GS1 industry box gets a second chance

Long four years after a first practical test, the most important manufacturers of drugstore goods seem to have agreed with Edeka, dm, Rossmann and Müller in Germany on an industry-wide reusable transport container for drugstore goods. The plastics processor Georg Utz and the pool operator IPP have been commissioned to initially circulate 100,000 standardised reusable boxes from spring 2021. The GS1 Smart Box will initially be used to bring slow-moving drugstore goods from manufacturers to retail distribution centres.

If the solution becomes established, it will save a great deal of cardboard packaging, as there is currently no reusable transport packaging solution on the way of the goods from industry to the distribution centres of the retail trade. Retailers supply their stores with their own reusable transport boxes, so the GS1 Smart Box will not be used in the stores for the time being.


Box does not reach the stores

It is unrealistic that the goods could already be delivered to the retail distribution centres in a cross-docking procedure, picked and picked according to the store. Nevertheless, the GS1 Smart Box is suitable for reducing the handling effort in the retail distribution centres, as the goods are to be picked directly from it for the stores and also for online orders. Transfer to picking containers is no longer necessary.

It is controversial whether this solution can save not only cardboard boxes but also transport volume: “This depends very much on the filling levels of the boxes,” Ekart Kuhn points out. The specialist has been bringing the idea of reusable transport packaging to the industry for years through its consulting firm Ekupac. Six years ago, he had already accompanied initial projects with dm and Procter&Gamble on the pool box in the drugstore sector.

Solution for many product groups

In Kuhn’s opinion, such a reusable box in the pool procedure by no means has to be limited to the drugstore assortment: “You should do this across the product groups that are suitable for it,” Kuhn explains in an interview with the Retail Optimiser. However, the whole thing only makes economic sense if the manufacturers fill the reusable boxes automatically directly from their production line.

In 2016, the largest drugstore retailers Edeka, dm Drogeriemarkt, Rossmann and Müller had already tested 6,000 returnable boxes with their largest industry partners and presented the results in 2017 as ground breaking. At that time, however, the box was smaller than the current version.  As in 2016, the industry partners participating now include Procter & Gamble, Beiersdorf, Cosnova, L’Oréal and Henkel.


The new GS1 Smart Box (Photo: GS1 Germany)

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Björn Weber

Björn Weber has been a journalist, analyst and consultant specialising in the retail and consumer goods industry for over 20 years. Prior to founding Fourspot, which is publishing The Retail Optimiser, Björn Weber headed the international analyst group LZ Retailytics. Previously, he was Research Director Retail Technology and Head of Planet Retail in Germany. Before that, Björn Weber was editor for IT & logistics topics at Lebensmittel Zeitung for eight years. Björn Weber is a member of the jury of the Retail Technology Award (Reta Europe) of the EHI. He is a regular speaker at events of the EHI, the NRF, industry media and the Consumer Goods Forum.

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