Caucasian bearded graphic engineer in shirt and tie walking in printing shop and relocating heavy box. In background are printing machines.

Working As a Contractor

The job market has changed significantly in recent years. Job seekers are choosing positions that provide flexibility and autonomy, and – according to a 2018 NPR/Marist poll – one in five jobs in the U.S. is now held by a contract worker. This relationship can be mutually beneficial for workers who prefer a contract relationship and employers who often need specific expertise or extra manpower for a defined-duration project. Working as a contractor comes with a lot of perks, especially in the packaging engineering field, and you may find this type of employment is a great fit, even if you’ve only worked under more traditional arrangements. In this blog, we outline some of the top benefits of working as a contractor.

Predictability

In a traditional work environment, priorities may shift as the business’s needs change – even over the course of a single day. The result is engineers bouncing between tasks and sometimes being pulled from packaging engineering projects entirely. Contractors come on board to complete or advance a specific project, agreed upon in advance. This provides a balanced, focused workload where the engineer won’t be subjected to outside pressures that derail their priorities. This arrangement between employer and contractor often results in quality output and adherence to specific schedules and timelines.

Project Choice

Scope creep occurs when a company reorganizes and shifts engineers onto tasks and projects that fall outside of their experience and skillset. Because packaging engineering consultants are hired for a specific role on a specific project, they are not subject to scope creep in the way engineers in traditional employment arrangements are. It also allows contractors to accept projects they are passionate about or that advance their career goals without the possibility of being derailed by tasks that fall outside their area of interest.

Flexibility

In contrast to a traditional on-site, nine-to-five workday, contract packaging engineers enjoy options for a great deal of flexibility in both the types of projects they take on and their workload. Consultants are able to choose projects for which the workload matches their availability, taking on less time-intensive projects while they further their education or focus on family and other life activities. Additionally, consultants can often work from multiple locations or use a defined-duration project as a jumping off point when relocating to a new area.

 Variety

Contract packaging engineers are able to diversify their experience by taking on roles in new industries or choosing project types that help to advance their career goals, allowing them to develop new skills and build expertise in new disciplines. By exposing themselves to a variety of projects and industries, consultants can find the types of opportunities that stoke their passion or provide new challenges that keep them engaged in their career.

Alignment

By working for a consultancy, engineers have the opportunity to work for a variety of companies and get exposure to an equal variety of workplace cultures. Because organizational culture plays a key role in employee happiness, consultants have the privilege of sampling a variety of cultures and learning which situations best suit their personality, work style and professional goals.

Find Your Best Fit with Adept Packaging

Adept Packaging has both fulltime employees and a roster of consultants we can match with our clients’ needs, and because we are owned, operated and recruited by engineers, we understand your skillset and can seamlessly match you with a placement you desire, from location to project type. We work with a majority of the top CPG and Life Sciences companies in the world. If big names aren’t of interest, you’ll have the opportunity to experience what it’s like to work with different clients to evaluate their culture.

In addition to working with multiple brand owners, our associates are exposed to a variety of project types, technologies and different departments within an organization allowing for skillset expansion. We host monthly Learning Share webinars and offer industry-specific trainings and technical skill builders. Adept associates are also allocated a budget for training. You will work with the packaging industry’s top subject matter experts to learn new skills, solve problem solve, and expand your global network.

Whether you’re interested in working in a specific location, on a specific project type, or for a defined duration, our recruiters will find a placement that fits those needs. Since many of our projects allow for remote work, our associates enjoy an unconventional amount of flexibility while driving results for our clients. If you’re looking to diversify your work experience and take a more active role in choosing your next project, reach out. We’re always looking for new talent.

Two factory workers looking up in drinks production plant

Increase the Flexibility and Scalability of your Workforce: Contract Packaging Engineers

Many packaging departments face a set of familiar challenges when beginning a new project: insufficient resources, a lack of specific expertise and finding the right fit when hiring to add that expertise. For lots of companies, this problem has been exacerbated by the business and economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many packaging departments are behind on initiatives planned for earlier in the year and won’t be able to catch up without putting their team through a stressful crunch period, but those challenges are easy to overcome with contract packaging engineers — temporary, flexible resources that can help carry the load for a defined duration.

Expertise for Your Unique Needs

Many brands are choosing to leverage contract packaging experts to build a variable workforce that has experience tackling specific projects. By adding such resources, a brand can temporarily enhance expertise for projects such as reducing packaging costs, increasing packaging sustainability or optimizing packaging for the e-commerce distribution environment.

As COVID-19 drove a significant uptick in online purchases, many brands uncovered quality issues or inefficiencies with their e-commerce distribution process. Remedying these issues requires quality remediation, specification management and a packaging audit, but those time-intensive tasks can strain already-busy packaging departments.  These brands often hire contract packaging engineers to mitigate the newly uncovered issues without derailing the projects their internal teams are tackling.

Packaging Resources that Allow you to Hit the Ground Running

Since most contract engineers are brought on board to lend a specific set of skills, they typically require little-to-no training in order to hit the ground running. While a traditional hire may need weeks or months of training and orientation before they’re fully integrated and productive, a skilled contractor can begin to contribute immediately and often benefits the brand by sharing their expertise with the internal team.

Subject Matter Experts

Different projects require different levels, areas and depths of expertise. Bringing contract engineers on board for projects allows a brand to build a repository of subject matter experts with different specialties and experience. As different challenges arise or new projects become a priority, the brand can hire those contractors from their repository to supplement the expertise of their internal team.

Rightsize Your Workforce

Because there is no obligation to renew once a contract is completed, brands can staff up to handle a backlog of work from COVID-related closures or to meet a tight deadline a labor-intensive project and then return to lean staffing levels once the project or projects are complete. Using contractors for a defined duration also frees brands from obligations to provide sick time, holiday pay, PTO and other benefits.

