The Importance of Optimal Carton Set Optimization in Online Retail

In the world of online shopping, one common issue that customers face is receiving products in oversized cartons. These cartons are often much larger than the actual items being shipped, leading to wasted space and materials. For example, it is not uncommon for a small fragrance bottle to be shipped in a shoebox-sized package filled with unnecessary padding. This practice is not sustainable and can have negative implications for both the environment and costs for businesses.

The Role of CASTN Optimization Software

To address this problem, the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML has developed the CASTN optimization software. This innovative software is designed to create the best order-to-carton combination for each customer’s order. By utilizing clever algorithms, the software calculates the optimal carton utilization based on the specific items and order structure, ensuring that the volume of the packaging is maximized.

The CASTN software takes into consideration the changing landscape of online retail, including the latest trends and seasonal fluctuations that can impact the structure of items and orders. With the increasing diversity of products and variable order structures, the range of shipping cartons has also expanded over time. However, despite the availability of a variety of packaging options, the volume utilization is often quite low. This results in items such as fragrances, cosmetics, and jewelry being shipped in oversized cartons, leading to wasted space and resources.

Through the use of CASTN, shipping companies can optimize their carton sets to accommodate the individual item and order structures. By analyzing customer data and input parameters, the software employs two interlinked algorithms to calculate the best carton set. The first algorithm uses an evolutionary approach to create different carton sets based on specific parameters, while the second algorithm, a bin-packing algorithm, ensures that orders are efficiently packed in the selected cartons. The ultimate goal is to minimize packaging volume and achieve the smallest possible overall volume.

By leveraging CASTN, companies can significantly improve their volume utilization, often increasing it by 35% to 45%. This not only reduces the number of carton types used but also contributes to sustainability efforts in logistics. The software helps to reduce packaging and padding material, resulting in better truck loading, reduced CO2 emissions, and the avoidance of wasted space. Overall, the use of CASTN can have a positive impact on the environment while also saving on packaging and transit costs for businesses.

Looking Ahead

In the future, the team behind CASTN aims to enhance the software’s functionality to include complex item shapes and additional item characteristics. By doing so, they hope to further increase sustainability in logistics and provide companies with even more tools to optimize their shipping practices. Ultimately, the goal is to make a difference in the world of online retail by promoting smarter packaging solutions that benefit both businesses and the planet.


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