Unbench yourself & get in the game
The first step to creating a flawless packaging design, is to be an integral part of the project team. Still, in 2020, the packaging design is often forgotten about during new product development projects, as well as design and process changes after a product has launched. This results in suboptimal packaging designs and often leads to project delays, added costs and lost revenue. Not good. Organizations need to bring Packaging Engineers into the conversation at the very beginning of the project, or as soon as possible, after project kick-off. Including a Packaging Engineer early-on in the project will provide an opportunity to create a robust packaging design that can be successfully verified and validated the first time.
Gather, gather & gather some more
Now that you are on the team, you will want to ensure you are capturing all the correct packaging design end-user needs and design inputs. You need to know what you are designing for before you can create an appropriate packaging design. Often the focus is on the sterile barrier system (SBS), but you need to ensure that you are designing the entire packaging system – SBS and any protective packaging, including secondary and tertiary packaging – as part of the overall packaging design. Working closely with your project team, and internal and external customers, will help ensure that the appropriate design considerations are captured.
Time to design concepts & prototypes
With the appropriate design requirements established, you are now able to begin formalizing design concepts and selecting packaging formats and materials. Engage with your material suppliers early-on in this process, as they will be very helpful when selecting the best materials and adhesive coatings for your application and can also assist with the overall design. Obtain these design concept samples from your material suppliers to confirm fit, form and function. Don’t forget to share these prototypes with your project team, and internal and external customers to gain any feedback they may have. Note that this should be an iterative process to home-in on the best overall design.
Feasibility testing – fail early!
You have a great design, so now you should go straight to supplier production tooling and final design verification testing, right? WRONG. Before going into your final design verification testing, you want to have confidence that you will pass without any surprises. Instead of leaving it up to chance, you should build confidence in your design performance through feasibility testing. Think of feasibility testing as a pre-test to your final design verification testing. Best practice would be to conduct the same exact performance test (environmental and distribution conditioning) that you would as part of final design verification, but it is likely not achievable due to availability of components, testing resources, etc. This will probably result in a reduced sample size, the use of prototype components and performance testing that is less than ideal. In short, use what you have and test to what you can – performing drop testing at your desk is better than no feasibility testing at all. It is also advised to over test, e.g. use increased test severities and/or durations to further build design confidence, or test to failure to understand if your package design fails, when does it occur and how does the failure present itself. If you are going to fail testing, you want it to be during feasibility testing. This will provide the opportunity to root cause the failure, redesign and then retest until you have achieved a design that provides high confidence of passing the final design verification test the first time.
Ensure a Packaging Engineer is involved in the project early-on to provide sufficient time to create a successful packaging design; create the best packaging designs by ensuring all of your internal and external customer requirements are captured and are reflected; create packaging design concepts and prototypes that can be shared with your internal and external customers (don’t design in a vacuum!); and finally, conduct feasibility testing to build confidence in the performance of your packaging design to create a flawless design going into final design verification testing.