Risk Mitigation

In addition to getting the right expertise for a defined-duration project, working with a company that specializes in placing contractors also reduces the brand’s risk. Such companies mitigate risks associated with a placement not meeting the expectations with strong managerial oversight, performance management and training and technical support. Companies who place contractors are also structured to avoid issues with co-employment laws.

Leverage Leading Packaging Talent at Adept

Adept Talent has a deep bench of highly qualified contract packaging engineers and project managers with expertise in more than 60 specialized disciplines. If your company needs to staff up to tackle a backlog of work that’s built up since the pandemic hit or to provide specific knowledge and skills to tackle a project that falls outside the typical function of its internal packaging team, get in touch. We’re ready to match you up with the expert or experts that can help meet your goals.

For additional resources on finding packaging the packaging talent you need, visit our resource library.

regulations marked on rubber stamp

Demystifying Hazmat Regulations

Hazardous materials regulations are complex, but it’s helpful to remember the goal: it’s all about safety – safety for workers, consumers, and for the environment. Most of the regulations are laid out in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Title 49 CFR, parts 100 – 185, which cover domestic shipment of hazardous materials. The regulations include package design and testing requirements, training requirements, and instructions on how to package and handle hazardous materials in bulk and non-bulk forms.

It is crucial to get things right the first time when it comes to packaging hazardous materials. In addition to the aforementioned safety risks, noncompliance with hazmat regulations can result in astronomical fines. Depending on the severity of the offense, these fines can range from $250 to $500,000 per violation.

All of these regulations and requirements are explained clearly in 49 CFR, but the real challenge comes in navigating this extensive, 700-plus page text. Knowing where to look for the information most relevant to packaging can remove a lot of the headache from planning for hazmat packaging.

Most Relevant Sections

Sorting through 49 CFR’s 700-plus pages can be a time-consuming task if you don’t know what you’re looking for. It’s packed with information for dealing with all aspects of hazardous materials, but there are a handful of specific sections that contain most of the relevant information about packaging and shipping. In most cases, a packaging professional can find the information they need in:

  • Subchapter C, Part 171: General Information, Regulations, and Definitions
  • Subchapter C, Part 173: Shippers – General Requirements for Shipments and Packagings
  • Subchapter C, Part 178: Specifications for Packaging

Definitions and Responsibilities

A hazardous material is a substance or material that the Secretary of Transportation has determined can pose an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce. “Hazardous material” is a blanket term that covers hazardous substances, hazardous wastes, marine pollutants, elevated temperature materials, and other materials designated as hazardous in 49 CFR 172.101.

As a packaging professional, it is not your responsibility to determine if a material is hazardous. That responsibility falls on the manufacturer. If you suspect you’re dealing with a hazardous material, the first step is to reach out to the manufacturer to get the Safety Data Sheet (SDS). Your responsibility, then, is to understand the information on the SDS and determine the packaging and testing requirements. For packaging professionals, the most relevant information is included in Section 14 of this form, which contains Transport Information:

  • The proper shipping name used by the DOT
  • Dangerous goods classification
  • U.N. identification number
  • Transportation information

Hazmat Classifications

49 CFR categorizes hazardous materials in a few ways that inform procedures for packaging and shipping them. Each material covered by these regulations is categorized by a Hazard Class, Division Number and Class Name. If the material doesn’t fit into those categories, it’s labeled as “other regulated material” by the letters “ORM-D”. A helpful guide to these categories is included below.

Class No.Division No.
(if any)
Name of Class or Division49 CFR
Reference for Definitions
NoneForbidden materials173.21
NoneForbidden explosives173.54
11.1Explosives (with a mass explosion hazard)173.50
11.2Explosives (with a projection hazard)173.50
11.3Explosives (with predominately a fire hazard)173.50
11.4Explosives (with no significant blast hazard)173.50
11.5Very insensitive explosives; blasting agents173.50
11.6Extremely Insensitive detonating substances173.50
22.1Flammable gas173.115
22.2Non-flammable compressed gas173.115
22.3Poisonous gas173.115
3Flammable and combustable liquid172.120
44.1Flammable solid173.124
44.2Spontaneously combustable material173.124
44.3Dangerous when wet material173.124
55.1Oxidizer173.127
55.2Organic Peroxide173.128
66.1Poisonous materials173.132
66.2Infectious substance (Etiologic agent)173.134
7Radioactive material173.403
8Corrosive material173.136
9Miscellaneous hazardous material173.140
NoneOther regulated material: ORM-D173.144
  • Additional important information is found the Hazardous Materials Table in 49 CFR §172.101, which:
    • Designates the materials listed as hazardous for the purpose of transportation
    • Identifies the hazard class or specifies that the material is forbidden in transportation
    • Identifies the proper shipping name
    • Provides UN identification numbers that apply to international regulations
    • Specifies or references requirements pertaining to labeling, packaging, quantity limits aboard aircraft and stowage of hazardous materials aboard vessels

Design Requirements

49 CFR §173.24 includes general requirements for packaging design; ranging from the general, e.g. the packaging must prevent the release of hazardous materials into the environment, to the very specific, e.g. packaging used for frozen materials must also be capable of containing it in its liquid state if it melts. In fact, many of the testing requirements are centered on making sure packages won’t leak solids, liquids or gasses, and there are some very specific requirements, such as the conditions in which a package may vent to reduce internal pressure for packages containing dry ice (carbon dioxide, solid).

