In this blog series I’m looking at the, often very necessary, issues of product packaging complexity and how these can be addressed via appropriate product portfolio, examining the packaging facility design and looking at the key attributes of product packaging. In part four, I offered my top tips on optimising the packaging facility. Here in part five, I will be exploring the topic of product packaging, offering my top tips on standardising brand, component sizes and templates and the importance of looking ahead and planning for future legislation.
Tip 14: Control brand variation
Do you have a process to control the brand image and prevent unnecessary or undesirable proliferation of brand designs?
It is not uncommon for companies to have a range of brand images that have arisen historically:
• Locally generated brand names and brand images.
• Response to local market regulations requiring unique local naming or branding.
• Legacy brand images from acquired companies who once marketed the product in a specific country.
• 2nd brands or co-marketed products.
If standard brand images and packaging artwork designs can be maintained, it presents the opportunity to take a template approach to artwork, improving efficiency and reducing risk or error. This is discussed further in Tip 16. Many companies now exercise strict control over brand images and packaging designs at a global or regional level, to ensure they present a common identity to consumers. It is extremely difficult to rationalise brand images after the event, due to regulatory constraint and consumer resistance and therefore clearly defined and mandated brand guidelines are an important tool in controlling brand variation up front.
Tip 15: Control platform sizes
Do you define and maintain a set of standard platform sizes?
Components can come in multiple sizes and shapes and the challenge is how these can be controlled to an optimum number. Your approach to this will be heavily impacted by your supply chain design.
• If you have a few global or regional factories, rationalisation can be targeted at a local level.
• If you have a high number of factories supplying multiple dose forms to many markets, you will be presented with a significant number of inter-dependencies making rationalisation more challenging.
• If you purchase finished products from third parties, you may be restricted to each supplier’s standards.
Many companies will have combinations of all of the above, so your approach may be global, regional or by product/supply chain. For printed packaging components, the challenge is to reduce the range down to the smallest practical number of profiles. This gives less profiles to manage and will aid line change-overs. It is also a pre-requisite for most types of late customisation. Platform sizes are normally driven by the size of primary components and so it is often best to start with a rationalisation of primary component sizes and shapes to reach an optimum range of platforms. For other components, such as spoons and measuring cups, try to rationalise to the minimum number of variants.
Tip 16: Standardise artwork templates and layouts
Are there standard templates and layouts for artworks?
Standardising the brand image, packaging artwork design and component sizes, permits the use of standard artwork templates and layouts. In this approach, global or regional templates can be created including all the standard design content. Areas for specific market or regional content can be provided on the artwork and these can be populated when specific local variants are required, either creating market specific artworks or as part of an on-line printing activity with semi-finished components. This saves having to create a completely new artwork every time, which has obvious compliance benefits. It also ensures that areas such as overprint areas are always in the correct locations. Furthermore, it facilitates using tools to automatically add content to the template and automatically create the artwork.
Tip 17: Minimise fonts, illustrations and graphical elements
Are there defined standard fonts, illustrations, and graphical elements?
Artwork content such as fonts, illustrations and other graphical content can provide hidden sources of complexity. It is common for companies to build large ranges of content that need to be stored, maintained and updated. Proliferation of fonts may not seem significant, but licenses need to be managed and fonts need to be assured to ensure accurate replication across different platforms and machines. It also results in dilution of the brand image. To control fonts, a defined house style set of fonts should be mandated within the corporate and brand guidelines with clear processes for the introduction of new fonts. Similarly, illustrations and graphical elements should be held in controlled libraries with standard images for particular uses.
Tip 18: Packaging design
Have you designed your packaging to maximise the opportunities to deal with complexity?
All of the different techniques we have discussed in these tips offer opportunities for dealing with low volume products and managing complexity, but they may not be feasible with your existing packaging designs. It may therefore be necessary to revisit some of the structural or artwork elements of the design to exploit specific techniques. These can include:
• Changing component artwork to make it standard across multiple countries (or even removing all market specific information).
• Grouping all market specific information on certain areas of the artwork (like the EU blue box concept).
• Providing space on components and artwork for on-line printing requirements or application of labels.
• Reducing colours to make on-line printing easier.
• Changing component size to provide more printing space.
• Providing pockets or flaps on cartons for attaching leaflets and booklets.
• Standardising sizes, platforms, layouts and templates.
• Using colour coding, poka-yoke and pharmacodes or data matrix codes to aid control of assembly operations.
It is therefore important to ensure that a holistic approach to packaging design is taken, ensuring effective design for manufacture.
Tip 19: Plan for future legislation
Are you already planning for how you will introduce required future legislation?
No matter how well you manage your current portfolio, there will always be new challenges to drive further complexity. New aspects of legislation will arise, requiring new solutions to provide. At the time of writing these included:
• QR codes
• Tamper evidence
• Temperature monitoring
It is therefore worthwhile planning ahead for future legislative drivers and considering:
• How well are you sensing what is likely to happen in the future?
• What changes do you want to influence and how are you engaged in that influencing?
• How early do you mobilise to start introducing new capabilities?
• What alliances and partnerships do you need to establish to develop new solutions and supply strategies?
• How do you integrate necessary changes into normal business to avoid the incremental workload?
• How do you ensure packaging design activities are cognisant of potential future requirements?
• How do you track progress to ensure compliance is achieved?
In the next and final part of this blog series, I’ll be pulling together our learnings on packaging complexity and examining the different types of complexity.
Should you have any questions about this or any of my other blogs, if you would like to discuss the packaging complexities within your company or would simply like to request a copy of my booklets, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly on my email Andrew.firstname.lastname@example.org