When shipping a product, the primary focus is safe and effective packaging. But packaging affects many aspects of your product line.
Growth, revenue and reducing costs are closely related to the way you pack and ship your products. So, while your packaging products need to comply with standards of quality and safety, how efficiently you perform the task is crucial for your business.
Packaging inefficiencies often lead to several issues that can quickly accumulate. Here are some insights on how to improve your packaging process.
> Reducing packaging and using environmentally friendly materials
The first rule for sustainability is to reduce. Thanks to the developments in new materials and processes, it’s possible to reduce material usage without losing performance.
New sustainable materials are emerging to substitute stretch film, cardboard or plastic bottles among others, such as bioplastics which are formed by plants as a raw material instead of petroleum.
Learn more about packaging innovation with our article : The 3 innovations in packaging that will be trending during the next few years
In addition, there are more and more companies that see the advantages of optimizing their packaging process to reduce waste, reduce the carbon footprint and in turn reduce costs. For this, companies submit their packaging to transport simulation tests and materials testing in order to obtain the most appropriate packaging for their product and its distribution cycle.
> Keep an integral approach when designing your package
It is common that many companies leave the design and selection of materials for their product packaging for the end of the process. This is a mistake. It is crucial to think about the packaging at the beginning of product creation. Make a list of your design requirements and take it into account at the birth of your product’s life. Consider the materials needed and its performance; will they resist your distribution cycle? are cost effective? will protect your product without overpack it? Also, consider your distribution cycle: need your product to travel? by which mean of transport? how is going to be storage? These are some considerations that have to be taken into account in the design thinking process.
> Invest in machinery and automate as much as possible
Sometimes the problem with a packaging process lies in the packaging line. Some of the hidden cost of manual packaging equipment are:
- Lower productivity rates
- Inconsistent packaging resulting in excessive material use. Manual packaging tends to produce a lot more waste.
- Increased damages
- High labour costs
- The risk for employees of repetitive motion and strain injuries
Packaging Automation is the process of packaging a product without human assistance. It can range from individual equipment to simple process or complete packaging lines. They can be as simple as forming and sealing cartons to fully automated packaging lines that seal, stack and unitize entire pallets of goods. Automated packaging machines provide smart workflows and eliminate redundant tasks, allowing them to do more with less.
By implementing certain packaging machines such as case erectors, conveyors, palletizers or semi-automatic stretch wrappers, you can increase your packing efficiency while cutting costs through both waste and damage reduction.
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> Maintenance schedule
Once you have a packaging machine, define an efficient inspection and maintenance schedule. Preventative maintenance ensures the longevity and reliability of your packaging line. Along with your inspection schedule, consider creating a protocol for reporting errors, and an inventory of the parts that wear more quickly. Having these on hand can significantly reduce downtime on your packaging line and performing regular preventative maintenance can help you identify these issues before they become an emergency.
> Evaluate your metrics and performance
Without knowing how long it takes to package items it’s going to be impossible to make improvements. You should keep detail control of how long the packaging process takes. This can also help to identify areas that need attention and extra help.
Record and monitor metrics will help you to reduce waste as well as product damaged during the production process. This is important for gaining an understanding of the process and can also help you identify the cause of damage and remedy faster.
Oftentimes, simple packaging designs and handling procedures can improve your damage rates. This critical step allows your company to stay in front of the numerous consequences associated with damaged products including markdowns, customer dissatisfaction and returns.
> Make sure all manufacturing tasks are simple
Make sure that the tasks are kept very simple and basic. The more confusing a task is, the higher the odds are that there will be mistakes, time wastage, and added costs. Efficiency needs to be at the core of everything.
> The improvements can take time
It’s still important you go in with a realistic attitude. Chances are that you won’t notice substantial changes overnight. Rather, there will be consistent improvements over time. Just keep on tracking the packaging process watching for other areas that can use attention and more adjustments, so you can continue to improve your packaging process.
> Conduct an audit
If you aren’t sure of the industry specifics, many companies opt to bring in a packaging professional to perform a packaging line audit and make suggestions for changes that meet their needs. Understanding the life cycle of your packing products and materials can help improve the packaging process. Get to the root of the problem. An integral approach to product packaging can lead to huge improvements in material and energy usage as well as reduction of costs.
In order to improve the packaging system, it is needed to evaluate the implications of everything that goes into making the whole delivery system. Life-cycle assessment (LCA), is a technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and disposal or recycling. Designers use this process to help critique their products. LCAs can help with:
- Compiling an inventory of relevant energy and material inputs and environmental releases.
- Evaluating the potential impacts associated with identified inputs and releases.
- Interpreting the results to help make a more informed decision.
The discipline of life cycle assessment (LCA) provides a useful tool that is used by companies and designers to develop a model that quantifies the overall environmental burdens associated with product and service delivery. Once a designer understands the environmental impacts associated with a given design, he can optimize the various choices made during the design process to positively impact the corporate sustainability strategy.
> Conduct a high-level packaging design review
Improve packaging design by examining the flaws, benefits and cost factor. The phases of the packaging design process can be very complex, so let specialized companies guide you in a complicated process that can look like this:
- Diagnosis of the system
- Assessment of the fragility of the product (specially for high added value products)
- Natural frequencies of the product
- Assessment of the fragility of the product (theoretical or experimental)
- Mechanical tests
- Packaging tests
- Compression, traction, damping, characterization
- Product-packaging system tests
- Compression test
- Creep test
- Fragility test
- Transport simulation tests
- Environmental impact assessment
- Packaging tests
- Standard alternatives to the actual design
- Optimization of the loading space
- A new design of the primary package or the secondary/tertiary package
- Environmental impact assessment
- Transport Simulation Testing
- Finite Elements Analysis (FEA) iteration
- Environmental impact assessment
> Optimize your distribution
By optimizing the load space, the quantity of product per pallet is maximized, decreasing the amount of packaging and thus reducing the costs associated with the freight to transport.
There are computer tools to carry out the space optimization process of loading. This process can be carried out in two different ways:
- Without design changes in the primary, secondary and tertiary packaging. As a result, the way in which the product is palletized changes:
- Column pattern
- Pinhole pattern
- Interlock patterns
- With design changes in packaging:
- Changing primary packaging
- Changing secondary and tertiary packaging.
- Or both
If you are interested in optimizing you packaging continue reading the following article: What is tertiary packaging and how to optimize it
How can Safe Load TT help you to improve your packaging process?
With years of experience in the packaging industry, Safe Load Testing Technologies can help you optimize and validate your packaging. We´ve already helped several packaging companies. Get in touch with us and let’s talk about how you could improve your packaging process.