Packaging is an essential element to the consumer value proposition of any product. Often, packaging serves as the consumer’s first point of contact with a product, delivering unique visual cues with regard to color, shape, and graphics that enhance consumer recognition in a sea of choice. It can deliver value-adding features vital to the proper function of a product, or for convenience of use, all of which serve as opportunities for competitive differentiation. Perhaps most important is the utility that packaging provides in terms of quality and safety. Protecting products from environmental and distribution pressures allow products to reach consumers with the intended quality, as well as protecting the surrounding environment from the product it contains.

Knowing this critical role, sales, marketing, and research and development (R&D) departments within organizations can spend years and millions of dollars determining just the right package to match a product’s or company’s branding. Unfortunately, manufacturing capabilities and realities often enter this conversation late in the process, risking timelines and profits.

By including a manufacturing specialist in upfront conversations about packaging, companies can more efficiently marry commercial expectations with manufacturing capability and required investment. Whether addressing packaging for a new product or revamping the look and feel of an established item, manufacturing should be given equal input in packaging discussions and decisions to avoid unnecessary challenges and costly rework. Manufacturing considerations could highlight materials that are difficult for equipment to handle, or better define technology requirements and investments in time, human and financial capital needed to deliver a particular package design that can be profitably manufactured at scale.

This holistic, concept-to-completion vision can go even further when the manufacturing specialist involved has an extensive background in facility execution. Such knowledge would be extremely beneficial when evaluating the manufacturing requirements of a new packaging line and whether it fits within the capabilities of an existing facility. The ability to evaluate necessary improvements combined with the skills to engineer and install a solution specifically designed to match the manufacturing requirements of a custom package would see that the end result meets all parties’ needs. These are vital points to know when embarking on a packaging or repackaging project — points that could either maximize an investment or hinder progress and returns.

In all, a design-for-manufacturing approach for packaging calls for collaboration and communication across disciplines throughout the entire process. A consumer-focused packaging vision can still come to fruition while also meeting the speed, quality and consistency demands of the manufacturing process. All it takes is upfront, inclusive teamwork.


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Michael Ryan is an assistant project manager at Burns & McDonnell. Throughout his extensive career within the consumer packaged goods industry, Michael has supported both the operational and commercial sides of the business, serving in manufacturing engineering and packaging R&D capacities.