MicrosoftTeams-image (7)

Cost Savings Through Packaging SKU Rationalization

Many brands are already familiar with SKU rationalization as a business tool, but may not know they can use a similar process to find cost savings in the packaging operation. The familiar process generally involves a merchant evaluating a product’s profitability to determine if they should keep it on shelves. Generating cost savings through Packaging SKU rationalization is a bit different. It’s a process of reducing the number of packaging SKUs by evaluating the dimensions and other characteristics of a finished package.

Packaging SKU rationalization can drive cost savings opportunities in a few different ways.

  • It may allow a brand to consolidate its packaging material suppliers and purchase fewer structures and sizes.
  • It may provide an opportunity to reduce the amount of packaging material inventory it needs to keep on hand. Reducing the number of packaging SKUs helps a brand to better utilize its warehouse space.
  • It also enables a brand to optimize asset utilization across manufacturing and packaging facilities.

When to Conduct a Packaging SKU Rationalization

This process can be helpful at any time, but it is most helpful in a situation where several packaging SKUs share similar dimensions or other specifications. This may happen when a company acquires new product lines, especially if they are similar to other products in the brand’s portfolio, as well as when one company acquires another with similar products. A less common situation in which this process may be useful is when a packaging group inherits responsibilities for packaging products that were not previously in their purview. Regardless of the reason, companies with products that require similar packaging are a good fit for this type of project. Reducing the number of packaging SKUs provides a variety of opportunities to optimize the brand’s packaging spend and drive cost savings.

Steps of a Packaging SKU Rationalization

The steps your brand should take during a packaging SKU rationalization differ depending on your situation. As such, we’ve broken down the steps for two scenarios, one in which the brand consolidates its packaging formats by grouping SKUs that share similar dimensions and one in which the brand consolidates by grouping SKUs that share similar material structures.
An important note to keep in mind is that you don’t need to start with the first step in these lists and work through to the last one. Think of this process as more of a cycle in which a brand can start at a few different steps and work its way through the rest of the steps in order, depending on current circumstances and what information is readily available.

Brands looking to consolidate packaging SKUs based on their similar dimensions should:

  • Build lists that indicate which product groups offer the most opportunity for consolidation based on their similarity of package sizes. Look across your brand’s product line(s) and develop an understanding of which packages already feature similar dimensions or could share package dimensions based on the size of the products and their packaging needs.
  • Group together products that share similar distribution environments. While it is helpful to reduce the number of packaging SKUs, it would be unwise to combine a package for a product that requires refrigeration with a product that ships at an ambient temperature.
  • List all products that are good candidates for packaging SKU consolidation with their packaging dimensions and net weights.
  • Review this list and group packages with dimensions and net weights that are very close to each other.
  • Determine where material dimension consolidation will have its greatest impact.
  • Consider roll width and cutoff length. For pouches, it is much easier to change the packaging for one product based on cutoff length than it is to change the packaging based on roll width. For cartons or cases, it may be easy to match different products by their footprint (length and width) and then decrease the height of one to match the other.
  • Evaluate how utilization of filling lines can be optimized by combining products on the same filler. Consider how changes can produce the greatest benefit. Perhaps items can be packaged more efficiently by running them on the same filling line.
  • Leverage the information gathered in the other steps to decide which packages offer the best opportunities to consolidate.
  • Consider the impact of changing the package dimensions for a product on its downstream packaging and distribution process. Think through the entire distribution environment and make sure the changes won’t have significant drawbacks at later stages.

For brands looking to consolidate packaging SKUs based on similar material structures – for example, pouches that use the same material or cartons that use the same type of paperboard:

  • Build lists that indicate which products feature similar packaging formats and materials. You want to identify products for which packaging has similar needs in terms of structure and barrier properties.
  • Group together products that require similar packaging characteristics, for example, dry snack foods that need the same type of barrier materials in their pouches.
  • Evaluate barrier properties such as tear and stiffness characteristics, polymer structures for bags, or compression strength for boxes. Focus on the functional packaging needs for the product.
  • Evaluate additional characteristics such as package appearance and openability. Think about how the packaging is used, along with how and where it is displayed at a retail location to help you group package SKUs together.
  • Examine similar products that have significantly different packaging material specifications. The packaging for one product may offer the appropriate amount of protection while the packaging for a similar product may offer significantly more protection than it needs.
  • Leverage the information gathered in the other steps to decide which packages offer the best opportunities to consolidate.
  • Consider the impact of changing the package dimensions for a product on its downstream packaging and distribution process. Think through the entire distribution environment and make sure the changes won’t have significant drawbacks at later stages.

Securing Alignment

Once you’ve completed this process, it is also very important to align with a high-level executive who can champion your project and influence decision makers in other departments. For changes to primary packaging that will be displayed on store shelves, you will need buy-in from marketing and sales.

While cost savings is almost always an outcome of the packaging SKU rationalization process, there are upfront costs, and you may need help convincing decision makers that the company will see a return on this investment.

Notable upfront costs include designing new graphics for the packaging, potential changes to packaging machinery and the labor involved in commercializing a new package size or package type. Something about the complexities and challenges of a packaging SKU rationalization project and the need for guidance from an experienced hand.

The broad strokes of a packaging SKU rationalization are fairly straightforward, but each brand has its own packaging portfolio and its own unique complexities, and the dual challenge of both is evaluating that portfolio. Securing buy-in for your proposed solution may require an experienced hand to guide the process. If you’d like to discuss the potential for cost savings from consolidating your packaging portfolio and how to best create alignment around your packaging goals, get in touch. The Adept Group team has helped many brands like yours successfully complete this process, and we’re ready to help you.