This section also includes information on closures, which must be leakproof and secured against loosening during transportation and storage. It outlines specific requirements for how closures on bottles containing hazardous liquids must be oriented, how labeling should indicate orientation in which the package should be handled and stored (e.g. “this end up”) and how cushioning within the package should react in the event of an internal leak. It includes details about hazmat packages transported by aircraft, including closure procedures, absorption requirements in the event of a leak and limits on quantities that can travel by air.

Testing Requirements

Package testing requirements are included in 49 CFR §178.601. Typically, all new packaging for hazardous materials must undergo a Design Qualification Test, which should be completed at a hazmat-certified lab. The test report must contain specifications for all of the packaging components, along with very detailed assembly instructions that cover each step of the packaging process, up to and including closure specifications and how much tape to use.

Drop heights for the design specification tests are higher than you’ll typically see in package testing, including drops from six feet and higher. Also, unlike traditional testing, the hazmat lab is only looking at containment of the materials within the package, not if the items inside the package remain functional. Some types of packages will need to be periodically retested, and those requirements are also spelled out in 49 CFR §178.601.

Marking Requirements

49 CFR §178.3 focuses on markings for packages containing hazardous materials. These regulations express clear preference for direct printing on a package, rather than applying labels, because printing directly on the package is less likely to wear off. Like many labeling requirements, 49 CFR stipulates that marking must be in an unobstructed area and be clearly legible. It also establishes minimum sizes for all marking.


Arrows that indicate packaging orientation must be printed on two opposite vertical sides. The UN registration number issued when the package passes design qualification testing must also be printed clearly on the package. The UN registration number contains the year of manufacture, requiring annual updates to package markings.


The package must also bear the marking that reflects the hazard class of the material inside. Examples of those markings are included in the graphic below.

Hazard Class Markings

Other Regulatory Bodies

While the U.S. DOT’s Title 49 CFR contains the regulations and guidelines most relevant to shipment of hazardous materials within the U.S., there are other organizations that regulate hazardous materials in territories outside the U.S. These are helpful to be aware of if you’re shipping things to or from non-U.S. territory.

LocationRegulatory BodyRegulations
International waterInternational Maritime Organization (IMO)International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code, 38th Amendment
International AirInternational Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)2017 – 2018, Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air
InternationalUnited Nations Committee of Experts, Sub-Committee on the Transport of Dangerous GoodsUN Model Regulations, 19th Edition
CanadaTransport Canada• CAN/CGSB-43.150
• CAN/CGSB-43.146
• TDG TPI14850 (Small Containers for Transport of Dangerous Goods, Classes 3,4,5, 6.1.8 and 9)
MexicoMexican Secretariat of Communications and Transportation• NOM-024
• NOM-029
Europe – GroundUnited Nations ECEInternational Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR)
Europe – RailRID Committee of ExpertsRegulations Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail (RID)

By necessity, hazardous material regulation is complex and strenuous. The consequences of getting things wrong can pose a significant safety risk, depending on the material, and the regulatory penalties for getting it wrong reflect this. Even if you’re used to handling packaging testing internally, designing and testing packaging for hazardous materials may be a task best handled by an outside expert.


Adept Group’s diverse team includes specialists in more than 60 packaging disciplines, including hazmat. If you’re looking for help preparing to deal with hazardous materials, get in touch. We can help.

Designing Packaging for Distribution

3 Crucial Considerations for Designing a Packaging Strategy for Distribution

Determining what will happen to packages during distribution is a complex task requiring a variety of skills and experience. A trial-and-error approach is never optimal so it is important to evaluate all possible variables that may negatively impact a packaging strategy and develop a process-driven methodology to avoid rework and expensive mistakes.

This article offers an overview of three crucial factors often overlooked when designing a packaging strategy for distribution.

Understanding Your Distribution Environment

Mapping the logistics network from the manufacturer to the point of sales and all points of contact in between should be the first step of packaging design for distribution.

Three important factors are often analyzed too superficially:

Reconsider Product Design

Experience shows that distribution damages are drastically reduced if packaging engineers are involved early in the design of a product. If a product is damaged during either testing or a real shipment, packaging is the first thing engineers usually look to improve. A new material, improved dunnage, or a different container are all tempting options to try to solve the problem quickly. However, a distribution failure can also reveal a weakness in product design. For example, if a corner is too sharp or the selected material does not offer sufficient resistance to fatigue.

Offsetting such structural weaknesses by changing the packaging strategy may come at a high cost and it could be cheaper to start over and re-design the product, especially in the long term.

Product designers and packaging engineers should work together rather than in silos.

Do Not Underestimate Environmental Factors

Compression, vibration, and shock are the most observed factors in packaging distribution testing. While these are surely aspects to be taken into consideration, the environment is often a silent killer.

For example, the stacking strength of a corrugated box can be reduced by as much as 20% if the relative humidity goes from 0% (dry) to 50%. Similar results apply for fatigue and other structural properties. Heat can increase ductility in polymers or increase the viscosity of water-based inks, causing smearing of the artwork.

If transportation happens across different climate zones, taking environment into consideration is a must for a solid distribution strategy.

Think Ahead when Selecting Primary Packages

There is usually a bias toward primary packaging when allocating investments on a packaging strategy for a given product. The reason is simple: the primary package is seen as way to deliver a brand’s value proposition. In contrast, secondary/tertiary packaging are perceived as pure means of transportation with little value for consumers. This approach can lead to critical distribution failures.

A primary package designed to go into a specific RFC may not fit well into a different corrugated box or a shrink bundle. Structural integrity, dunnage and headspace are all variables that may play a role and are difficult or expensive to adapt on-the-go.

Thinking about all levels of the packaging hierarchy up front makes packaging design more efficient as well as cost-effective.

