When designing or refreshing packaging, sometimes the biggest focus is on shelf appeal… How quickly it will it catch the shopper’s eye? How well does it communicate the brand? Does it stand out against the competition?
Yet there’s more to packaging than meets the eye. When designed and constructed properly, it enables products to move smoothly through the supply chain, from manufacturer to end consumer.
As a result, there are a few essential questions to answer when designing, updating or changing packaging:
- How flexible is your production line?
Can your line adapt to changes in packaging? Can it incorporate product promotions, SKU changes, new products and their variants? Take the time to identify bottlenecks at every step of production – labelling, leaflet insertion, sizing, end-of-line processes and packaging material choices.
- Do you have the most efficient stacking and transportation?
Globally, the trends are to include flexible laminates and sachets in Asia; recycled-board cartons in Africa; concentrates and smaller-size packs in North America; and recyclable packaging in Northern Europe. And there are good reasons for this – efficient storage and transportation being one of them. How well does your packaging stack? Think about any daily warehouse-management efficiency improvements that can be made. For example, what are the impacts of using standard or reusable pallets? Always maximise floor space and height usage, and stick to the first-in/first-out rule. And remember, the shortest distance may not be the most efficient for vehicles.
- How resilient is your packaging?
Can your packaging meet the rigours of moving through the supply chain? Shorter and heavier shipments typically provide better service to customers because they are more resilient so have less damage. They also tend to arrive faster and are handled fewer times, which means less potential for damage.
- How cost-effective is your packaging?
Do you really need branded film or cartons, or will generic elements suffice? Generic packaging can be coded and printed on in-house to drive down packaging costs and deliver improved efficiencies. First and foremost, it costs less than pre-printed branded packaging. You also won’t need lots of space to store different packaging specific to various products. Using standard packaging sizes for different products can also reduce changeover times. Machines can then be standardised while adding lean manufacturing-related tools for continuous improvement. (Here’s a great example of the benefits of generic carton coding.)
- How can you “go green” with packaging?
Research shows 82% of FMCG manufacturers are prioritising building sustainability into the supply chain. Look at how your packaging can reduce your carbon footprint. Consider using recyclable materials, more energy-efficient machines and even materials that require lower packing temperatures to reduce energy use. You can also look to your shipment processes — maximising shipment capacity can reduce emissions, wasted capacity and potentially costs. (These blogs on supply chain changes, such as the growing trend towards cubing and weighing, and measuring dimensional weight, as covered at GS1’s Supply Chain Week, look into this more. And you may find this article interesting on how Millennials are forever changing packaging with regard to “green” packaging.)
- Will it enhance the shelf life?
As the “protector and container”, any primary packaging must enhance a product’s shelf life for as long as feasible. But secondary and tertiary packaging also have a role to play. A study by RMIT University (called “The role of packaging in minimising food waste in the supply chain of the future”), looked at where and why food waste occurs in the supply chain, and showed how manufacturers can improve all packaging tiers to protect products on their journey to shelf and boost shelf life.
- Are you labelling and coding correctly?
Labelling and coding keep the whole supply chain moving efficiently. Take fresh food, for example: in Australia, it’s estimated that between 50-60% of supermarket sales are perishable items with a loss of 5-7% as a result of poor inventory management. The right labelling helps better and faster stock turnaround, improved stock accuracy and better tracking of product recalls and withdrawals. So for any suppliers who value long-term relationships with their customers, the correct labelling and coding is a must. (Learn more about correct labelling and coding in fresh produce. You may also find this article on ways label inspection systems ensure zero-defect labels interesting.)
- Is it worth going shelf-ready?
There’s a big push by supermarket chains for shelf-ready packaging (SRP) or retail-ready packaging (RRP) these days. Essentially, they want to make it quicker and easier to get products on the shelves. The less handling required in-store, the better. Designed properly, SRP and RRP can also ensure the packaging is recoverable at the end of its life. But it’s not only the supermarket that benefits: the brand gains from better product recognition and faster sales, and consumers can find exactly what they want quickly.
There are lots of great examples of this in action. In the USA, Kraft has redesigned the SRP on its 8-ounce (225-gram) blocks of cream cheese, saving them around 363kg of paper a year. The company worked with its internal R&D packaging, engineering and operations teams and external corrugated suppliers. SMEs can simply talk to their packaging supplier.
Here’s SRP as one of the 3 top trends in food packaging.
- How can you optimise design consistency?
Don’t underestimate the impact of consistent packaging; it can save manufacturers money by running through production lines faster and more smoothly, and taking up the optimal amount of storage space. Computer simulation and finite-element analysis are two ways to optimise packaging design, which is something your packaging supplier can help with.
- What do consumers want and need?
Consider what your target market wants and needs. The chances are their needs don’t add another layer of complexity to your packaging, but actually echo the above factors. Some trends include convenient sizes (think smaller households), easy open yet tamper proof, sustainable, and attractive but functional. Food trends actually drive opportunities for packaging.
The rise of single-serve pouches is a great example of how packaging has evolved to meet consumer needs. Pouches provide greater flexibility and cost savings than other forms of “hard” packaging, while meeting the desire for food “on the go”. Gourmet Garden’s award-winning lightly dried herbs in re-sealable pinch pouches for example, make it possible for consumers to add fresh herbs to their everyday cooking, right out of the pouch.
For a world overview, this blog has some great highlights of 2015 global packaging trends.
Contact us to find out how Matthews can help when it comes to redesigning your packaging
Photo credit / abluecup