The Whole Product Package

Evaluating the entire lifespan of a package - from raw materials to packaging production and from transportation to store shelves - will produce more successful results in the protection of the product.

23 December 2014

Global expansion has allowed retailers and brand owners to source, produce, package, and ship more product worldwide, contributing to augmented and increased brand awareness and high demands for quality products. To supplement this work, consider developing packaging that directly benefits brand owners, suppliers, and customers through increased brand integrity, improved customer satisfaction, reduced pre-consumer costs, and the use of sustainable materials.  Because the last thing a brand owner wants is a dissatisfied customer who purchased a product and receives something damaged.

There are multiple factors that contribute to the lifespan of (corrugated) packaging including: relative humidity, corrugate strength, ambient temperature, handling procedures, transportation conditions, transportation duration, storage conditions, manufacturing processes, raw materials handling, facility climate control, packaging methods, and more.  While all these factors contribute to packaging's lifespan, there is a trend to focus on the structural integrity and raw materials testing rather than looking at the supply chain, which is where most of the adverse effects occur.

2014 has shown an increased demand for component-level packaging testing of corrugate in an attempt to solve recurring transit packaging issues. While testing the strength of corrugate will give an indication of whether or not one should increase the safety factor to better suit the product, corrugate is known to degrade exponentially as soon as production is complete. In normal ambient temperature, after 1–4 days of storage, the corrugate degrades up to 30%, leaving it at 70% strength. In fact, one cannot accurately measure ECT (Edge Crush Test) or Mullen Burst Strength because corrugate degrades quite suddenly.

By solely relying on component testing results, retailers may be unnecessarily increasing the strength of corrugate, which, in turn, increases the cost of the product's packaging and shipping. This means solely testing the corrugate strength of packaging will not provide the right solution to solving packaging problems.

Think Holistically – Packaging is Not Just Packaging

Developing an understanding of the packaging through all its touch points will address this issue. Ultimately it is looking at the entire lifespan of the package—from raw materials, packaging production, product packaging, storage, transportation, into the hands of the final customer, and potentially even post use—that will yield a more successful result in the protection of the product.  The ultimate goal for any retailer is to save costs while also providing a quality product to their customers. Focusing strictly on component packaging testing to determine cardboard performance provides misleading solutions because other contributing factors can cause the deterioration or failure. By examining packaging problems holistically, the process will more accurately determine the root cause of the problem and focus efforts on improving the packaging where it is needed.

In addition to standardized testing, there are several options to improving packaging that should be considered when assessing packaging. These include:

  • supply chain handling
  • packaging lifecycle assessments
  • development of packaging specifications
  • packaging optimization
  • additional other options

Without proper exploration of the process in its entirety, you will end up with an incomplete analysis. Ultimately, each packaging and handling combination is unique to the retailer and product types, so until the retailer and brand owner explore these options, packaging issues will be unresolved. Packaging innovation will continue to be an area of global focus for many big retailers, while more and more will also share similar concerns. So, where do you stand? How are you thinking about packaging holistically? And what can you offer for a better packaging experience for your products and customers?

Rowena Domingo is a Junior Quality Management Consultant in Intertek’s Product Intelligence group. Her main focus is on Smart Packaging Consulting where she helps to improve brand perception for customers and reduce lifecycle costs for clients. She accomplishes this by reviewing product categories, understanding supply chain methods and handling and working closely with our packaging engineers to provide the optimal packaging solution tailored to each individual client. She performs the analysis comparing cost, quality, and delivery in order for the client to make effective packaging decisions to advance their business strategies.