For more information on packaging SKU rationalization projects, check out our recent Learning Share webinar on the topic.

Factory worker wearing hairnet and hygienic gloves preparing fresh food packages for distribution and market sale.

7 Ps to a Successful Line Trial

This article includes steps to aid in the preparation and the execution of a trial that will guarantee a successful and conclusive test. When preparing for a trial, it is important to identify the 7 Ps: Purpose, Packaging, Product, Plant, People, Papers, and the Plan.

Purpose

Defining the problem and determining its scope provides the purpose and goals of the packaging trial.
• Is there a new product being commercialized?
• Are there consumer complaints?
• Is there a more sustainable option?
• Are there shelf-life failures?
• Are we seeing damage to the packaging prior to ship or during distribution?

Packaging

When evaluating what to test in a packaging trial, consider the primary, secondary, and tertiary packaging. The trial should not be limited to only the materials touching the product. Considering all of the packaging components allows you to think outside of the box when an issue arises or
avoid those issues in the first place.

Product

The Product is the item we are protecting and will be key in identifying problems on the line.
• Identify the product, its unique needs, and its life cycle.
• Identify the product, unique product needs, and its life cycle.
• Can the product be stored prior to the trial?
• Will the product be transported on a refrigerated truck or temperature-controlled transport?

Plant

It is important to thoroughly review the manufacturing site to evaluate any unique conditions that might impact the packaging.
• Is this a co-manufacturer or a plant owned by the company?
• Which plants are currently running the product?
• Are the warehouse and manufacturing site connected?
• Do all plants that will run the product have similar equipment?

People

The team involved with the trial is just as significant as the packaging being tested. Understanding who will need to approve the test plan and results makes the trial process more efficient. A distribution list typically includes the plant manager, quality control, and product development, as
well as any cross-functional team members that may need to approve samples or results.

Papers

Packaging needs a thorough and well-defined documentation process to provide cohesion and keep the trial process on track. Sample documentation includes:
• A Design Brief
• Trial Request Forms
• HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points)
• Labels/Packaging for Samples

Plan

The trial plan encompasses all other essential items in the preparation list. The plan should outline the other essential considerations for the trial, including the purpose, plant location, and details about the product such as its weight and all sizes in scope for the trial. The purpose should be stated concisely, but thoroughly cover the goals and what packaging will be evaluated during the trial.

Planning Your Trial

Focusing on the 7 Ps allows you to adequately prepare for your trial and enables damage reduction and associated costs. This helps to eliminate packaging-related recalls, optimize the distribution cycle and ensure the consumer receives the product in good condition.

Working with a team like Adept to help you execute your trial has numerous benefits, such as a proven methodology, reduced interruptions or refocusing of attention for the internal team, and proven results. If you’d like more detailed information on this topic, check out our recently published white paper on the topic.

If you need help conducting a successful line trial, contact us.

Workplace Values

Culture Commitments: Putting Our Values into Action

The events of the past year have been tough on many of us, but they’ve also provided an opportunity to reflect and reexamine some things we take for granted. We have taken advantage of this in many areas of our business, but recently we took the opportunity to reflect on our culture and values, and how we’re putting those values into action.

Throughout 2021, we’re inviting our team to make a pledge to convert Adept Group’s ideals into tangible activities that positively impact ourselves, our environments and our communities.

Improving Our Impact on Our Environment

While it may take some time to truly assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the environment, we do know several industries relied heavily on single-use plastics to ease consumers’ concerns about product safety or create in-demand PPE products. While some of those plastics are recyclable, many are not. Additionally, the pandemic-driven fall in oil prices widened the gap between the prices of virgin plastic and PCR plastic. Regardless of the driving factors, the result is the same – more plastic in landfills and more plastic pollution on land and in waterways – and we’re challenging our team to leave the planet better than we found it.

We encourage each of the associates who take this pledge to find their own meaningful way to impact the environment, and we suggested a handful of options to help our team get started. We recommend our team members participate in community cleanup events or find their own way to remove some of the trash that accumulates in public spaces. We encourage our team to find opportunities to volunteer with community recycling programs or spring planting events. For those who are not comfortable with participating in community events, we also provided a suggestion for our associates to reduce their year-over-year home electricity consumption.

As a company, we’re also making our environmental values tangible through our continued partnership with OneTreePlanted. For each new project we take on, we donate a percentage of our profit to help plant trees in forests identified by the United States Forest Service as having the greatest need. We also plan to contribute to reforestation in other parts of the world.

Improving the Lives of People within Our Communities

The events of 2020 highlighted a variety of areas in which we can create positive change in our communities, whether through diversity and inclusion initiatives, helping to feed and shelter people whose income was affected by the pandemic or helping students who are falling behind because of the limitations of distance learning.

Another pillar of our pledge calls on our associates to make a positive impact on their local community. We provided a variety of suggestions to help our team fulfill this aspect of the pledge, including volunteering at shelters that serve vulnerable people in our communities. We encourage our team to contribute to local food drives and seek opportunities to help organizations that aide local veterans. We also suggested our teams seek out equity, diversity and inclusion trainings to learn more about the differences that make our communities vibrant. Because the majority of the Adept team have earned degrees and advanced degrees in STEM fields, we also encourage them to find opportunities to tutor or mentor local students and help prepare the next generation of leaders in STEM occupations.