Scalability Considerations

In addition to selecting a package that is robust enough to protect the product throughout the distribution environment, one factor that often gets overlooked during package design is scalability.

Though an effective packaging strategy should work given the current outlook of a business (existing volumes, clients, distribution channels etc.), it is also important to take future scenarios into consideration.

Is the business projected to grow sharply in the next five years? Is it expanding to new geographic areas around the globe? Will other products or handling technologies be added to the current portfolio? These are all important questions to ask at the beginning of the design phase to avoid the pitfalls of a short-sighted packaging strategy.

Here are few examples:

  • An increase in volume of product shipped may lead to the necessity of stacking products with an additional layer in the warehouse. This may ultimately lead to static compression failures if not adequately planned for.
  • Shifting from LTL to FTL may require a different unitization strategy (e.g. stacking more boxes per pallet requires more robust shrink wrap).
  • Adding a new client from a tropical country can lead to distribution failures from humidity and heat, as described earlier.

If a business is planning to expand in the next five years, now is the most convenient time to take corrective actions and avoid costly packaging strategy changes along the way.

Involve Customers and Carriers Early

Testing is an effective way of predicting the performance of packaging in its distribution environment. Amazon, for example, has developed its own testing methodology and technology to drastically reduce damages due to transportation. Amazon suggests that its packaging selector reduced product damage rates by a staggering 24%.

While this technology is proprietary to Amazon, the methodology behind it is something other companies can learn from. Unless products are shipped through a heavily regulated channel, a solid testing strategy should be developed by the packaging design team. Even if your testing is based on standards developed by organizations like ISTA, it is important to involve customers and carriers early in the design process.

The key factor that businesses tend to miss is that testing is done in a lab, while products are shipped in the real world. How roughly will the product be handled by humans? What is the maximum temperature that will be reached inside a container? What is the vibration profile that most accurately mirrors the one of a specific distribution mode? While the packaging design team can surely answer these questions with estimated values, the feedback from customers and carriers is a crucial step that will help you avoid costly mistakes.

Moreover, retrieving real world information on distribution channels can be made automatic with supply chain visibility tools. This technology uses sensors to monitor packages during transportation by collecting real time data such as temperature, humidity, shock, light and location. This provides packaging engineers with accurate data on which they can build a successful distribution strategy.

To summarize, it is important that the packaging design team leaves the lab often to get a firsthand view of what happens to the packages at all touchpoints along the supply chain. They’re likely to discover surprises that lab testing won’t reveal.

Conclusion

It is always difficult to predict what will happen to packages as they move through the supply chain and experience increased hazards. Incorporating these three concepts early in the design of a distribution strategy is a simple but effective way to avoid unwanted and expensive blunders.

In order to ensure your package will arrive at its destination intact, leverage experts who have knowledge of regulatory standards, package validation and distribution qualification to avoid wasting critical time or experiencing expensive pitfalls.

If you need assistance with developing packaging for your distribution environment, our engineers have extensive experience and are ready to help. Contact Us.

If you need more in-depth information about developing packaging for distribution, check out our resource library, which includes a variety of infographics and white papers that offer valuable information on the topic.

Automated packaging process line with two machines

6 Essential Steps to Packaging Machinery Validation

As technology continues to evolve, new faster, cleaner, smarter packaging machinery is always being developed. When companies invest in new machinery, it is up to them to make it work, and work consistently. Validation is a critical means to that end.

The Purpose of Validation

The purpose of packaging equipment validation is to establish a baseline for a packaging process. This work is documented and referenced throughout the life of the machine. Not only is it a requirement for regulated products, but it is also an effective means for troubleshooting errors in packaging lines.

Many industries use a formal validation process, while others are less regulated and can simplify the process down to an informal visual inspection. In the end, the amount of testing required will be dictated by the corporate standards and quality systems that regulate each business.

Steps to Validating Packaging Machinery

For the more regulated industries, some of the steps in a packaging validation process include:

By validating packaging machinery, businesses can be assured of consistent, successful packaging performance. If you need assistance with validating your packaging machinery, contact us.

compostable

Evaluating the Feasibility of Switching to Compostable Packaging

Awareness of compostable packaging has grown significantly in recent years. One of the driving factors of this growth is the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy, which set a goal that all plastic packaging be 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. While many consumers are familiar with the reuse model, dating back to the days of the milk man, and recycling, with curbside recycling access continuing to grow, composting is a new concept that is not familiar to many people.

Understanding the Definition of Compostable Packaging

One of the main challenges with compostable packaging is developing a thorough understanding of the definition. To provide background on what is considered compostable packaging here is an excerpt from Compostable Packaging, A Greener Approach to Packaging Materials, An Adept Packaging White Paper.

Compostable packaging, or more specifically, compostable plastic, is defined by the ASTM (American Society for Testing & Materials) as “capable of undergoing biological decomposition in a compost site as part of an available program, such that the plastic is not visually distinguishable and breaks down to carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass, at a rate consistent with known compostable materials (e.g. cellulose) and leaves no toxic residue.”

According to World Centric, to be considered compostable plastic, there are three characteristics it must meet three conditions: 

  1. Biodegradable – in order for a material to be considered biodegradable, it must break down into carbon dioxide, water, biomass at the same rate as cellulose (paper).
  2. Disintegrable – the material is disintegrable if it is indistinguishable in compost; it must not be visible or needed to be screened out
  3. Free of Eco-toxicity – a material is considered free of eco-toxicity if the biodegradation does not produce any toxic material and the compost can support plant growth. 

