Steelcase’s “Hack the Pack” Finds New Ways to Use Materials More Efficiently
Steelcase has always been an insight-driven company, wanting to understand issues deeply so they can be solved effectively. When it came to packaging design and reducing packaging waste on the jobsite, the approach to understanding the problem was no different. The Better Plants partner formed a design-thinking workshop called “Hack the Pack,” bringing together a cross-functional team to find ways to change, or “hack,” product packaging to benefit Steelcase dealers, Steelcase, and the environment. Through that workshop and multiple jobsite visits, Steelcase gained insights on how to think differently about packaging – from design concepts to material makeup (including upstream and downstream impacts), transit and delivery considerations, site constraints, and readily accessible methods of disposal.
The one-day Hack the Pack workshop included 11 participants from seven different groups:
- Channel Development (representing the relationship between Steelcase dealers and Steelcase)
- Manufacturing Technical Services
- Steelcase Dealers
While the projects that came out of this workshop are not all complete, progress is being made. Here are some highlights of the work so far:
- Reducing the amount of wood reinforcements in one package design saved over 13,000 pounds per year and is going through further testing to see if wood reinforcements can be removed completely.
- Eliminating the use of foam in two types of packaging made the packs 99% cardboard and widely recyclable.
Some projects Steelcase is still working on include:
- Creating a bulk pack for screens where they hope to eliminate stretch wrap and foam, making the packaging 100% out of cardboard and widely recyclable.
- Working with suppliers on their packaging protocols by sharing lessons learned, thereby improving the entire value stream by reducing waste and improving distribution.
Steelcase is reimagining how they package products by introducing new, sustainable materials, focusing on eliminating single-use plastics in the design stage of product development and innovating how to get their products safely to the customer with as little packaging as possible. This remains a cross-functional venture as they continue to work on systemic internal change through procurement practices and packaging development, as well as driving the external recycling economy by continuing to leverage materials high in recycled content. With the success of the first Hack the Pack workshop still being realized, the teams are eagerly waiting to host the second hack the pack workshop later in 2021. Building on the first experience, the next workshop will likely include participants from even more groups, such as lead installers who work with products and packaging on the jobsite.
Packaging before (left) and new packaging prototype after (right) for one of the projects that resulted from the workshop.