Promoting the Health and Wellbeing of Our Associates

While the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted many areas for us to help causes outside our own homes, it’s also important that we each focus on taking care of ourselves. Social distancing spurred by the pandemic has prevented many people from connecting in person with friends and family, leading to a separate epidemic of loneliness. The constant barrage of bad news throughout 2020 was enough to induce anxiety among as much as 62% of Americans. Gyms that closed during lockdown cut many people off from a key part of their physical fitness routine. For these reasons, making time for self-care is more important than ever.

The third pillar of our value-driven pledge calls on employees to make time for improving their mental and physical health. While this type of self-care is deeply personal and different for everyone, we offered a variety of suggestions to help our team find an activity that works for them. We encourage employees to work on their physical fitness by training for and participating in events like a virtual 5K. For our employees who enjoy cooking, we encourage them to share healthy recipes for the team or host a virtual cooking demo to show how to prepare a nutritious meal. As the weather warms up across the northern parts of the country, we encourage our team to plan for walking meetings to combine physical activity with productivity or to take a break by participating in our monthly virtual trivia meetings. We also encourage our team to seek out mental wellness trainings.

By contributing to these initiatives, our team is taking steps toward a more positive and healthy future and we can’t wait to see the results. Join us and pledge to make a positive impact today!

INTL WOMENS DAY ADEPT GROUP-01-01-01

Adept Leadership: International Women’s Day

Diversity has been a pillar of Adept since its inception. Women make up 71% of our leadership. Our associates speak 6 native languages and hail from nearly every corner of the world. Our diverse experiences, backgrounds and perspectives play a significant role in our success.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we interviewed 5 of our fierce female leaders who champion the values of Adept Group.

Hasanna Birdsong, Managing Director

What does gender equality look like in our company and on our leadership team?

Gender equality goes beyond representation at Adept. Gender equality means that everyone has the same access to opportunities, rewards and resources. Our compensation and opportunities for advancement are both reflective of that.

Have you ever been in a situation that made you think that ‘women’ and ‘power’ are two incompatible concepts?

I’ve been fortunate to have worked with organizations that embraced the concept of women as leaders. I’ve worked with organizations that purposefully sought out women to diversify their leadership teams to do so.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about being a leader?

Being a leader is about showing up and doing your best even when you don’t have all the answers. It’s important to know your limitations and identify a team that can cover your blind spots.

I’ve always surrounded myself with people who were better than me at certain things so that together we could deliver exceptional work. At Adept I learn from the people I work with every day.

How does our team leverage diversity as one of our strengths?

Our diversity in experience has led to our ability to develop different strengths. As a team, we have people who excel at innovation and conceptual or futuristic thinking.  There is a time and a place for all of those things. We are learning who we can call on when the need arises for different ways of thinking and designing solutions for the challenges we face.

Why do you do what you do? What is your “why”?

Whether it’s people, a team or a company, I love to be a part of growing things. I do what I do because I get to be a part of that process. Growth comes from learning. The opportunity to teach and learn right alongside the talented leaders I work with is a privilege. I consider myself very lucky!

Angela Connell, Director of Human Resources

What does gender equality look like in our company and on our leadership team?

Gender equality in our company and on our leadership team is removing all barriers and creating equal opportunities for everyone in the company!

Have you ever been in a situation that made you think that ‘women’ and ‘power’ are two incompatible concepts?

I have been fortunate that I have always worked in companies and with leaders who empowered me. As a mother, I have never felt insecure about those two concepts until the pandemic. As the primary caregiver in my family, it is easy to think you are not worthy of power when you are running homeschool and your career simultaneously. In our company, we have been so fortunate that as a team, both men and women, we have an understanding and appreciation that this is not normal and these two concepts should be completely compatible. 

What is the best advice you’ve been given about being a leader?
  • Always consider the team and company when making decisions. 
  • Find out what each member of the team’s strengths are and help them grow based on those strengths. 
  • Be honest! Saying you have to get back to someone is better than giving your team false information. 
How does our team leverage diversity as one of our strengths?

Our diversity has led to our company being able to grow in different areas of the business and with different contacts within the industries we serve. The diversity in the skills of the team creates an internal network for our entire company to lean on one another when any individual is doing something new within a project. 

Why do you do what you do? What is your “why”?

I love people and I love helping them succeed in what they want to do within their career! I also love being part of the change that helps a company grow and become a better place to work!

Cindy Diamse, Director of Food, Beverage and CPG

What does gender equality look like in our company and on our leadership team?

Our company has always had a fairly decent gender mix – whether as leaders or engineers. I have always appreciated the mix since engineering can typically be a male-dominated field. Today, our leadership team includes more females than males, but not intentionally – we selected our leaders based on strength, experience, and potential…and it just happened to land with a higher percentage of women! 

Have you ever been in a situation that made you think that ‘women’ and ‘power’ are two incompatible concepts?

These days, no. Today, women are as powerful as ever and taking on more leadership roles. We have a woman vice president! What else can I say?  

What is the best advice you’ve been given about being a leader?

Be authentic and be accessible. 

How does our team leverage diversity as one of our strengths?

We have diversity in all aspects – knowledge, ethnicity, experience…we bring all of these to the table, and it outputs only the optimal solutions to our clients. Each one of us appreciates and values one another’s diversity and we each incorporate it into our everyday ways of working – making us a strong and successful team.