Evaluation of Compostable Certification

Compostable packaging can be a great alternative for materials such as laminate plastic films, which do not have many end-of-life options today outside of landfill and incineration, but when assessing compostable packaging there are several factors that need to be considered, including:

  • The composting certification
  • On pack consumer communication
  • Supply chain of the package
  • Likelihood that it will make it to a composting facility

Compostable Certification Process

The certification process depends on several factors, including which country the package will be sold in and whether it is designed to be composted in an industrial facility or a home composting environment.

According to Compostable Packaging, A Greener Approach to Packaging Materials, in order to determine that a material is compostable, there are certain tests that the material must pass. Some institutions have defined either the standards or the methods to perform these tests, such as:

Commonly, to receive the assessment and certification, there are independent certification bodies that help with this process, such as:

  • DIN Certco (German Institute of Standardization, Germany)
  • AFOR (Association for Organics Recycling, UK)
  • Keurmerkinstituut (Certification Institute, Netherlands)
  • COBRO (Packaging Research Institute, Poland)
  • ABA (Australasian Bioplastics Association, Australia)
  • Vinçotte (Accredited Inspection and Certification Organization, Belgium)
  • Jätelaito-syhdistys (Solid Waste Association, Finland)
  • Certiquality/CIC (Composting and Biogas Association, Italy)
  • Avfall Norge (Waste Management and Recycling Association, Norway)
  • BPI (Biodegradable Products Institute, USA)
  • BNQ (Bureau de Normalisation du Québec, Canada)
  • JBPA (Japan BioPlastics Association, Japan)

Ensuring your package is engineered using certified compostable material and can still function to protect your product is one step in determining the feasibility of using compostable packaging.  

Consumer Communication for End of Life

Another challenge that companies face when implementing compostable packaging is lack the of consumer education surrounding it. Consumer communication is important when it comes to packaging, no matter what end-of-life scenario the package was designed for. If the package is disposed of incorrectly, it defeats the purpose of the intended design and provides no added value. Due to the fact that many consumers are unfamiliar with composting, it is best to provide as much information as possible.

 In the case of composting, completing the certification process will provide options of what graphic, instructions, and claims can be made on pack.

For example, the US BPI has a standardized logo that also aligns with the How 2 Compost labeling program from GreenBlue, the creators of How 2 Recycle. While in Europe, the TUV certification labels are widely recognized by consumers. Including resources that make it easy to find the nearest industrial composting facility or instructions for composting at home is also useful to promote correct end-of-life disposal.

Access to composting facilities

Not only does the consumer need to be aware of how to properly dispose of the package, but in the case of composting they also need to have access to an industrial composting facility that accepts packaging or have their own home composting setup. Not all industrial composting facilities are created equal; they range from accepting green waste, food waste, compostable packaging or all the above. GreenBlue has created an interactive map that highlights US composting facilities and the type(s) of material they accept.

Some companies utilize compostable packaging for products that have a defined supply chain, such as products being sold in sports stadiums where you can influence the collection systems put into place. The Green Sports Alliance is an organization that works in this space and promotes zero waste at facilities they partner with.

Determining your consumer’s access to these facilities or ability to influence collection systems determines the ability of your consumer to correctly dispose of the packaging. Without access to these facilities, a consumer doesn’t have the tools needed to compost the packaging.

Assessing if Compostable Packaging is Right for You

Considering compostable packaging can be a complex process to take on, given the need for certified material, education for consumers and access to composting facilities for end of life. By considering the factors noted here, companies can make a determination if the foundation is in place to take the next steps and what can and cannot be achieved by making the change to compostable packaging.

If you’re considering switching to compostable packaging or want to have a discussion about if compostable packaging is an option, our experts would be happy to help. Contact us.

Olive oil factory, Olive Production

EU Tethered Bottle Caps Regulation- Challenges and Solutions

In an attempt to reduce the amount of plastic that leaks out of the recycling system, the EU is imposing a new regulation for single use plastics. Part of that regulation, Article 6, requires companies to redesign all plastic containers up to 3 liters that use a plastic closure to ensure that closure is tethered to the bottle and cannot be detached.

This ambitious regulation is causing a stir in the Beverage industry. While the goals of Article 6 are aimed at reducing plastic deposited into marine environments, many are questioning if they’re realistic. Let’s take a look at the goals vs challenges of this 2024 regulation.

EU-Tethered-bottle-caps-regultion_Adept-Group

Conveyor with bottles filled with milk products

Elements of a Successful Reusable Packaging Program

The topic of reusable packaging programs has been widely discussed in recent years, but in practice, efforts have barely scratched the surface of its true potential. Executed properly, reusable packaging provides benefits ranging from increased sustainability and improved productivity to increased product quality and, perhaps most importantly, cost savings. Well-integrated reusable packaging programs help industries optimize the use of critical resources and minimize the waste associated with traditional packaging methods.

Applications for Reusables

Many packaging elements throughout the supply chain can be converted from single-use materials to reusables. Everyday items used in the manufacturing, packaging and distribution of goods, including durable handheld and bulk containers, pallets, shipping racks and dunnage, are often made for single-use or limited-use applications, but brand owners can find a lot of value in converting them to reusable items.

Reusable packaging can be used for shipping both inbound goods such as raw materials and outbound finished goods. While they are in the manufacturing facility, goods can be transported from one department or stage of the manufacturing process to another in durable packaging that lasts for many cycles before it needs to be replaced. Recyclable materials can be returned in reusable containers and replacement parts and other after-market goods can be distributed in reusable packaging that customers return for repeated use.

Planning for Reusability

The first step to a successful reusable packaging program is a thoroughly researched and well thought out plan. Brand owners need to solicit input from customers to find the best opportunities to incorporate reusable packaging downstream. Thorough analysis of current packaging systems provides opportunities to identify ways in which reusables will generate cost savings, and a well-researched list of suppliers will reveal sources to produce the items and materials you’ll need to implement a reusable packaging process throughout the supply chain.

