safety First

Keeping workers safe is every business’ number one priority right now. From social distancing, to sanitisation to PPE, you’ve no doubt already got some measures in place but consider whether they might need some fine-tuning or updating.

  • Promote safe distancing with printed tape and wall and floor graphics
    Visual markers on the floor serve as useful prompts to keep apart or to designate one-way systems, while wall graphics can be useful to highlight important rules, guidelines and information. These can be made out of materials that are easy to apply and remove so can be updated on a regular basis – without significant cost or inconvenience – either as guidelines change or simply to keep them fresh so they don’t simply become ‘wallpaper’.
  • Prevent contamination between users with protective barrier film
    Shared equipment such as laptops, keyboards, screens and switches can be a real headache to try and keep clean. Applying an easy-to-remove protective barrier film is an effective way to help to prevent contamination between users.
  • Use screen barriers to create safe working zones
    Separating working areas with screen barriers is an effective and low-cost way to keep staff safe, especially in operations where space is limited. These can be created out of anything from foam PVC, Correx and display boards to materials such as Xanita board, which is a highly sustainable fibre-based board – all of them perfect for creating temporary but sturdy structures.


3. Optimise efficiency with packaging machinery

Machinery is one of the most effective ways to achieve balance between efficiency and safety. At a time when your workforce might not be at full-strength, either through sickness, leave, or because social distancing means you don’t have space to accommodate everyone, machinery will keep things moving.

One of the best pieces of kit at a time when you need to be both space conscious and efficient is an on-demand packaging converter that produces void fill and cushioning as you need it, where you need it.

They air and paper options, both of which are environmentally friendly. Importantly, because the materials – whether polythene air sacs of kraft paper – are supplied flat, ready to either inflate or convert respectively, they take up minimal storage, which can help to free up warehouse space for more product or to create a bigger packing area.

  • On-demand air-cushioning and void fill systems
    The air systems produce lightweight, non-abrasive sacs of air on demand. They are perfect for packaging around awkward shaped items to protect them during transit. The machinery itself is compact and mobile so is ideal for using in tight spaces. are inflated on demand by an easy-to-use mobile kit.
  • On-demand paper cushioning and void fill systems
    Paper void fill and paper cushioning systems are a great alternative to foam. They work by passing single-ply or two-ply layers of kraft paper pass through a converter to create either cushioning pads or void-fill that is clean and tidy for packers to use and easy for customers to recycle. Other machinery to consider are pallet wrappers and case erectors and sealers – they can help you to increase production throughput while keeping workers safe.
  • Pallet wrappers
    Bottlenecks around the pallet wrapping area are not uncommon when it’s a manual process, so it can be necessary to put extra staff on the job to try and get through it. But, if space is limited, this might not be possible in the current climate. Using a semi- or fully-automatic pallet wrapper could improve efficiency significantly. With speeds of up to 180 pallets per hour, these machines offer numerous benefits. They:

    • are more efficient than hand wrapping – in one hour, some machines can wrap the same number of loads as three people, making it easier to cope with high levels if demand with fewer staff
    • improve load stability
    • can save costs
    • optimise stretch film usage
  • Case erectors and sealers
    With production speeds ranging from 10 up to 22 cartons per minute, a case erector can build boxes from flat pack at a rate equivalent to at least three people. As well as being faster, safer and more productive than forming cartons manually, it also provides consistent package quality and reduces waste. Additional equipment is available that places the item in the box before closing and sealing it ready for delivery


There are options for every kind of business

If you’re unsure whether packaging machinery is right for your business in the longer term, now might be a good time to test the water. It’s worth seeking advice from your packaging supplier first. Antalis, for example, offers a range of flexible payment plans to facilitate the purchase/supply of a machine.

Button to download Logistics Packaging Guide