Why do you do what you do? What is your “why”?

Whether in a personal or professional situation, I love tying the right people together and making sure everyone benefits! It gives me such satisfaction to see all parties happy at the end of the day.

Jessica Southerland, Director of Staffing

What does gender equality look like in our company and on our leadership team?

I’m so fortunate to be a part of such a diverse team at Adept. Having Associates and Leaders from dozens of cultures and heritages enables us to be well rounded organization.

Have you ever been in a situation that made you think that ‘women’ and ‘power’ are two incompatible concepts?

I had this experience with previous employers, but at Adept, my opinions and beliefs on how this organization can grow and continue to be great are always considered, and often asked for. It’s such an honor for a company to recognize their associates’ opinions and thoughts as we continue to grow.  

What is the best advice you’ve been given about being a leader?

Leadership is about taking care of the people that are a part of the team. We are all respected and recognized for our hard work and efforts to delightfully please our clients. If we take care of our people, everything else that comes with success follows.

How does our team leverage diversity as one of our strengths?

Having this diversity allows us the ability to include perspectives and ideas not only for our clients, but our internal goals and objectives, giving us a wide view of how to approach a program and deliver above and beyond what is being requested.

Why do you do what you do? What is your “why”?

I love interacting with all of the associates within the company, especially hearing their challenges and their thought process to work through those obstacles. I enjoy assisting them with growth and development and supporting them through the course of their professional career. There is so much reward when an associate is placed in a position that empowers them to learn, challenge themselves, and be a part of the client’s solution for packaging support.

Jessica Bargilione, Director of Marketing

What does gender equality look like in our company and on our leadership team?

Since I started at Adept, building a diverse team has always been a priority because leadership has always recognized the strength that comes from different experiences, beliefs and perspectives. Though unintentional, our leadership team is predominantly female. We’ve chosen both our leadership team and our employees based on a skill set that extends beyond expertise and experience, but accounts for commitment, versatility and drive to put our clients and company first.

Have you ever been in a situation that made you think that ‘women’ and ‘power’ are two incompatible concepts?

I remember being 8 years old playing little league. As the only girl in the league, some of the parents didn’t feel I belonged there. They were discussing my ineptitude due to my gender, as my older, much less restrained sister turned around and suggested, “you didn’t seem to have a problem with her being a girl until she struck out your grandson.” The chatter about me not being skilled enough to play ended there. I’ve been fortunate throughout my life and career to be part of a family, as well as several teams and groups that believe achievement comes from ability and drive, rather than gender.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about being a leader?

Surround yourself with the right people. Empower them with the culture, tools and resources to be successful, then get out of the way.

How does our team leverage diversity as one of our strengths?

We have brilliant associates from all over the globe that have different backgrounds, skillsets and experiences. One of the greatest strengths as a company is our ability to lean on one another to solve problems, develop new ideas and leverage our diverse perspectives to deliver creative solutions.

Why do you do what you do? What is your “why”?

To enable people to tap into their strengths and empower understanding through establishing the right connections; whether through education, communication or experience.

Beverage bottles conveyorSM

Serialization Adds Value Beyond Compliance for Food and Beverage Companies

Serialization is a word synonymous with compliance, but the value it can add to a supply chain extends far beyond following the rules. While the Pharmaceutical industry has been unveiling the benefits for several years, the Food and Beverage industry is just starting to recognize the possibilities that become available when implementing a serialization solution.

The following infographic highlights some of the different business areas that serialization solutions can impact and improve business operations, and add overall value to the supply chain.

If you’re interested in finding out how serialization might be able to benefit your company, contact us, our digital team looks forward to the challenge.

Serialization-benefits-for-food-and-bev

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle. Environmental vector wordcloud background.

Sustainable Packaging Trends for 2021

Despite significantly increased usage of single-use plastics during the COVID-19 pandemic, packaging sustainability remains a priority for brands across all industries. While consumer caution has been a cause for many individuals to deprioritize sustainable habits, brands did not retreat from their sustainability goals in 2020, and this year is on track to be one in which packaging continues to make strides toward a more sustainable future.

A handful of approaches have emerged as sustainable packaging trends for 2021:

Chemical Recycling for Plastics

As chemical recycling methods and technologies for plastics continue to improve, the practice is gaining proponents. Expanded chemical recycling efforts are included in the British Plastics Federation’s recent “Recycling Roadmap,” which charts a course to the U.K. recycle 3.5 times more plastic than it currently does by 2030. As the amount of single-use plastics discarded by consumers continues to grow, chemical recycling may help stem the tide of plastics that end up in landfills, or worse, in oceans and other waterways.

In many areas, the demand for recycling surpasses the local market’s ability to process the plastic through mechanical means, which drives demand for alternative means of recycling.  Additionally, the narrow range of plastics that can be recycled by traditional means and the limited number of uses for recycled plastics mean it is unlikely that mechanical recycling will catch up to the problem.

To make use of the large volume of post-consumer plastics generated each year, recycling facilities will need to use a variety of chemical processes to supplement traditional mechanical recycling. Research teams are already working on chemical recycling methods for a wider range of materials, including polystyrene, which will greatly reduce the amount plastic that winds up in landfills or as litter.

