The packaging specification market is expected to grow to around $1 trillion by 2020, according to the research firm, Smithers Pira (, making up around 200-plus million packaging SKUs around the world. With 60 million in the U.S. alone this number is growing daily, as is the complicated process of sharing specs and managing them, both internally and externally. This growing complexity impacts the entire value chain.

Today, there is no common method, technology solution or platform for handling packaging specifications and they typically end up being managed through disparate systems and solutions, such as emails, spreadsheets, binders and ERP systems. ERP & PLM systems are not built for SKU and specification management and specification repositories, generally PDF-based, are not comprehensive enough or allow intelligent data analysis.

Because of the lack of standard systems, it is a sad reality that companies typically manage the symptoms of problems and accepts them as the normal course of business and acceptable “institutional” costs. They add people, layer on processes, create task forces, restructure and insert software not designed for a specific purpose hoping that it can be modified to address the business needs and produce results.

The challenge with traditional technology and organizational solutions is that they mask the real problems. Tremendous time is spent, costs go up and the problems don’t go away – as soon as any variable changes, the problems reappear. Companies spend many millions of dollars to cover these additional institutional costs and still rarely solve the problem; it hasn’t been easy.

Simply, finding and addressing the real root cause of problems has been difficult; there are so many things out of your control and the complexities in the supply chain are increasing even further. Whether it is problems with suppliers and raw materials that create huge production costs, production downtime due to bad or missing parts/products, logistics problems on all ends, groups that cannot communicate or even the fear of changing suppliers since it creates an entirely new set of potential pitfalls – companies find it too difficult to get to the root cause.

All it takes is one bad spec to lead to a failure, which can lead to product recalls and potential devastating damage to the brand. Packaging specifications can ultimately impact product lead-time, as well as all activities across the internal and external value chain (marketing, sales, purchasing, logistics) and ultimately, impact the delivery to the customer.

Many companies today are still managing their packaging specifications in traditional software systems that are not specifically designed to manage specs, and the result is a proliferation of SKU’s, higher costs, greater business risk and inefficiencies throughout the value chain – which ultimately is driving costs higher and higher for every stakeholder. And, the answer is not to simply continue to demand price reductions from suppliers. Solving the root cause and ultimately decreasing costs across the entire value chain requires a new way of approaching specifications to ensure their accuracy.

Compounding the complexities already found within the value chain is consumers’ ever-increasing need for transparency and demanding to know, not only what is in their products, but also where they came from and who made them. Today’s disparate systems make it difficult or nearly impossible to implement traceability across a value chain. A simple review of the enormous number of FDA recalls due to not identifying allergens shows how difficult it is to maintain accurate specs from multiple suppliers and convey those specs accurately and timely on a product packaging label so consumers are aware of ingredients in their food.

Accurate specs enable the value chain to function faster and effectively, while inaccurate specifications impact logistics, transportation, speed to market, responsiveness to recall/failure and the very foundations or business, etc.

Solving the complexities of packaging specifications across value chains can produce enormous savings for all stakeholders. Achieving those savings requires cooperation among stakeholders and an easy-to-use, simple solution that enables the sharing of specification DNA, both internally and externally, across the entire value chain. With today’s mobile and cloud-based technology, the field of specification management is poised to take advantage of these latest advances in technology. Intelligent, cloud-based solutions that allow anywhere/any device access greatly enhance companies’ ability to deploy their specs anywhere, anytime to employees and suppliers around the world.

Furthermore, the DNA of billions of specifications creates an enormous amount of big data. With 200 million specifications, each with 30 attributes equates to six billion data points that can be analyzed. Big data analysis provides the ability to identify cost-saving trends and opportunities that are otherwise hidden in a myriad of unconnected, disparate systems. Opportunities, such as raw material indexing, new product development, green idea development, analyzing currency impacts on raw material, transportation optimization, capacity expansion and more.

Today, specifications are impacting all value chains and the impact is more negative than positive. With systems designed and built specifically for spec management, specifications will have a positive effect for every stakeholder across the value chain, no matter what the product.

specright is a specification management company with a vision to leverage specification expertise and cloud technology to improve the way specifications are shared, analyzed and audited. The company's mission is to empower customer efficiencies by providing Intelligent Specification Management Platforms that are available anytime, anywhere from any device. Founded in late 2014, specright is headquartered in Irvine, CA.