Product development and packaging: Succeed together from the start

  • July 31, 2023
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Congratulations! You’ve designed a spectacular product your customers are sure to love. You’ve finalized everything and sent it out for manufacturing. Now it’s time for the finishing touch: Designing packaging that protects this innovative money-maker through transit and makes a bold statement the moment a buyer sees it.

It may not seem like it, but this situation is the exact opposite of the right way to do packaging. In this scenario, you’ve waited far too long to develop optimal packaging for your product. The right packaging can make or break a successful product launch. Even if you don’t rely on a gorgeous box that dazzles your customers by effectively communicating an irresistible value proposition. Leaving this step to the last minute can even delay a launch if you run into unforeseen issues with packaging that fails to protect your product effectively.

The best way to make sure your product’s packaging complements its value, and never becomes a stumbling block to success, is to involve a packaging professionals early in its lifecycle. Here’s what you can expect great packaging engineers to do throughout the process:

  1. Assess the business opportunity. It’s wise to let your packaging team know as soon as you start exploring the potential opportunity for a new product. While you focus on early value propositions and strategic fit within your product portfolio, they can begin benchmarking the competitive landscape. This method provides ample time to analyze existing packaging strengths, weaknesses and costs.
  2. Project definition and plan. Keeping your packaging engineer in the loop as you build a deeper understanding of product characteristics will help the packaging start to take shape, even at this early stage. The design team will begin developing concepts based on the initial voice of customer (VOC) product feedback. These preliminary designs incorporate user experience desires, reuse capability or disposal requirements, product fragility data, cost constraints and intended distribution/supply chain plan. Like the product itself, packaging may not be final at this stage. However, it'll allow you to share well-crafted packaging concepts with stakeholders alongside product samples.
  3. Product prototype validation. With product prototypes and packaging concepts in hand, bring your in packaging program manager to hear VOC feedback. End-user perspectives inform innovative packaging solutions just as they do product design. And this input will help your packaging team arrive at a final design while considering cost, testing results and operational compatibility. Your packaging engineers will use this time to gain a complete picture of what hazards your product is likely to encounter in the supply chain. Then they can devise a solution that protects it every step of the way, without including unnecessary packaging.
  4. Product and market validation. Now that you have production samples of your product, it’s time to select a packaging design. Once that happens, your packaging team will conduct International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) or American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) trials to make sure it protects the product in the real world. They’ll also:
    • Provide your marketing team with graphic guidelines
    • Work with manufacturing stakeholders to solve any automation or ergonomic challenges with the packaging
    • Document packaging specifications
    • Identify material suppliers
    • Coordinate with suppliers
  5. Launch preparations. It’s the final countdown, and your packaging team will pull all the packaging details together while you’re preparing for your product launch. Packaging engineers use this time to inspect and perform quality assurance (QA) on packaging samples at material supplier locations. They support labor activities at the end of each production line to work out the kinks and make final adjustments to assure safety and efficiency. To sustain the gain, it’s essential to train end-of-line personnel on the intended use of the packaging design and its application. This way, new products stay secure on pallets throughout the extended supply chain. Packaging engineers can also step in and procure packaging and labeling elements if your company doesn’t have a specific purchasing or procurement role.
  6. Post-launch product management. No matter how much you test, certain packaging situations may not present themselves until after launch. If you involved packaging professionals from the beginning, these issues would likely be small. However, you still need to address them. Lean on your packaging team to evaluate the cost of packaging due to increasing volumes and breakage rates. They’ll help you determine if you need to make changes to reduce these costs. They’ll also be alert for user feedback and stay abreast of regulations that could call for changes.

Every step in the new product development process that doesn’t include packaging engineers increases the risk of packaging delaying speed to market. Their absence could even inhibit product success. In a worst-case scenario, shoddy packaging can lead to complete product failure. Leverage your packaging team during the full product lifecycle, and make sure your packaging does nothing but help propel your product to success.

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