E-commerce Sustainability

E-commerce shipments – and the packaging that comes with it – have been on a steady rise in recent years. That trend continued in 2018, with 91% of Americans receiving packages at their home this holiday season according to Ranpak’s First Annual E-Commerce and Packaging Trends Survey. While recent e-commerce statistics may be boosted by consumers cautious to shop in crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic, they may retain those online shopping habits once things return to normal. Regardless, this sharp and continued rise in e-commerce puts a spotlight in efforts to make shippers and primary packaging more sustainable.

Brands riding the wave of increased e-commerce sales are eager to boost their sustainable practices, both in response to consumer demand for environmentally friendly products and because sustainable packaging is often good for the bottom line. There are a variety of approaches brands can use to improve the sustainability of e-commerce packaging, including designing packaging with materials that are easy for consumers to recycle. Rightsizing e-commerce packages and optimizing the amount of padding/dunnage included within the package drive sustainability and cost savings on two fronts, both by reducing the cost of materials and reducing size and weight, which improves fuel efficiency during shipping.

Growth in Reusable Packaging

While recyclable and compostable materials play a key role in steering packaging away from landfills, they won’t completely solve our waste issues. Following the path blazed by TerraCycle’s Loop program, which expanded nation-wide in 2020, companies such as LimeLoop, Algramo, RePack and any of the are taking their own approach to growing adoption of reusable packaging. The market for reusable packaging was valued at $30.5 billion in 2019, and a 2020 report from Grand View Research projects it will grow by more than 5% by 2027. While some were concerned that growth may take a hit because of consumer caution during the pandemic, indications showed continued growth through the early months of the crisis, with Loop reporting its sales nearly doubled between March and April.

It’s not just startups springing up to create reusable packaging, major brands are jumping on board to incorporate reusables. Mars, Inc.’s  Sustainable Packaging Plan centers around a commitment to switch to 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025, including testing 10 reusable packaging programs. Albertsons Plastics and Packaging Pledge includes encouraging customers to use reusable bags, some of which include material from recycled single use shopping bags, and using reusable containers behind the scenes throughout its supply chain.

Whether you’re years into your sustainability journey or looking for sustainable packaging solutions to help your brand get started, the Adept Packaging team has the experience and know-how to help you map out your next steps. Whether it’s sustainable strategy, ideation or implementation, our team is stacked with professionals that can help you transform your packaging. We will help you optimize not only the sustainability of your packaging but reduce costs as well. If you’re ready to incorporate sustainable packaging solutions that drive bottom line savings, get in touch.

Concept of frozen products: fruits, vegetables, fishs, meat, spices herbs, were frozen inside ice cubes

Cold Chain Trends for Food Brands

The tidal wave of media coverage around COVID-19 vaccines has thrust the cold-chain market into a global spotlight, but cold-chain technology isn’t just for brands in the life sciences space. Cold-chain packaging and shipment play a growing role for brands in the food industry as well. While most people typically think of the cold chain as a network of refrigerated warehouses and cargo vehicles that keep products at a controlled temperature, packaging is the common link that connects them all and ensures the product maintains its temperature as it moves throughout the supply chain. Understanding the trends and projections for cold chain will help food brands prepare more efficiently for their next steps.

Increased Demand

As consumer demand for high-end food products grows around the world, brands need to ship products across greater distances quickly, while maintaining high standards for quality. According to Statistics MRC, the global cold chain market is projected to grow 400% from 2018 to 2027, reaching a total value of more than $600 billion. While the CPG portion of the market is still dominated by dairy and frozen dessert items, bakery and confectionery products are forecast to generate increased demand for cold-chain services. A growing middle-class population in developing economies drives demand for fresh produce, which requires cold chain solutions to move from agricultural regions to population centers.

A Need for Investment in Sustainability

Keeping products at a controlled temperature requires refrigeration, both in storage facilities and transportation vehicles, and that refrigeration consumes a lot of energy. While cold-chain storage and shipping can be energy-intensive, the increase in demand for cold food products is fueling innovation in efficiency and sustainability.

Many providers are investing in sustainable cold-chain solutions, but there is no established leader in this space. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are the most commonly used refrigerants and may contribute more to global greenhouse gasses than carbon dioxide. Penske Logistics is exploring compressed natural gas as an alternative to diesel-powered refrigeration systems for trailers.

Others companies look to electric vehicles as a more sustainable solution for keeping products at a controlled temperature in transit. Improved insulation and remotely controlled cooling systems also look to improve energy and fuel consumption from vehicles through involved in the cold chain. As adoption of reusable packaging continues to grow, reusables may also provide a sustainable solution for products in the cold chain.

Growing Role of Third-Party Logistics

Third-party logistics (3PL) play a growing role in processing and packaging cold chain food products. 3PLs provide a variety of services that may not be cost effective for frozen food brands  to handle themselves, including storing frozen product until it’s time to fill specific orders, transporting frozen foods to be packaged at retailers and preparing proteins for export outside the U.S. This role for 3PLs is particularly prominent in the ecommerce space, as few companies that specialize in ecommerce have the need to maintain temperature-controlled distribution centers of their own. As efficient ecommerce distribution becomes the norm in the B2C space, rising expectations for fast B2B shipping also provide an opportunity for temperature controlled 3PLs to step up and grow their presence in the food supply chain.

As cold-chain technology advances, it will create opportunities for many more brands in the food industry to distribute fresh products more efficiently and across greater distances. If your brand needs to add cold-chain distribution capabilities or improve existing capabilities, Adept can help. Our team includes highly experienced consultants in both cold chain packaging and logistics. Get in touch to discuss solutions to your cold-chain challenges.