Designing Reusable Solutions

While the planning stage provides an important overview of the process used to convert to reusable packaging materials, packaging engineers and sourcing experts need to adhere to a diligent design process to create a successful program. The new system must be designed for consistency with existing standards, such as pallet size, as well as take into account logistic needs. Equally as important, the new reusable system must provide protection for components that is on par with or better than traditional packaging to earn buy-in from stakeholders. Perhaps most importantly, reusable solutions must integrate seamlessly with the customer’s supply chain for the program to succeed.

While those considerations are integral to buy-in from external stakeholders, design needs to account for additional considerations for internal stakeholders to understand reusables’ value. A successful program must balance durability with weight and easy of handling to control costs and ensure reusable solutions last long enough to generate savings. The new system must comply with health & safety standards and free up space that was previously used to store traditional packaging components for productive use. To prevent loss, an integrate a tracking system that monitors the location of reusable packaging as it moves through the supply chain can be incorporated. This allows for creation of a plan for storing the physical elements of the reusable program at each stop along the supply chain.

Prototyping and Testing

Because implementing reusable packaging involves an overhaul of so many pieces of your packaging process, it is important to make sure every element integrates seamlessly within the system before implementation. For this reason, a thorough testing process involving prototypes of each physical element is integral to the process. Many of the same suppliers identified during the planning stages can be leveraged to produce prototypes.

When it comes to package testing, there are a variety of options to consider. Consulting engineers and other high-level technical experts with knowledge of the product and its distribution provides valuable input to narrow down the list of standards to use for packaging tests. Testing standards that apply to reusable packaging include:

  • ISTA-3A: Packaged-Products for Parcel Delivery Shipment
  • ISTA-3B: Packaged-Products for Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) Shipment
  • ASTM D7386-16: Single Pack Performance Test
  • ASTM D4169-09: Performance Testing of Shipping Containers and Systems
  • FedEx 6A: Packaging Testing Under 150 Lbs.

Integration

Once the planning, design, and testing are completed and approved, a well-executed integration process will ensure the reusable packaging program gets off to a successful start, which is important for the longevity of the program. Proper introduction of the new reusable solution is also valuable to ensure that everyone who will handle the reusable packaging understands the new system. This will encourage correct use of the system, so that reusable items can circulate properly and return to their starting point after they are used.

Completing the transition from single-use packaging solutions to a true reusable packaging program can be a complicated process requiring a high level of input from technical experts. For brand owners who lack the resources or the manpower to complete the transition, Adept Packaging can help. Our team of Loop-certified packaging engineers have guided many brands through the transition. Our global network of suppliers enables our engineers to design, develop and qualify innovative reusable packaging solutions. Additionally, our sustainability team collaborates with our value optimization team to analyze opportunities for cost savings via transitioning to reusable packaging. They build the plans, design the details, manage the prototyping and testing process, and oversee integration to provide a smooth transition to a reusable packaging program that will save on costs and increase a brand’s sustainability efforts.

If you’re interested in talking to our experts, contact us! We’d love to hear from you.

Business disruption covid-19

Conquering Business Challenges Introduced by COVID-19

With infectious disease experts now warning that COVID-19 could become seasonal, the need for social distancing practices may repeat periodically until an effective vaccine is available. While some businesses that were familiar with remote work and had an infrastructure in place to support it were able to adapt, many others faced a learning curve these past few weeks and will need to develop plans to navigate the rest of the initial outbreak and any future outbreaks.

Keeping your business up and running through a heavily disruptive event is a major challenge, especially when partners, key vendors and customers or clients are facing similar challenges. Developing a good continuity plan will help you focus on the most important business activities and determine sources in advance to help you deal with fluctuating changes to staffing needs.

Evaluating Priorities

When unprecedented and unpredictable events like the current pandemic occur, it’s hard for leaders to know what to expect for their business. When some or all of the business’s staff is unable or unwilling to come onsite, it can be easy to succumb to feelings of despair and throw your hands up, but it’s important for leaders to have a clear picture of what businesses processes and activities can be conducted remotely.

Knowing which activities are realistic and can contribute to the business’s success during a major disruption provides a clear set of priorities that will help the team move forward. To determine these priorities, it’s helpful to separate normal business activities into three buckets:

  • Bucket A should include the essential functions that need to happen for the business to continue running successfully. This is where you should place the majority of your attention, enabling your staff to dedicate their time to the activities that keep revenue coming in and providing the goods or services your customers need.
  • Bucket B should include functions that can be curbed for a period of time. This includes business functions that can still happen under social distancing conditions but will require reconfiguring staff or changing up resources to accomplish.
  • Bucket C should include functions that cannot be completed under these disruptive conditions. Being honest about business activities that belong in this category will help to avoid wasting limited resources on tasks that are not productive.

Having business activities bucketed into these three categories will allow companies to react quickly when disruptions happen.

Access and Resources

Once leadership clearly outlines the business’s priorities for the period of disruption, it will be important to determine what resources are needed to enable staff to work from their homes or from other off-site locations.

At its most basic level, this means making sure everyone has access to a laptop that includes all the software they need to do their jobs or access to a system they can log into from their own computer to do their work.

Beyond this basic hardware requirement, it’s also important to look at software solutions that will help your team maintain productivity. This includes software for conducting remote meetings, such as Skype or Zoom, and software for assigning and tracking tasks and deliverables, such as Asana, Trello, or the task functions built into Outlook.

This also includes scaling up the business’s online security efforts to limited vulnerability to online attacks while employees are conducting 100% of their daily activities remotely.

