Globe Guard “Packaging 101” Lesson: Don’t Let Under Filled Boxes Create Overwhelming Problems (Part 1)

20 Jan 2011 Globe Guard “Packaging 101” Lesson: Don’t Let Under Filled Boxes Create Overwhelming Problems (Part 1)

Loose fill settles creating underfilled boxes


This year our plan is to continue being one of the best sources for practical sustainable packaging information on the Internet. We have also decided to at least monthly provide basic solutions that can benefit packagers whether they are green minded or not. In other words, providing answers to the problems we most commonly encounter in the field. One of the most frequent problems I have seen over the course of a career measured in decades rather than years (boy do I suddenly feel old) is the classic problem of under filled boxes.

What are the reasons boxes are under filled?

  • Using the wrong size (too big) box
  • Packers attempting to be economical with void fill or trying to avoid over stuffing
  • Packers rushing or simply not doing a good job (poorly trained)
  • Using the wrong void fill for the application
  • Product or void fill “settling” after the box is sealed. (This is a common problem with flowable loose fill products.)
  • Air escaping from the product after the box is filled. (Soft goods and paper products are great examples of this.)
  • Using the wrong box sealing tape
  • Applying the tape incorrectly

The End Result and Incorrect Solutions

Under filled boxes


The greatest problem of boxes that are under filled is that they are almost always poorly sealed. Those boxes tend to look bad when they are received because they tend to torque and go out of “square,” but this problem impacts much more than appearance.

Under filled and poorly sealed boxes are more likely to be damaged in shipment because if you look at how the typical RSC shipping box is designed, keeping the two major flaps together on top and bottom is critical to the structural design and strength of the case. Place a heavy box on top of one that is under filled and you will see what I mean. Grip opposite sides of any poorly sealed case and you will see how easily it can be twisted open. A lot of damage and a great deal of pilferage can be eliminated by filling and sealing a case correctly.

In a sincere effort to solve these problems we have witnessed a variety of incorrect and ineffective solutions that include:

1.    Using a wider tape (usually increasing from 2” to 3” tape width)

2.    Applying more tape (multiple strips)

3.    Cross taping (multiple strips applied cross directionally in addition to the longitudinal strips)

4.    Over filling and over using void fill

5.     Increasing the grade and thickness of the shipping boxes being used

In part 2 of this post we will provide some insight on the potential cures for this common and chronic packaging ailment.