Five Architects Sitting Around Table Having Meeting

Packaging Development Centers of Excellence

As sustainability and cost drivers pressure packaging departments to deliver more value, greater agility, and faster speed to market, establishing a Packaging Development Center of Excellence provides a platform that enables your team to deliver successful, repeatable results. A well run PackDev CoE accelerates future competitiveness and enables faster growth and enhanced profits. It aligns the entire packaging department to execute its strategy and deliver against its goals.

With a PackDev CoE in place, a brand can expect its packaging department to not only be more efficient, but also more accurate. It also provides the packaging department with the tools to optimize costs and the flexibility to evolve to meet new challenges.

What is a PackDev CoE?

A PackDev CoE is a model for managing a packaging department. The model focuses on strong and well aligned fundamental concepts that are common to many successful organizations:

People — enabling cognitive ability and promoting productive interpersonal interactions.

Processes — Aligned to enable efficiency.

Systems — Leveraging computer power to unburden teams.

Implementing a well-run CoE enables an organization to drive consistent, forecastable value from its packaging operations. It makes the people, processes, and systems in place fundamentally stronger and aligns them to execute against the packaging department’s goals.

The Adept Group model for a PackDev CoE contains four key components:

1. Providing Solutions.
2. Knowledge Management.
3. Team Development.
4. Systems & Governance.

Read the full article in Packaging Digest.

Adept Group has more than a decade of experience in developing and implementing Centers of Excellence within our clients’ packaging departments. If you think a CoE will help optimize the function of your packaging operations, get in touch. We’re ready to deploy our knowledge and experience with CoE to help you maximize the value of your packaging.

Depositphotos_310920506_l-2015

New Package Development During COVID-19

While the many challenges introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted brands in a variety of ways, new package development remains a primary focus for packaging departments. Whether it’s designing packaging for a new product, optimizing packaging for an existing product, or redesigning packaging for existing projects to better meet the evolving needs of the brand, this process remains an important priority. What has changed is the ability to bring outside experts into a brand’s facility to evaluate products and develop packaging solutions.

Meeting Remotely

While the traditional approach to new package design involves on-site engineers evaluating the product and its shipping needs, the current need for distancing makes this approach unwise or, in some states, not allowed. There is, however, another approach that works just as well for most brands.

As we’ve all grown accustomed to meetings conducted via Zoom and collaborating on a document virtually, it should be no surprise to learn that all of the preliminary steps of a packaging project can be handled remotely. Defining the packaging requirements, including goals for sustainability and specs to ensure it works with your current packaging, can be discussed via a web meeting and compiled in a shared document. This includes listing all the unknowns and other important needs such as pallet stability requirements and the tolerances and procedures to be used during the testing phase.

An Unconventional Approach for Unconventional Times

Where this approach really differs from traditional package development is when the designer fleshes out their concepts. Instead of a designer or engineer coming to your facility to evaluate and develop packaging concepts, you can ship your products to the designers location, where they can do the same job without having to add unnecessary personnel to your facility. Working remotely, the engineer can evaluate the product, leverage the list of pre-defined requirements and think through the needs of the products distribution environment to develop packaging concepts and specifications for your review.

Remote Project Management

Once all stakeholders agree on a design concept, the engineer can coordinate prototype development remotely and ship the prototype to your facility for review and approval. All steps of the testing process can be handled the same way, with the packaging shipped to the testing facility of your choice. Once the design is finalized, sourcing a supplier that best fits your goals and is optimized for cost and quality can also be handled remotely all the way through to commercialization.

Experts in Packaging and Remote Work

Since its inception, Adept Packaging was built to meet our clients’ needs, whenever and wherever they need us. Our team has experience working remotely and from home offices while maintaining the productivity and efficiency you’d expect from an on-site consultant. While this global pandemic has forced many companies to adapt their processes for social distancing, it’s allowed us to showcase our mature, fully functioning processes for working from a distance, and we’re ready to help you tackle your new package development products no matter how long the pandemic continues.

Automatic packing line of conveyor. Pharmaceutical and chemical industry. Manufacture on factory

A Planning Guide for New Packaging Machinery

Recent trends in reshoring, accelerated by supply chain issues brought on by COVID-19, are prompting many brands to bring all or part of their packaging operations in house by installing their own machinery. Even if your brand hasn’t made a plan to purchase new packaging machinery, your company is likely considering alternatives to mitigate the disruption.  

A recent survey indicates packaging is one of the services North American brands are most likely to reshore in light of recent supply chain issues. While handling packaging in house can accelerate the product delivery timeline and reduce supply chain problems, it comes with its own set of challenges. We created this guide to help you anticipate and solve those challenges.

Collaborate Internally and with Vendors

To develop a comprehensive set of user requirement specifications, it’s important for representatives of many departments in your business, including packaging, engineering, procurement, HSE, IT and maintenance, to collaborate and thoroughly discuss their individual needs. Another key topic to discuss internally is how new equipment may impact the packaging machinery and software already in place. It’s important to find out what conditions new machinery will need to satisfy to be integrated with your current setup.

Teams also need to communicate and collaborate with the machine supplier to develop an installation timeline that suits the needs of as many departments as possible to minimize disruption to the business. This is also the time to communicate any safety training the vendor’s technicians will need to complete before arriving at your facility. While technicians likely participate in significant safety training of their own, you can’t assume their training covers all the topics necessary for working within your facility.

