Living in a cubic world

Take a look around your office or your home and chances are there are very few products that haven’t started life in a factory across the ocean and have had to make their way to you by means of the greatest shipping revolution in standardization: The shipping container.

The vision of a former US trucker that one day the world’s shipping process would be simplified down into one common means of transport has finally come true. The shipping container is responsible for the development of many retail success stories and has changed the way we do business and the way we buy products.

Not only has this 40″x 8″ x 9″, corrugated steel structure helped fuel the explosion of the big box retail store around the world, it has also shaped how companies have been developing their products.

If your product doesn’t fold up or flat pack, chances are that product will never know life on a retail shelf. With the demand of the consumer shifting to want cheaper and cheaper products, design has had to take a role in planning how a product’s design will affect that product’s shipping cost. The bigger your product the more this issue comes into play during the product development process.
Lighter, stronger, faster may be a major selling point for your product in a development pitch, but not if that translates into big, bulky and lightweight. This may be the absolute worst combination when it comes to factoring your shipping costs. But if you can create a product that is unique, cost-effective and takes up as little cubic space as possible? Well, that’s when you have a real winner.

Today’s product designer must not only focus on great design and manufacturing efficiencies but also factor in the shipping of that product. They must prevent it from becoming a logistical nightmare to pack up and ship your product from the factory to your distribution hub. Ikea may be one of the top logistically-focused design companies in the world. Great design, good value, and the ability to flat pack virtually everything on their showroom floor.
So when it comes to developing your company’s product line for next year don’t forget that SPAM and sardines aren’t the only things that need to fit into a can.