Marketers, here’s how your packaging design choices affect manufacturability

By Harpak-ULMA
Posted In : packaging design

As a marketer looking to drive sales, your packaging designs likely focus on product differentiation, consumer convenience, and consumer expectations. Designing the package can be an artistic experience. However, you need to also be aware of the manufacturability of your design and your engineering team’s goals.

After all, engineers are responsible for transforming your concepts into reality, ensuring they can be manufactured efficiently. Striking a balance between your goals, and those of your engineering team will help you avoid several common design mistakes that can slow down the packaging design process.

The general rule

The more complex your packaging design, the slower your time-to-market will be. Adding components to your design such as reclosable features will add engineering time. Simpler designs, such as flexible or semi-rigid modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), which are relatively standard, will be faster to market.

However, complex features can be necessary in some situations to differentiate your packaging from the competition and contribute to consumer convenience.

Common mistakes

When marketing and engineering teams aren’t aligned, mistakes can happen in the packaging design process that result in wasted effort and time.

Speed up the packaging design process and make life easier for your engineers by avoiding the following common mistakes:

  • Packaging depth. Let’s say your packaging is to be thermoformed. The plastic can only stretch so deep before it breaks, especially when holding the weight of your product. Thermoforming capabilities differ, but that’s why you need to be aware of your machine’s specs and the materials you use.

Let’s narrow in on an example of a time packaging depth impacted the feasibility of the design. The marketing team wanted the thermoformed plastic to stretch down five inches deep to package a stack of hamburger patties. Considering the material, and the width of the package, we determined that the deepest the package can go without negatively impacting its strength was four inches. We worked with their team to redesign the package accordingly, averting a potentially costly design mistake.

  • Trying to do too much on one packaging machine. In the example below, marketing and engineering knew what they wanted: A semi-rigid tray format and a flexible format on the same thermoformer.
    While forming both these packages on the same machine can be accomplished, changeovers would be difficult.

Specifically, this customer wanted to run a flexible bag for sliced cheese and a semi-rigid tray for diced cheese on the same machine. The machine they wanted to use was too big, and the system for changeovers would be too complex, meaning switching between the two package types would take too long. In the end, it was determined that two separate machines would better suit the customer’s needs when factoring in their desired output speed and the time they’d be wasting during changeovers.

In another example, a customer wanted to consolidate Machine A — which they used for flexible zipper packages and reclosable flexible film vacuum packs — and Machine B, which was doing a semi-rigid pack, into one machine. The way they were doing each package made it impossible to get all three packs onto one machine. Marketing was guided by engineering to change the semi-rigid pack design so all three could be done on one machine — a solution that worked well for the customer.

Additional design considerations that will affect manufacturability

Material selection is key for pack functionality. Consumer convenience, manufacturability, presentation, and shipping capabilities are all affected by the pack’s material. You should work with your engineering team early on in the design process to make sure the material and functions you incorporate in your designs are feasible.

Be sure to follow these packaging material selection tips:

  • Select a microwavable material for refrigerated chicken in a convenience store to make the package more functional for the consumer.
  • Use transparent materials that work with modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) as well as easy-to-open features for crowded on-the-go shelf spaces so the consumer can see what they’re going to eat.
  • Use materials that can stand up on shelves and reclose for presentation and consumer convenience.
  • Use a strong sealant for airfreighted packaging so the package can withstand the pressure and won’t open prior to getting to their destination.
  • Understand how and where your packaging will be shipped. If you match the dimensions of your pack within the case, they don’t move around and become damaged during shipment.
  • Recyclable and flexible materials can be used, depending on your brand’s sustainability and performance goals, but always make sure they conform to the machine’s capabilities.

Need help designing and prototyping packaging?

A prototyping and design service will ensure the efforts of your marketing and engineering teams are aligned. Packaging equipment OEMs have intimate knowledge of the machines, and can help bring your designs to life.

If you come to us with an idea of what you want to do, we offer a prototyping service that will guide you toward the best way to accomplish it.

We’ll account for the interests of both your marketing and engineering teams, weighing factors including:

  • Sustainability
  • Feasibility
  • Presentation
  • Shelf life

If you’re designing new packaging for a new or an existing product, take these considerations in mind to make the design process go smoother for you and your engineers. And if you need help with prototyping, we can help. Let’s talk about your design, and how we can help bring it to life.