Evaluate Business Impact

Adding a significant amount of new machinery is no small endeavor. Installing a new packaging line or building on an existing one can have unforeseen impacts on departments throughout your facility. It’s important to understand how it can affect those departments during the early planning stages so those risks can be mitigated. When integrating new machinery into an existing packaging line or other production line, installation will likely require that equipment to be shut down, and managers who oversee that line will need to plan their department’s schedule around that shutdown.

Planning ahead thoroughly for the ways installation will impact your business will provide time to prepare and ensure the installation goes smoothly and doesn’t disrupt other departments more than absolutely necessary. This includes allowing time for testing and having a sufficient amount of product available to conduct tests on the new packaging and labeling equipment.

Anticipate Delays

Despite even the most thorough planning and preparation, installing new packaging machinery will take longer than you expect. Turnaround time between ordering your equipment and delivery by the vendor will likely be the longest part of the process. Delivery times can increase considerably if your needs require customization and added functionality to the machinery.

Plan a 30% buffer time for the total project, no matter what a vendor tells you. You need to prepare for a variety of delays and issues that may pop up throughout the process and have a plan to mitigate unforeseen issues that impact timing. It’s almost a guarantee that a few such problems will affect installation at your facility.

Analyze Utilities

Heavy equipment like packaging machinery draws a lot of power and may also require other utilities, such as compressed air. Those who know your facility best should review details about the machinery’s requirements and evaluate all supply lines, hookups and building connections to ensure they are available and located in the places the new machines will need them.

Measure Twice, Install Once

Measuring the space available for your packaging machinery is an important part of the planning process, but it’s not the last time you’ll need those measurements. The process from deciding on new machinery to its installation can span many months, and equipment vendors may make upgrades or small revisions to the machinery they sell over the course of that time. While vendors should communicate changes and updates to the machinery, you can’t assume they’ll be aware of how those changes affect installation at your facility.

Invest in Solutions

When you decide on a vendor to provide your new machinery, work with them to ensure all the functionality you need it included. Push for the vendor to work with any third-party providers for custom functions and don’t allow them to pass contracting with those providers onto your company. Your company is not just buying a machine, it is working with the vendor to provide a solution that meets your brand’s packaging needs.

Let the Experts Lead

The entire process of acquiring and installing new packaging machinery, from finding equipment that best suits the needs of your brand to testing the line to make sure it functions properly, is intricate and involves many details that are easy to overlook without experienced help. If your team doesn’t have the experience, expertise and resource availability to tackle each phase of the project, including implementation, get external help. Our team has experience helping iconic brands across a variety of industries add packaging lines to their operation, and we’re ready to be your partner through each phase of the project. Reach out to learn more about how we can help.

Automated line for manufacturing of cardboard boxes for sour cream

The Benefits of an Agnostic Approach to Packaging

With all of the supplier and material options available to brands, it’s important to consider all options when looking for a packaging solution that optimizes costs, product protection and sustainability. Many packaging solution providers are directly tied to suppliers and promise deep discounts on materials based on that relationship, but without exploring all options, brands may miss opportunities to find the best packaging solution for their product. Taking an approach that is agnostic to both suppliers and materials opens more possibilities to identify a solution that meets all their needs.

What Is an Agnostic Approach?

An agnostic approach to suppliers and materials means designing a packaging solution that is centered on the product and its distribution environment, rather than limitations of specific materials. Suppliers, and consultants who are tied to them, frequently design packaging around the limitations of their own equipment or the material they produce. The ability to move between suppliers and work with different materials provides opportunities to create a solution that works for the brand and its product.

Being vendor-agnostic allows packaging consultants to prioritize their clients’ best interests in terms of costs and product protection, rather than being beholden to the solutions offered by specific vendors. Being material-agnostic means they can think outside the box to find the packaging solutions that best fit a product’s needs instead of limiting the possibilities to a short list of materials. It places the focus on the needs of the brand and, ultimately, its customers.

Cost Benefits of an Agnostic Approach

Because supplier and material-agnostic packaging consultants are not tied to the interests of a specific supplier, they’re able to prioritize a brand and its products’ needs, acting as an extension of the brand. They’re incentivized to find the best total landed cost, meaning the total the packaging and shipping/freight costs. Packaging engineers who work with a wide variety materials and suppliers are also likely to have experience working in diverse industries. This diverse experience drives outside-the-box thinking as, for example, lessons learned in the food & beverage industry might benefit a brand in the automotive or pharmaceutical industry.

Product Protection Benefits of an Agnostic Approach

Similar to the cost benefits, keeping all options on the table also benefits the primary function of packaging – to protect the product. Exploring all available solutions, rather than simply choosing the best option from a short, pre-selected list, allows for solutions customized to best serve the brand and its consumers. This approach allows for solutions that include a combination of materials that meet all requirements of a project, from product protection to sustainability.

The Right Approach

Relying too heavily on a short list of materials leads to choices that work well for a supplier and their margins, but leave a brand with packaging that doesn’t meet all its needs. An agnostic approach that weighs all the options provides brands with a packaging solution that keeps costs down while optimizing quality. If you’re looking for help designing packaging that goes beyond the limits of a specific supplier, reach out. Our team has experience in more than 60 specialized packaging disciplines and can help find the solution that works best for your brand.

Depositphotos_66397065_l-2015

Single Parcel Distribution Test Design for E-Commerce

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a major boost to e-commerce, with the U.S. Census Bureau reporting a 45% year-over-year increase from the second quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2020. For brands experiencing a significant increase in e-commerce sales or embracing e-commerce for the first time, designing packaging to hold up under the conditions a single parcel may face in shipping can be a challenge. Products that are damaged during shipping are costly to your brand’s reputation and can ruin your relationship with customers.