Managing Workload Changes

While some companies are experiencing a slowdown, many companies are struggling to keep up with the pace of online orders. For the items in buckets A and B, it may be helpful to tap into a flexible, scalable staffing solution provided by an outside partner who specializes in your line of business.

For example, many of our clients in the Life Sciences and Food and Beverage industries are experiencing an uptick in business. They need additional packaging engineering resources to account for increased demand, to offer expertise, or consult on time-sensitive projects.  

While new challenges arise, such as an increased need for anti-counterfeiting features, cold chain packaging development for new products, or access to a new supplier base, hiring a full-time resource doesn’t always make sense. Leveraging consultants that have the required expertise allows companies to have expertise for a defined duration without adding the cost of benefits, training, and other expenses that come with a fulltime engineer.

Most companies are learning daily about the adaptability of their teams. Developing a plan that includes business practice expectations, resources, tools, and partner companies will allow for business continuity in the face of disruption.

How are Companies Leveraging Adept?

While we work with the largest brands in the Life Sciences and Food and Beverage industries, many of our clients are seeing a shift in need. While some need additional resources for their internal teams, others need expertise to respond to their dramatic increase in e-commerce demand.

As companies respond to the financial challenges brought on by the economic shift, our Value Optimization team is helping companies reduce packaging and logistics costs so they can reallocate that money to other areas of the business.

Additionally, we work with most of the top Life Sciences companies, many of which are looking to quickly get their products into trials and to market to combat the pandemic. Our engineers are leveraged to source, engineer and qualify packaging quickly to ensure the progress of these trials.

If your company is experiencing a change in need due to current circumstances, we have a diverse team comprised of over 100 packaging engineers with 60+ niche areas of expertise to find the solution. Contact us.  


Work from Home

Business as Usual: Working Remotely During COVID-19

As COVID-19 disrupts businesses, communities and the economy as a whole, Adept Group is uniquely positioned to continue operating remotely with little to no disruption. For more than 10 years, our global team has leveraged a virtual working environment to collaborate and support some of the most iconic brands in the Life Sciences, CPG and Food & Beverage industries.

Long-Standing Remote Infrastructure

At a time when many businesses are adapting to social distancing as a new working challenge, we’re moving forward with mature and fully functioning people, systems and processes engineered to execute packaging projects remotely. Since inception, the Adept Group recognized the need for our team to be adaptable to meet our clients’ needs, however, whenever and wherever they needed us – including our home offices.

We’re designed for agility, from recruiting and onboarding to managing teams, projects, and people, enabling seamless connectivity of our employees, customers and partners. While the health of our associates remains our top priority, our model translates into business value – a more productive workforce sooner, less business disruption, increased organizational agility, superior service delivery and happier employees.  

Flexibility and Scalability

Our structure is designed to be flexible and scalable. For example, when the pandemic began to spread throughout Italy, our international associates started to experience limitations such as travel restrictions, while our US team was still free to travel. When one of those Italian associates was unable to board a plane for an on-site appointment with a client, we adapted, deploying a US-based engineer to act as the eyes, ears, and hands of our Italian engineer as they worked together to deliver undisrupted service.  

Adapting to Economic Circumstances

Our Value Optimization team, which is responsible for cost and quality optimization, travels under normal circumstances to clients’ locations to evaluate their packaging and processes. They’ve adapted their methodology during this time of restricted travel. As an alternative, they are having clients ship their packaging to us for evaluation and redesign, while leveraging our remote infrastructure to collaborate, effectively maintaining the project timeline and helping clients reduce costs during this financially and logistically difficult time.  

While cost savings may not be front-of-mind yet for companies, recovering from the financial burden of this economical hardship will call for some innovation. Our Value Optimization team can help. Leveraging remote tools and methodology, companies can start the process now to evaluate packaging and logistics spend and start seeing savings when they need it most.

Changes to Packaging Needs

Among innumerable other changes, this pandemic is likely to impact packaging for some companies as well. As the demand for ecommerce increases in the weeks to come, companies who focus mainly on brick and mortar sales may need to adapt to get their products to consumers safely. Our ecommerce experts are fully functional to address your needs.

Our Fully Functional Team is Ready to Help

If you find that your packaging needs have shifted, we have experts in over 60 specialized areas that can help you with new packaging development, quality remediation, ecommerce packaging and much more. Check out our website for an overview of our services and capabilities. 

Stay safe everyone and make responsible choices. Contact us for assistance with any of your packaging challenges.

working through covid19

Coronavirus: Maintaining Productivity & Interaction

In a time of uncertainty, social isolation can compound the foreboding being felt across the globe. While many people are quite literally isolated, there is a sense of connectedness that needs to be excavated from the apprehension.

Strategies to Stay Connected through the Distance

As a global team, our associates are experiencing varying levels of severity of COVID-19. Our Italian team, who is in the trenches right now, has developed new ways to keep their communities connected through this difficult time. At 6 pm every night, the musicians throughout Pavia Italy open their windows and collectively play music for the town to hear; reimagining ways to create through the devastation.  

This awe-inspiring act is one of many ways our associates have employed to cope with the current crisis.

As many companies are working remotely for the first time, we felt it useful to share the strategies we’ve established to ensure our employees remember that they’re not alone, while avoiding disruption for our clients. While technology makes it easier than ever to work remotely, keeping employees engaged, productive and mentally healthy requires additional effort from the leadership team. 

Establish Strong Leadership:

The importance of leadership cannot be understated in times like these.  When leadership falls silent, the disquiet among associates can be deafening. In bleak and uncertain times, employees need a leader who is willing to make decisions and communicate a clear plan of action for his or her team.

