Three Critical Steps to Packaging Products Perfectly
Crystal Lake, IL—October 3, 2019
Working in close partnership with medical device manufacturers and packaging engineers for 35 years and counting, we’ve had the fortunate opportunity to serve thousands of clients in the medical device, diagnostic, life science and pharmaceutical industries.
Through these partnerships we have developed a myriad of unique packaging solutions that includes many product launches, packaging designs and process innovations.
This process comprises a multitude of steps and decisions, some of them minor and contained, and some that create a ripple effect of secondary changes
In order to assure your device gets to market with as little difficulty as possible,
Consider these 3 things…
1) Same Room, Same Time
Get all primary stakeholders—engineering, purchasing, marketing, compliance and others—involved at the design stage. This helps ensure that all packaging requirements, from functional to aesthetics to pricing, are revealed and can be considered in appropriate fashion by the packaging supplier. Lack of alignment between any of these groups almost always results in design revisions.
For example, engineering may have one set of requirements, and marketing might have a second set. Nothing unreasonable. These two sets of needs, however, usually don’t overlap—they multiply each other. Initial requirements may call for high barrier packaging; but when the supplier designs a package with one-millimeter foil, the customer may complain about reduced flexibility.
The processing details, such as sterilization method, type of machine (Vertical FFS or Horizontal FFS), type of material being packaged (liquid, solid), and other peripheral aspects are all intertwined. If the packaging supplier has these in hand, your chances of covering all high-priority requirements are increased exponentially.
To this point, view your packaging supplier as one of the primary stakeholders, and as such include them in the design stage. This puts a valuable, knowledgeable asset in your corner from the start. You get insights from a packaging expert that helps make things better, as well as helps you avoid unseen complications or issues.
In one case, an injection molded device was designed with several prominent sharp edges. As a result, highly puncture resistant packaging was designed to hold it. This increased the cost of packaging by two-to-three times. If included earlier in the process, the packaging supplier could have offered a way to smooth some of the sharp edges, which would have significantly reduced the cost of the packaging without sacrificing its integrity.
We often see one or more groups left out of initial discussions, and as a result end up creating multiple renditions of a package to meet all requirements. This takes up time, and time is money.
2) History Doesn’t Always Repeat Itself
You might be surprised how many times historic specifications are re-used for new devices. Sometimes this works and reduces the cost of packaging. In most cases though, the current package specifications are not suitable for the new device.
When working against the clock and historical packaging options do not work, some companies try to find off-the-shelf materials that may possibly work in lieu of having an appropriate package created custom for their needs.
This takes a lot of time—one client spent 30-45 days looking endlessly for existing options—and by comparison to custom packaging it’s not necessarily the best package for the product.
The key here is to approach the packaging design phase with enough time for packaging suppliers to provide options customized to your device.
Embrace history and leverage the learnings it provides us—but also know when to grow from it and create new solutions.
3) Focus on Function
Too often the little things distract from the important things. It’s not that the design see on the cover of the pouch is less important than the integrity and tolerance of the material it’s comprised of; it’s that no one will ever see the design if the pouch won’t hold what it’s required to hold.
It is a best practice to prioritize your focus by first addressing the function—what is the packaging designed to do, what is it meant to accomplish (protect, keep sterile, endure difficult environments, etc.). Once these requirements are addressed, then of course, shift your attention to making sure the logos and colors and copy all look spectacular.
The goal is to not force all things but focus on the right things. Make sure to leverage the expertise of your packaging provider—they are your go-to resource on these matters and hold the most overall knowledge.
Bringing It All Together
With more custom solutions under our belt than perhaps any other packaging manufacturer, it’s clear that most all critical decisions in the packaging process happen in the design stage. For the time and budget conscience, this is the ‘make-it or break-it’ moment—and it’s indifferent of industry, product, packaging or end-customer.
Our industry is rapidly evolving, and with it the technology and machinery and process that allow us to be more innovative and faster and better overall. What does not change, however, is how this all comes together—the method to the madness, if you will.
We’re at a phenomenal crossroads in our industry—where expertise and technology can make good designs great, make packaging more innovative, durable and functional, and make the entire process—from conception to completion—better and faster than ever before.
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