While often an underappreciated step in the manufacturing process, the packaging line – if not properly maintained, supplied and managed – has the potential to snowball into warehouse overstocking, missed shipments and even canceled orders. However, the bright side is that the majority of common pitfalls can be avoided with a little planning and preparation. Here are the five most common pitfalls and solutions for averting these issues.

The world might be consumed with all things digital, but any business looking to truly find out what customers think about their products and services needs to recognize the value of using traditional paper surveying methods. The advantages of simply remaining with paper include higher response rates from intended targets, the opportunity to target specific customers and, most importantly, the assurance that the data collected is accurate.

Surveys and customer research play an important part in developing new products and services that hit the mark with consumers. Information gleaned from survey research also is critical for improving customer experiences and for strategic decision-making. 

Heading out the gates of the safety of the corporate fort can be an adrenalin-fueled moment, but it also can draw some serious market and competitive fire. It is critical to have a staff on board that understands how X can move, change, become a different size or just vaporize in the time designated to capture it. There have been untold instances of creating what was thought to be the best plan for the target market only to arrive at its designated location and have one of four possibilities mentioned above occur. 

Getting heads down in the pursuit of corporate objectives can have a blinding effect. You’ve got to look up occasionally and make all of the necessary adjustments to your arrival and delivery paths and even leave room for the no-go decision. We have all heard the phrase that “arriving at a gunfight with a knife” is quite the precarious position to find oneself in. In the same vein, getting to your target market and being surprised by its changed dynamics created by such things as competitive activity, new buying habits, new packaging, revised purchasing patterns or diminished demand is not where a company wants to find itself. 

The second issue involves unsecure seals. This can result in cartons “popping” open, leaving products exposed and increasing the risk of product damage or contamination, and cartons being refused at delivery. Theft is another result of unsecure seals. A weak seal makes it easy to slide a hand into the carton to remove items, frequently without a trace. Issues such as these are often caused by improper application by a tape applicator or not using the right type of tape for the application.

A final, often-overlooked issue is damage due to sharp instruments. Something as simple as a knife can wreak havoc along the supply chain. Knife cuts and nicks cause product damage and may cause items to be deemed unsalable, resulting in costly returns. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute estimate that damaged products and other unsalables cost consumer packaged goods manufacturers $15 billion annually or 1 to 2 percent of a manufacturer’s gross sales. 

In particular, the snack food industry has enhanced its on-the-go and resealable options based on feedback from consumers. The following are examples of how some brands are introducing different types of packaging in response to demand from consumers.

Portable Food Packaging

Giants Snacks recently introduced a new resealable packaging option for its Giants Sunflower Seeds in conjunction with TechniPac and Zip-Pak. Giants Snacks not only added a resealable and pourable opening for its products for on-the-go use, but also designed its initial tearing process and zipper to be consistently secure for long-term functionality. 

However, there is good news for these suppliers. Although their input prices are increasing, rising demand for paper and packaging products will allow suppliers to pass these input costs down to buyers, thereby keeping prices high. Additionally, paper-based packaging suppliers often can secure discounts by leveraging significant buying power and negotiating with wood pulp suppliers to reduce prices.

The year 2011 marked global wood pulp’s highest price point in more than 30 years. Despite declines in the past three years, prices remain at historically high levels. IBISWorld expects the global price of wood pulp to rise at an annualized rate of 1 percent in the three years to 2017, driven by a worldwide increase in construction and industrial activity.

My favorite definition of A-players comes from Geoff Smart in his book “Who.” He defines A-players as candidates who have at least a 90 percent chance of achieving a set of outcomes that only 10 percent of possible candidates could achieve, and are the employees who accept responsibility and don’t make excuses. Furthermore, A-players actively find solutions to problems and acknowledge reality. Without a team of A-players, it becomes challenging for a business leader to create a company culture that encourages performance. 

When I became one of the owners of ShelfGenie in 2006, the company was centered on a family culture. However, when we started to grow quickly over the next several years, it became a priority for us to switch to a team culture by upgrading our staff and building a team of A-players who could be the drivers and lead our company to the next stage of business development.

Traditionally, brand owners have focused their packaging spending on aesthetics to differentiate their product from on-shelf competition and to win at what has been called “the first moment of truth.” Less attention has been paid to the consumer experience with packaging beyond the store.

There are several more touch points along the “consumer packaging journey” – including transport, storage, usage and disposal – at which packaging can deliver delight or frustration. How packaging performs during this extended “second moment of truth” is directly linked to overall product satisfaction, and it strongly influences repeat purchase and brand loyalty.

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