Each week since the onset of COVID-19, the CEO of Adept Group has sent out an email recognizing the changes that are impacting our daily lives. He takes the time to outline action plans to provide a clear vision in the coming weeks, provides anecdotes of inspiration from our associates across the globe, and motivates our team to continue leveraging our strengths as we fight toward a common goal.

This communication not only serves to keep our associates informed but provides a point person to go to with concerns which he is happy to shoulder. Maintaining focus through chaotic times is essential to keep productivity high and priorities in order.

Shift your priorities:

Another tell-tale sign of strong leadership is a clear vision. Understanding that the changes to our daily lives will restrict our capabilities is vital to the development of clear priorities. In other words, do what you can do, adapt whatever possible and deprioritize what’s left.

Encourage Open and Frequent Communication:

In order to keep a finger on the pulse of the mental and emotional health of the company during this trying time, it’s critical to establish judgment-free open communication.

During 2019, the Adept Group made a pledge to eradicate the stigma around mental health in our work environment and encourage employees to share, speak up and ask for the help they need. As the stress of the situation weighs on our teammates, it’s more important than ever that they feel they have somewhere to turn and a support system in place, even if it’s physically at a distance.

Beyond promoting open communication, frequent discussions and check-ins encourage employees to be engaged. Since the onset of COVID-19, our culture committee has made an effort to start the day with a question, quote, picture challenge, etc. to get the entire group interacting.

Promote Facetime:

As a globally dispersed company, video conferencing does a tremendous job of bringing our employees closer together, even under normal circumstances. Being able to interpret facial expressions and see each other laugh and smile adds a social element that is otherwise lost in a virtual environment. Beyond easing integration into the team, there are productivity benefits to adding the video aspect to conference calls.

75% of office workers in the US fear that our professional relationships may deteriorate if people keep their eyes fixed on computer and smartphone screens instead of on each other. Facetime elevates communication from a conversation to an interaction; effectively reducing distraction and resulting in more productive meetings with stronger team bonds.

Since the onset of social distancing, we’ve made additional efforts to interact and see one another each week. Every Friday, our CEO hosts a call for the entire company to join, catch up, air concerns, check-in and communicate about what’s happening in their areas and how they’re managing the situation.

Develop New Ways to Interact:

Developing activities for employees to take part in beyond work may seem counterintuitive; however, feeling isolated or disengaged at work is directly correlated to reduced productivity and quality of work.

When employees feel connected to their team, company buy-in increases, quality increases, and productivity follows. At Adept, we’ve always done team building activities to encourage team interaction, but as the feeling of physical isolation mounts, we are adding more events to the calendar to counter it. Some activity ideas for your team are:

  • Monthly trivia– have one associate put it together and host a meeting, cameras on, to share in the laughs and fun of a game together
  • Lunch Bunch– our lead recruiter hosts a video conference call with any associates who choose to join where we eat lunch and play games to get to know each other better, like would you rather, or two truths and a lie
  • Paper Plane Contest– This is one example of the fun competitions you can challenge your associates to. In this one, employees were given rules about making a paper plane. The one that flew the farthest was the winner.
  • Love Your Pet Campaign– During this activity, associates were asked to send in pictures of their pets. All of our associates got to see the pictures and comment and ask questions. The whole activity only took a few minutes.

Those are just a few we’ve done, but if you’re looking for more virtual team building activities, here’s a link to an article that includes icebreakers, conversation starters and activities to try.

What’s to come?

The next few weeks will demand creativity and innovation from companies across the globe as they pivot to tackle the new challenges presented by this pandemic. Strong leadership, clear vision and a willingness to explore new solutions will be more important than ever. Companies with leaders who prioritize connection as highly as productivity will be well-positioned to weather the storm.

Top WP 2020sm

Adept Packaging Named Lehigh Valley Top Workplace 2 Years Running

For the second consecutive year, Adept Packaging was recognized as one of the Top Workplaces in the Lehigh Valley by The Morning Call. We take great pride in this continued recognition of the culture we’ve built in both our Allentown office and with our team spread across the globe.

Our Top Workplaces Standing

The best part of this honor is that it’s based on responses from our employees to The Morning Call’s Energage survey. Workplace culture means everything to us, and we couldn’t be prouder to see our efforts validated through positive feedback from our team: our most valuable resource.

The survey gauged employees’ feelings on topics such as trust, communication, culture and benefits, and we got great feedback across the board. Words that came through most frequently in our team’s written responses included flexibility, work-life balance, culture and learning, demonstrating our success in creating a work environment where employees feel empowered to grow and do their best work while living a balanced life.

The Top Workplaces Event

We had a great opportunity last night to celebrate our culture at the dinner honoring the Top Workplaces winners throughout the Lehigh Valley. One quote from the night that resonated throughout the crowd was from Mike Miorelli, Editor at the Morning Call: “If you want to stand out, you can’t stand still.” which is why we never stop moving toward the things that matter most to us.

Our Culture

We work hard to create and maintain a workplace culture that celebrates diversity, encourages a healthy work/life balance, empowers our team to excel in our roles, and celebrates team and individual success.

We continue to consider our associate needs and adjust our cultural objectives to meet those needs. For example, in 2019, we undertook an initiative to focus on employee mental health in order to reduce the stigma, encourage communication and empower our associates to take their mental health as seriously as their physical health.

Our Incredible Team

We appreciate the entire Adept Group team’s commitment to excellence and willingness to continue to find new ways to positively impact our communities, clients, environment, and one another.

It was an honor to be recognized amongst the most culture-forward companies in the area. To our team, thank you and congratulations on helping to build one of the Top Workplaces in the Lehigh Valley!