From a manufacturing standpoint, ordering necessary packaging material seems simple enough. At its core, it's merely multiplying anticipated outgoing packages by the Styrofoam peanuts, bubble wrap, air pillows and other void-fillers needed to keep product safe.

If your sending volume has been consistent, you might even be relying on automatic reorders of these materials — but that's a costly mistake for your budget and the environment. Whether it's through straightforward waste or using non-eco-friendly materials, chances are your shipping material planning could use an overhaul.

Intelligently eliminating void space

While some cushioning space is needed for delicate or unique products, if you're pairing outgoing contents with boxes that are too large, you're paying twice.

Every open inch is one that needs to be filled with expensive packaging materials for a one-way trip, and if the void space is large enough you might end up paying for the next dimensional weight measurement (DIM) bracket under major logistics carriers, too. That means even if your product is feather-light, a large box could hike up costs until it might as well be a bowling ball.

Finding the right box for each shipment is essential, and the cost-savings of ordering bulk single-size boxes can quickly evaporate under the real and environmental burdens of void space. If your company deals in a lot of outgoing shipment volume, it might be worth adding a specialty box cutting machine, such as the Box On Demand, to your warehouse equipment. These machines assemble boxes to exact product specifications, virtually eliminating void-based waste.

Looking at leftovers critically

Industries vary widely in the materials and processes they use for production, but in certain cases a waste audit may yield a surprising packaging solution.

In the food and beverage sector, for example, loose tea purveyors The Republic of Tea routinely use the trimmings of teabag sheets as cushioning material for both B2C and B2B wholesale shipments. This material which also happens to be biodegradable and recycled would otherwise be discarded as waste.

Consider your current production waste. Could any of it be recycled into cushioning or molded-to-product shells for shipping protection?

It's easy to simply shrug off waste as, once again, a "cost of doing business," but if it could be making your company profit by cutting out direct purchases of packaging products, it's worth a second look for the sake of your budget.

Weighing your options

Printing product inserts, brochures, manuals and more for packaging inclusions is an expensive use of resources that might not be necessary. While you'll always need to communicate benefits and make items like invoices readily available, many of these important documents can easily be digitally delivered.

Whether through direct email contact with your product recipients and shipping partners or through another method, such as a series of scannable QR-style barcodes on a single sheet, interfacing with computers and mobile devices saves trees, delivers convenience and makes shipments easier to assemble. As Kevin Hill notes in an sustainable packaging article for William Reed; weight-reducing packaging solutions are becoming a hot trend for 2017.

If you're tired of looking at wince-worthy invoices for packaging materials that eat away at your profit margins, it's time to make a change for 2017. There are a number of attractive options available to a forward-thinking company, and taking advantage of them will deliver value as well as a promo-worthy nod to sustainable manufacturing measures.

Decision time is fast approaching: Will you be ordering huge bags of packing peanuts, or reducing your carbon footprint by packing "smart" instead?