Nowadays business and commerce are extended all around the World, and it’s easy to find products from the other side of the planet surrounding us. Worldwide goods should be transported from factories to their customers. Depending on the transport and the product, several of the packaging properties should be applied: protecting, advising… Once a new product is ready to go, the main aim uses to be to send it to the World and it needs a package. 

That package should be the one which has all the properties required to hold the distribution chain and collect all the wishful properties of marketing and others, using less material, space and weight it’s possible without losing those properties. The package needs a packaging optimization process. In fact, inside the product design process, the distribution cycle requirements should be considered. The sad reality is that the package usually is considered at the last minute, just in case the product characteristics change. Just when everybody is focused on sending it to the market asap.

A classic packaging solution uses to be to command a packaging provider some alternatives and check it by the try and failure method. Send one or several of the prototype designs inside a truck driven by the “Mad Max” across our nightmare road, and then tell him to do it rudest as much as possible. It’s not the first time the samples and the truck finish at the bottom of the cliff.

Typically, the first packaging uses to be an approach which mixes the designer requirements, with the marketing commands, with the plant engineer adaptations and the commerce department approbation. So, it’s like the Frankenstein monster, a mix. Let me remark the distribution chain wasn’t named before and it rules the endurance of the trip. When the day comes, a new brand product is delivered and if everything goes well, no problem, but if the trip becomes a disaster some engineer probably will lose his head. After the packaging apocalypse, the new packaging is designed and checked with the same procedure, and maybe a new head will be demanded. In order to reduce the rolling heads, over packaging used to be applied. It’s an expensive solution, and increases pollution, the carbon footprint and waste. What it needs is a packaging optimization, to design the packaging system in order to improve its properties and costs.

Packaging optimization: how to design a protocol to optimize your distribution cycle

Packaging optimization should be an iterative process, just like the other elements in the production chain, because the distribution chain changes, the market changes, the material and costs changes, the production lines change and the product itself could be modified too. The good news is the first design could be done before starting the production.

First step: is to study the product. The product needs, and properties, its fragility, dimensions, weight, etc. And clarify what’s acceptable and what’s damage. For example, a scratch doesn’t matter on a piece of meat but is unacceptable on my new sports car. It’s critical to know all the costs relative to the product in order to optimize the ratio between the packaging costs and product damages costs. Those costs should include the unit cost, passing to the transport, storage, etc. It doesn’t make sense to do a bombproof package when the packaging is more expensive than the product.

Second step: is to characterize the distribution chain and define the distribution hazards for nowadays distribution cycles and for our new potential distribution cycles too.

Transport methods, handling, storage duration, if it’s staked and every simple detail of the distribution chain. A good approach for evaluating the risks is to look at literature and standards the expected requirements, but it’s always better to measure and study the real issues at the distribution chain of the product which packaging wants to be designed. Using data from vibration and shock recorders and other recorded information is always better than the approach of using the experience measured in other distribution chains. 

Third step: is to design some custom product packaging according to the previous studies. Consider which events can affect to the system product-packaging, which can damage it, and which quantity should be reduced to reach the safety conditions for the products. The engineers do a new carton design if it’s needed, new container or whatever. The task is to develop a custom product design able to reduce the costs. For example, palletized loads should cover the pallet surface closer as much as possible, as many units per surface are much better, and much units per pallet is better too, because it allows carrying more units per trip reducing the transport costs per unit.

Fourth step: Once the new packaging is designed it should be verified. The method should be repeatable, in order to compare the results, so it needs laboratory-controlled conditions. In that part, the sample should be preconditioned to replicate the sample condition at the end of its distribution cycle. Then, the sample should hold the same hazards of the distribution cycle. For example, the lateral efforts can be simulated by stability testing, or the road stress can by simulated with vibration machines. The transport simulation should be adapted to the laboratory machinery for transport simulation. Is under that situation when the latest laboratory transport simulation technology helps to optimize the packaging to the most. Allowing the final customer to feel the innovation before opening the packaging.

The validation test procedure is a powerful tool which allows designers to verify the goodness of their designs. It’s a test procedure so it has the information for allowing its reproduction in laboratories around the world. In addition, the test procedures can help in choosing between the best packaging designs for the products when different designs are considered. Testing the different options and evaluating the results is helpful for selecting between different packages.

Fifth step: keep watching. It’s quite common to find big companies proud of its product, which has laboratories which review the production in order to avoid mistakes and claims. The laboratories use to check the raw materials too. In the packaging, the laboratories use to verify its dimensions, its prints, and the packaging material properties, but usually forgets to check its mechanical properties. The mechanical validation of the packaging materials guarantees to hold the packaging design properties during the transport.

As it was written before, it’s an iterative process, the damages statistics should be studied and reviewed, optimize fine tuning or adapt the system to changes. Also for detecting changes at the production or distribution.

The packaging is a must for goods commerce. The packaging is the first impression for a customer, but it’s the tool for transport a product from the factory to the shelves. But the packaging is not for free, it has production costs, material costs, environmental costs and can modify other costs like transportation, warehousing and others. Packaging optimization means to reduce all these costs until balance all these costs with the product damage costs. 

The World changes and the distribution and costs change too, so the only way to be sure the optimization is working is reviewing the balance of losses and new pieces and adjusting them. 

But the optimization process should be applied from the beginning, for the package design and for the product design too, because small details on the product design can modify the requirements of the package.

From the companies point of view, the best packaging design is that one which allows the business to improve its profit and/or allow it to be more competitive and the way to obtain this is with packaging optimization.

The packaging engineering helps companies to optimize their packaging, improving the benefits. The possibility for the companies to have its own packaging department depends on size, age, and others. 

Safe Load Testing technologies know not all companies can allow their own packaging department, so we help companies regarding the solutions that better fit your company needs in order to maximize your inversion and minimize risk. Sometimes providing the latest testing technologies, sometimes with training, sometimes giving support in testing procedures designs or directly with the packaging design, please do not hesitate to contact us.