Packaging is a very dynamic, ever changing part of business. In most cases packaging serves many capacities: promoting the brand, protecting the product/brand, maintaining order throughout transit, and serving as a storage vessel for the end user. A packaging failure at any point can be catastrophic.
Packaging is also an area of constant change, supporting new artwork, marketing requirements, new products, redesign, and changing transportation modes. Like any important piece of the pie – the quality and consistency of packaging can be a direct threat to costs and revenue.
Even with all that said, most companies don’t put too much effort into managing their packaging and think that it just seems to work – therefore, it is easy to ignore as a source of risk to business profitability. Companies typically rely on suppliers to ensure that their packaging is up to par, but turning your business over to a supplier is risky business. Unfortunately, reality has a way of catching up and exposes weakness when companies don’t manage every aspect of their respective businesses…and that includes packaging.
Deviation from the standard packaging specification gets worse with time. Changes get compounded; a simple adjustment or design change today gets magnified over time. I have personally worked with companies where the current package is virtually unrecognizable from the approved packaging specification and to what many in the company thought they were buying and using. What started off as one simple change to accommodate a production issue or marketing request evolved into something with a life of its own. It doesn’t mean that there was any ill will or misguided intentions; it just exposes a great weakness in something very critical but often overlooked.
A Typical Packaging Audit Performed by Specright
At Specright, we recently performed an annual corrugated audit for a company with some amazing findings. Using industry acceptable standard tolerances, just a visual check of the print as compared to the approved artwork on file proved that a relatively simple collection of corrugated boxes is a living beast.
I’ve been in the packaging business for over 25 years, performed countless audits, been involved in many hundreds of quality meetings, and have spent countless hours in the field, on production floors, and visited every type of retail outlet. Given that, the following results are unfortunately very typical.
The audit Specright performed included 129 corrugated boxes. Our customer purchases approximately 135 different corrugated SKUs every year. Their approved Packaging Specifications included:
– No exotic board grades, all paper was produced by US companies.
– Dimension tolerance 1/4″ acceptable in LWD and overall blank size.
– Normal box styles produced by virtually all box plants.
– Overall a very simple mix of packaging.
– Normal mix of flute profiles.
Not So Surprising Audit Results
We categorize our audit results as LOW, MEDIUM, or HIGH RISK depending upon the potential impacts to production for our customer. For some enterprises the item marked having a LOW impact would be considered higher severity.
Out of the 129 boxes audited, 29 (22%) failed for various reasons as outlined below:
- LOW RISK: 18 failed (14%) due to minor issues with dimensions out of tolerance but were deemed to not adversely impact this company’s production process.
- MEDIUM RISK: 3 boxes failed (10%) with material and dimension differences that could impact automated set-up equipment for being too heavy, as compared to the specified materials.
- HIGH RISK: 8 boxes failed (6%) and were identified to have HIGH probability of impacting production. This was due to structural differences well beyond accepted tolerances and approved specifications.
In conclusion, packaging audits are critical to reducing the impact that out-of-spec packaging has on production and profitability. At Specright, we perform packaging audits for our customers all the time, providing them with valuable insights so they can pro-actively manage their packaging specs to avoid putting their business at risk. If your company would like an audit of your packaging versus your packaging specs, contact us.
Adam Fugate manages Engineering Services for Specright. He has over 25 years experience in packaging, supply chain, sales, and mfg. Having worked with large and medium CPG clients’ optimization projects, his experience ranges from software development, data warehousing, and other software applications.