Packaging also refers to the process of design, evaluation, and production of packages.
Packaging can be described as a coordinated system of preparing goods for transport, warehousing, logistics, sale and end use.
Packaging contains, protects, preserves, transports, informs, and sells. In many countries it is fully integrated into government, business, institutional, industrial and personal use.
All things considered
Packaging is often an agglomeration of conflicting and competitive groups, all business related and comprising of large numbers of individual enterprises, all motivated by the need to provide goods and services for customers and at the same time generating profit.
The responsibility of ensuring all this works well lies often in the hands of the packaging engineer or technologist. He or she steers all those involved in a particular packaging project towards a common goal, usually the launch or relaunch of a product. The packaging technologist at an early stage in the project (and timing is often critical) needs to involve the converting equipment producers, who provide the machinery to transform the basic elements of the earth into raw materials; to transform those into packaging materials; and to help marry packaging materials to the product.
Then to the packaging equipment suppliers who provide the machinery required for packaging operation step. Success often depends how well the packaging technologist combines the afore mentioned with the concepts and understanding of the raw materials, packaging material supply, convertors, equipment suppliers and suppliers of ancillary materials and services. He or she needs to comprehend the totality of packaging.
The user is not the consumer. The user of packaging materials is the food, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, hardware, furniture or appliance manufacturer who intends to protect their product.
The stuff it’s made of
So the packaging technologist needs to have a sound understanding of packaging related raw materials, what can be used for what type of products, always considering the commercial, economical and environmental aspects of each material and at the same time seriously considering the marketing desires and needs to ultimately make the sale. Very broadly the potential materials that can be considered would be:
- Paperboard and folding cartons
- Corrugated fibreboard
- Composite cans
- Cups, tubs and trays
- Flexible packaging
For each of the materials listed above, one needs to consider the possible compatibility issues, shelf life requirements, equipment requirements, machine packaging/filling speeds, cost, availability of the material supply ongoing, and suitability.
Then the need to consider ancillary materials, e.g. decoration, coatings, pigments, solvents, lacquers, primers, binders, adhesives, plasticizers, inks, dyes, resins, starch, tapes, closures, sealing devices, dispensers, bar-coding and the list goes on. Bearing in mind that each of the above is a science of its own.
Coming and going
The aspects of supply chain and distribution is an important consideration in terms of the end shape and size of the packaging, as it directly relates to how well it fits on a pallet or a container in this country or overseas (its important to remember that pallet sizes vary from country to country).
A good knowledge is required by the packaging technologist in relation to who supplies or distributes what machinery, what equipment is suitable for which type of packaging. Also one must have an understanding of converting equipment, packaging machinery in relation to what area of packaging that packaging technologist is concerned with, for example, canning, bottling, pouching, filling or wrapping or for that matter a combination of any of the aforementioned disciplines of packaging. The packaging requirements will also be affected by whether it is food, confectionery, pharmaceutical, cosmetics, agriculture, or simply non-food.
The packaging technologist must have a sound knowledge of the various requirements as stipulated by the country’s governing packaging related laws and rules, trade association requirements, while also not forgetting the consumers’ specific requirements relating to packaging. In Australia the two leading grocery companies have very detailed and specific packaging requirements that need to be strictly adhered to, should you want to be one of their suppliers.
Attention to detail
It is clear, therefore, that packaging shares a common forum with many other professions. With a good understanding of the science and technology of packaging, the attention to the details required and the need for a packaging department, focusing on these areas will improve an organisation packaging tenfold.
Image courtesy of https://www.encoproducts.co.uk