Passion for Packaging Innovation

Amazon’s frustration-free packaging, the aftermath

Gizmodo is reporting that Amazon has been shipping Western Digital hard drives in packages that are inadequate for proper protection under the frustration-free package program.

As big as Amazon is, and as admirable as the frustration-free initiative is, Amazon is no expert in basic package usability, or in transport testing. We do believe that they need to bring in people who have the right expertise.

Transport Testing

Transport testing is typically done on shake tables running a particular shake program. (Yep, there is such a thing.) These programs are typically recorded on real vehicles running on rough roads, over railroad tracks, or on mountains. During actual testing, the program is usually compressed in time, and the tests are typically harsher than the actual mode of transport being simulated.

If you are shipping stuff with trains, then you need to have a shake table program that simulates that best. The same is true for truck shipping, airplane shipping, etc.

Other Environmental Factors

Temperature variations during transport can cover a huge range from -40°F (-40°C) to 140°F (60°C). Of course the requirements for shipping juice in temperature controlled environments vs. shipping manufactured goods (i.e washing machines) in uncontrolled thermal environments provide different challenges.

Since packaging is not Amazon’s core competency, it looks like they have gotten themselves in a bind. Here is their original press release.

SEATTLE—(BUSINESS WIRE)—Nov. 3, 2008— has launched “Frustration-Free Packaging,” a new initiative designed to make it easier for customers to liberate products from their packages. Amazon is focusing first on two kinds of items: those enclosed in hard plastic cases known as “clamshells” and those secured with plastic-coated wire ties, commonly used in toy packaging.

Frustration-Free Packaging is being launched in the U.S. with 19 bestselling products from leading manufacturers including Fisher-Price, Mattel, Microsoft and electronics manufacturer Transcend. The product is exactly the same – Amazon has just streamlined the packaging. The project will expand across Amazon’s international sites beginning in 2009.

“I think we’ve all experienced the frustration that sometimes occurs when you try to get a new toy or electronics product out of its package,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of “It will take many years, but our vision is to offer our entire catalog of products in Frustration-Free Packaging. We’d like to thank Fisher-Price, Mattel, Microsoft and Transcend for working with us in this effort – we truly appreciate it.”

In addition to making packages easier to open, a major goal of the Frustration-Free Packaging initiative is to be more environmentally friendly by using less packaging material.

One of the first products to launch with Frustration-Free Packaging is the Fisher-Price Imaginext Adventures Pirate Ship, which is now delivered in an easy-to-open, recyclable cardboard box. The new packaging eliminates 36 inches of plastic-coated wire ties, 1,576.5 square inches of printed corrugated package inserts and 36.1 square inches of printed folding carton materials. Also eliminated are 175.25 square inches of PVC blisters, 3.5 square inches of ABS molded styrene and two molded plastic fasteners.

Small items, such as memory cards, are also good candidates for Frustration-Free Packaging. Typically encased in oversized plastic clamshells to deter shoplifting, memory cards are then placed inside larger cardboard boxes for shipment to customers. Working with Transcend, Amazon has eliminated the hard-to-open clamshell and the need for an additional box. Instead, the cards will now ship inside recyclable cardboard envelopes which use less material. Amazon is working to shrink the envelope size even further.

Customers can order select items from Fisher-Price, Mattel, Microsoft and Transcend in the new Frustration-Free Packaging for immediate delivery. The current collection of Frustration-Free products can be seen by going to

Head over to Gizmodo to read the original article.

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