By: Willis Whiteside, M.S., IDSA

Issue 090601 3rd/4th Quarter 2009

Packaging Design: Macro to micro

When binging a product or package to the market the materials, packaging techniques, manual, semi or fully automated, what you choose must be considered from many perspectives, including short and long term budget requirements. Besides the normal source a box or a bag the legal labeling requirements, must consider the full packaging delivery system and human factors and ergonomics. Who is responsible, what materials, supplies and equipment are necessary, how much labor and time is involved in assembling the package and finally overhead and actual costs? The investment into a packaging system must be well thought out if you are to end up with a lean and profitable operation, When you grab a product off the shelf, you assume it is in perfect condition, labeled correctly, easy to open and dispose of and made of publicly defined safe ingredients and materials processing technology.

The truth is by the time the new product or package reaches your hand or mouth we typically have no way of tracing the true raw materials or materials sources and processes or costs involved or needed to make it and deliver it to the end user or customer.  If you don’t know how much your packaging system really costs, how do you know you are making a profit. If you have your management team conduct a focus or feasibility analysis on the amount of resources that went into you packaging and fulfillment system, you would probably reconsider some aspects of the system design. From the structural package design itself to the labeling, bulk storage, inventory, to the assembly, including wire ties, plastic strapping, cellophane clear wrap, to shrink wrap to bubble wrap to thermoform shells, tape, glue, the results typically it ends up in a land fill. When the product, package materials are sourced and where the end up in the consumer chain is controlled by the supplier and the manufacturer.

Do you know as an inventor or entrepreneur or manufacturer, know your responsibilities as a packaging designer or supplier. At the core of all inventions, products and packages are materials and the considerations of scale of production. The reality is good packaging design boosts sales but it must be designed from large scale perspective to manage costs and risks.  Depending on your perspective, meeting the end users or customers needs is only part of the problem statement.

The use of materials in packaging includes new trends in ” user friendly design which allows a consumer to access the product without the use of tools or sharp edges Trends in lighter weight and customer friendly materials working on the chemical engineering , nano particle scale to engineer new materials for plastics such as ultra light weight drinking bottles and thermo-formed clam shell packaging that provides shipping and retailing tamper resist and anti-theft protection and customer friendly access or opening of the package.  The understanding of the physical and user interface qualities of packaging materials and packaging techniques include the short and long term cost-benefit tradeoffs.

Also consider the legal materials labeling requirements. When you grab a product off the shelf, you assume it is labeled correctly and made of publicly defined safe ingredients and materials processing technology. The truth is by the time the new product or package reaches your hand or mouth we typically have no way of tracing the true raw materials or materials sources and processes that were used to make it.

Everyday, millions of consumers purchase products and foods “with unknown ingredients including the fast food, food packaging and children’s toy industry. This includes risks of possible exposure to high levels of antibiotics, vaccines and toxins including allergic reactions to materials ranging from latex to peanuts to lead. The responsibility of our public safely is ultimately in the hands of the government and the public and private companies and manufacturers that process and provide our food and products.  When in the packaging system development process consider the big green picture and be aware of any oversight and regulatory organizations for, consumer, food, industrial and cosmetics.

When developing a new product or package think large to small, inside to outside. This will alleviate the mistakes of not thinking through the product or package development and the resulting materials that make up the package. If your invention or new product package uses standard – off the shelf – materials, it is best to be sure the raw materials and its process components resulting in the final product are truly safe genuine and will withstand the elements and conditions of use.

Materially speaking, we try and approach packaging from a macro systems – earth and user friendly, green and a micro, child’s point of view. Packaging is big business and a large liability that comes down to appropriate use of design, resources, materials and the single individual purchase it always comes down to.  You only have one chance to make a material and package – branding impression!

The empowerment slogan for the year: “There are two ways of spreading Light; to be the Candle or the Mirror that reflects it.”   By Edith Wharton

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