Companies put a lot of time, money and effort into creating perfect packaging that will grab consumers’ attention and make them want to purchase a product. But a lot can happen between the creation of that product and its placement on shelf, which can impact a company’s bottom line and reputation.
For this challenge, we asked our Mission: Packaging students to look at end-of-line packaging, where products are placed into secondary packaging in preparation for storage or transit. This serves as a company’s last line of defense in ensuring its goods arrive to their final destination in-tact and in excellent condition. Issues at the end-of-line can result in poor case seals, increasing risks for production downtime, carton reworks, material waste, as well as product damage, contamination and theft.
Anna: There’s More to a Box Than Just a Box
When I decided to make the switch from Biology into Packaging Science, my family and non-packaging friends quickly asked, “so…you want to make boxes for the rest of your life?” The simple answer is yes, because when someone thinks of a package they think of some sort of box 9 out of 10 times.
There is so much thought, work, time, and money put into the bag of coffee beans we bought at the cute coffee shop on the corner, the sterile surgical equipment in the ER, the box of macaroni and cheese on the grocery store shelf – even the glass bottled caramel iced coffee at the gas station. What many people don’t realize is how critical the roles of secondary and tertiary packaging are when it comes to the distribution of products.
In order to ensure the product arrives at its intended destination in good shape, meaning no dents, scratches, holes, rips, or any sort of deformities, packaging engineers have to create secondary and tertiary packaging that will be able to withstand the distribution channel and keep the product inside safe, even against drops, rolls, compression, and other handling stress. In school, professors taught us the three main goals of packaging: contain, ship, and protect, which is often primary, secondary, and tertiary packaging respectively.
Let’s look at a 12 pack of soda to see how the secondary and tertiary packaging plays a role in protecting the soda up until it is sold to the consuming customer. First, the primary package is the aluminum can that holds the product, the secondary packaging is the paperboard case that we see displayed at the store, and the tertiary packaging is the corrugated RSC in which “X” number of 12 pack cases were shipped in to the store but is disposed of once the 12 packs have been removed. The primary, secondary, and tertiary packaging all work together to contain, ship, and protect the product from point “A” to point “B.”
If we were to ship the can by itself, it would not make it very far in the distribution channel because we all know that once we drop a can it either dents or bursts. We can use the paperboard carton for some shipping such as from the store to our home, but it could not withstand the stressors of going through being picked up and tossed on the pile of boxes going to a set location; the paperboard carton adds some protection but not enough to protect the cans from prolonged stress. The corrugated case provides more structure and protection for the cans because it is a heavier and sturdier material compared to the paperboard and the can.
I could talk for hours about all the work that goes into designing primary, secondary, and tertiary packaging but for time’s sake, know that there is more to a box than just being a box. A couple of things to keep in mind:
- Compression: The box will need to withstand pressure, which brings in board various combinations since different combinations add up to different compression strengths.
- Climate: The environment the case will be in can impact its performance. For example, humidity may dictate the use of a corrugated material that has some type of coating in order to protect it from moisture since corrugate weakens with the more moisture it is exposed to.
Packaging isn’t as simple as putting a product into a case that fits; it’s much more complex and interesting than that, which is why I love my major. Every day is a chance to learn something new on how to present a product to a customer – whether it’s from the store shelf or behind the scenes.
Garrett: Four Easy Steps to Ensure Packaging Quality and Safety
This month’s article revolves around safe and secure packaging when it comes to secondary packaging preparation for storage or shipment. This important, end of line quality check ensures that the packaging is in excellent condition before products leave the facility. Product damage/miss assembly is one of the leading causes for returned quantity orders. I spoke to Victor Araya who is a packaging engineer down in Costa Rica, but is currently studying extended packaging knowledge at UW-Stout. He is on a semester exchange program where he takes five packaging classes to better himself before he goes back to Boston Scientific. He has great knowledge on this topic, not only from his medical packaging job, but also from his general industry experience.
Victor spoke about four major things companies do in order to increase their quality, decrease the difficulty and also decrease variables:
- The first and most important step is to standardize everything you can with machinery, and if that is not feasible, then you must standardize your labor as well.
- Create instruction orders with easy-to-follow pictures for every product, and make sure the instruction sheet is available at every plant, not just one. This will help to make all employees accountable for quality.
- Have a quality line manager to assist with production on the line. This individual should oversee and sign off on every product going out the door. This is what Victor called “the second pair of eyes.”
- Finally, there’s something to be said for simpler designs. But Victor suggests if a design needs to be very complicated, then don’t hesitate, but make sure the production employees can understand it, too. Having a conversation with them and taking their advice goes a long way to ensuring a quality product.
From standardizing to simplifying, there are simple measures that can be put in place to help deliver a quality product.
Eric: Safe Transit
For a package to successfully make the journey from the production line onto store shelves, it must stand up to the rigors of transportation and distribution. End-of-line packaging, which can employ a wide range of technology, is used to ensure safe transit and protection of the product on its way to store shelves. With the correct utilization of proper protective packaging techniques and materials, critical quality issues can be reduced or, better yet, avoided.
End-of-line packaging plays an important role in many different situations as a package goes through an array of machinery to pack for shipment. Products can be manipulated for a specific case design, orientation, or quantity before being placed inside of a secondary package. Secondary packages are designed to contain the product as well as provide as a protective barrier from external forces or exposures that could damage it. These external hazards can range from physical movement to punctures by sharp objects, crushing due to weight stacked on the package, as well as product deterioration caused by extreme hot, cold, or humid conditions. Additionally, palletizing plays a key role in the safety and security of the products. The orientation and layout of a pallet is a key determining factor for stability and ability to withstand the harsh effects of distribution. Palletized products are commonly stretch wrapped and/or banded for additional support or protection as well as to secure them to each other and the pallet. Stretch wrapping helps reduce product damage and loss as well as discourage load tampering.
The food industry provides a good example of the importance of end-of-line packaging. With food products, it is imperative that the primary package stays protected and the product arrives in perfect condition to avoid any food safety concerns. Operating a production line with a HACCP Plan (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points Plan) is a process food companies are starting to adopt to ensure proper techniques and practices are in place. HACCP provides an operation with a method to monitor and control potential hazards and further creates identification methods to designate critical control points and parameters to assure the hazard is then avoided.
From the time a product is initially packaged to the time it reaches store shelves, it is subjected to hazards that can affect the safety, security, effectiveness, appearance, flavor, taste, and value of the product. Making use of the proper end-of-line packaging techniques is critical because secondary packaging acts as a last line of defense for a company’s high quality products. It can be the deciding factor whether a product – and a company’s good reputation – arrive at its final destination in the desired condition.
Stretch Wrap 101 ~ Everything You Need To Know About Stretch Wrap.”Stretch Wrapping 101. U.S. Packaging & Wrapping LLC., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2016. https://www.uspackagingandwrapping.com/Stretch-Wrap-101.html
Greenberg, Eric F. “HACCP Advice for Packaging Makers.” Packaging World. PMMI Media Group, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2016. <https://www.packworld.com/applications/beverage/haccp-advice-packaging-makers>