Testing your packaging to ensure it can protect the product at all points along its journey from your packaging line to its final destination is integral to the process and to your brand. While the process can be daunting, there are two main things you need to understand before you get started: the distribution environment your product and its packaging will encounter during shipping and the available testing standards that simulate how your package will perform in that environment.

Know Your Distribution Environment

Distribution environments can be complicated. Depending on the product, a package may encounter a wide variety of conditions between packaging and arrival at its final destination. These conditions can be broken down into two main categories, ambient conditions and handling conditions.

Ambient Conditions

Ambient conditions can vary wildly depending on the distance your package will travel and the geographic location(s) it will travel through. Factors to consider include the humidity it will experience, the range in temperatures it will face and how much exposure it will have to elements such as sun light and, potentially, precipitation. Some products may even need to remain refrigerated or frozen during shipping to preserve quality.

Handling Conditions

Handling conditions have a similarly broad range and depend on whether your packaging will ship via rail, truck, air or some combination of the three. While we’re primarily focusing on products that will ship as single parcels, there may be portions of their journey where they travel as part of a unitized load. Packaging decisions can also vary depending on whether a package is primarily hand-carried or if it will be lifted with a crane or forklift. At times, other packages may be stacked on top of it, meaning the package will need to support additional weight without being crushed.

Insights from Technology

While an expert can make a fairly accurate projection about the conditions a package will face in the distribution environment, there are ways to take some of the guesswork out of the process. Several companies make small, disposable sensors that can be placed in test packages and shipped through the normal distribution channels to capture a variety of information about shock, temperature and sunlight, along with location and time, to provide an opportunity for real-time data analysis.

Know Your Testing Standards

There are two main bodies that issue widely accepted single parcel test standards. ASTM is one of the world’s largest international organizations that develops standards. It is comprised of a large group of experts who develop and democratically approve those standards. The other organization, ISTA is a private industry association with standards generated by its board of directors. While the standards developed by both organizations are valuable, ASTM standards are more widely accepted than ISTA standards. For food and beverage brands, for example, the FDA recognizes more than 400 ASTM standards, but recognizes only the ISTA 3A, 3B and 3E series.

These organizations have developed hundreds of standards that cover the wide variety of options for packaging sizes, shapes and materials. It would be impossible to summarize all of them here, but an example that compares a few of the available standards is helpful in illustrating the relationship between knowing your distribution environment and knowing what options are available for testing.  The table below lays out the steps in three testing standards that can be applied to double-walled carton that is 1.8 cubic feet in size and weighs 5 lbs.

Testing Standards Example
StepISTA 3A SeriesASTM D4169 DC 13 AL IIASTM D7386
1Precondition to ambient for 12 hoursCondition to adjusted settings from standard of 73.4 +/- 2°F (23 +/- 1°C) and 50% +/- 2% for 72 hoursCondition to adjusted settings from standard of 73.4 +/- 2°F (23 +/- 1°C) and 50% +/- 2% for 24 hours
2Condition to determined temperature and humidity “Controlled” conditions will use 73°F and 50% humidity for 72 hoursHandling – Six drops from 15”Handling – Four drops from 18” and two drops from 20”
3Shock – Eight drops from 18” plus one drop from 36”Vehicle Stacking – Apply and release 278lbsVibration under Compressive Load – Bottom face for 60 minutes and side face for 30 minutes
4Vibration – Random with overall Grms level of .46Grms and with 105lbs topload for total of 120 minutesLoose Load Vibration – Fixed Displacement for 30 minutesHigh Altitude (optional)
5Vibration – Random with overall Grms level of .46Grms for total of 30 minutesLow pressure (optional)Handling – Two drops from 20” and four drops from 18”
6Shock – Seven drops from 18” plus one drop from 36”Vehicle Vibration – Random60min with overall Grms level of 0.54120 min with overall Grms level of 1.05Vibration – Bottom face for 30 minutes and side face for 30 minutes
7n/aHandling – Five drops from 15” plus one drop from 30”Handling – Two drops from 14”, three from 20” and one from 32”
8n/an/aConcentrated Impact – Drop height 36”

The details included for each step are instructive in deciding which standard best applies to your package and its distribution environment. Differences include the temperatures the packages are exposed to during testing, drop heights, the amount of compression force applied to the package, and other factors. ISTA 3A requires dropping the package from a height of 18 inches

seven times and a height of 36 inches once, while ASTM D4169 DC 13 AL II calls for five drops from 15 inches and one from 30 inches. A thorough understand of your package’s shipping environment will help you decide which of those standards best simulates the conditions your package is likely to encounter.

Get Help from the Experts

The wide variety of conditions a package may encounter in its distribution environment and the long list of available testing standards from ASTM and ISTA can make designing distribution tests for single parcels a daunting task, but a knowledgeable packaging engineer with experience designing and testing packages for e-commerce distribution can help you guide you through the process.

For more information in single parcel testing, you can watch our recent Learning Share webinar on the topic or download our white paper, which focuses on single parcel testing for medical devices.

If you need help developing new packaging or updating your existing packaging to better withstand the e-commerce distribution environment, get in touch. Our team has led this process for some of the most iconic brands in the food, beverage, CPG and life sciences industries.