As a brand manager, production or plant manager, your primary focuses include your bottom line. Packaging affects many aspects of your product line and with that, your business growth. Revenue growth and cost reduction can be tied directly to the way you package and ship your products. Your industrial packaging materials and processes need to adhere to certain standards of quality and safety. How efficiently you can execute these properly is extremely important to your business.

The machinery used to package your products comprise just a few of the many moving parts to your packaging process. Everything from the materials used to the shipping and payment dates can make a change in the way your finished goods look, how much they cost per piece, and also how they are distributed to the retail marketplace or the consumers home. Efficiency is key and can make or break your products success, and your operation as a whole.

Here is a prepared a list of seven ways packaging more efficiently can improve your production process can help you and your business grow and maintain that growth:

1. Green Packaging

Flexible Packaging has come a long way since the days of PVC films being the only available and viable option for product manufacturers of any kind. With developments in new polyolefin materials, it’s now possible to cut, dye, print, and design flexible packaging that performs, in most cases, better than corrugated and glass packaging while remaining environmentally-friendly.

These lightweight and durable films are recyclable and can significantly reduce shipping/freight costs when compared to the alternative materials. Flexible films also allow your product to have a smaller footprint which further reduced costs of shipping and also provided more flexibility for shelf placement.

Packaging trends in 2017 and 2018 also show that biodegradable flexible packaging materials are emerging as an increasingly viable field. Features like biodegradability have been shown to make a marked impact on consumer purchasing decisions. From an ethical standpoint, your business is making an eco-decision that benefits the environment while promoting your brand’s corporate responsibility.

2. Eradicate Last-Minute Decisions 

A common mistake many businesses make is leaving their packaging decisions until the very end of the production process. This can lead to having to opt for large, clunky and more expensive designs due to budget constraints or lack of time to prepare and approve. It may sound obvious, but it’s crucial to keep your product packaging front-of-mind.

Start with an itemized list of your design requirements and put them into play at the onset of your product’s life. Consider the cost of packaging, how much space on the shelf your product will need and how much space you can afford in-house for production. Have a clear plan for the information needed on the packaging and labeling. Plan out how you can deliver a concise message to your target audience that speaks to their needs while being clear and informative.

3. Upgrade & Maintain Packaging Machinery

Sometimes the problem with a packaging process lies within the packaging line, the machines that are used to package your products. It may call for a change in your originally planned budget, but making a capital investment in packaging machinery can provide unexpected cost reductions in different areas of your overall product and finished goods development. For example, you could see a reduced overhead on your plant floors in the cost of labor and reduced product damage. This is the kind of improvement will more likely be recognized over time, but newer technologies can provide a much faster ROI. If you aren’t sure of the industry specifics or what new machinery will work for your business, many companies opt to bring in a Packaging Professional to perform a packaging line audit and offer their insights for suggestions on changes within a budget that meets their needs.

The next important step with machinery both new and old is to create a regular inspection and maintenance schedule to properly maintain it! Preventative maintenance performed regularly at specific times throughout the year by a trained professional or employee will ensure the longevity and reliability of your packaging line. Along with your inspection/maintenance schedule, create a protocol to report and track errors.

Another way to keep your machine uptime and productivity high is to gather an inventory of spare parts that are known to wear fast on your specific machine and for those unexpected breakdowns. Keeping a spare parts inventory on-hand at your facility can reduce downtime on your packaging line whether its planned or not. Performing regular preventative maintenance or working with a supplier that can do it for you can help identify issues with wear and tear before they become an emergency.

4. Reduce Labels

A popular option for businesses hoping to retroactively redesign their product packaging for cost reduction is switching to printed packaging instead of labels. Stick-on labels are designed and purchased in addition to your packaging materials in the first place, adding to costs including shipping of the labels themselves. Printing the label directly onto the packaging materials you opt for cuts an entire step out of the process altogether and in almost any case will cost less. This also will save on overhead and reduce production time. It ties in with point #1 in this article by curbing your environmental impact, as well.

Consider the colors needed for your packaging design as well. Does the back of your blister packaging need 4-colors to get the proper message across? Black and white print costs much less than color prints and can save quite a bit in your packaging costs depending on your output.

You may be able to reduce costs and run more efficiently with a more simplistic design, too. Some packaging trends point to minimalism and simplicity as a driver in consumer purchase decisions.

5. Gather Data

Pay special attention to price changes in the materials you use for packaging your product. Cardstock and polyolefin prices, for example, can fluctuate almost month-to-month and depending on your volume and when you will need a refill can have a significant impact on how much you will spend on packaging. Look to the pricing changes of your material and your available space for storage and buy in bulk when possible to get the best prices and manage your packaging costs more easily. Another good tip is to find and work with a supplier you feel you can trust who will keep an eye on these things so you don’t have to.

Record and monitor metrics for your film waste and damaged goods damaged goods during the production process. Monitor this to identify the cause of damages and remedy them quickly, and find ways to reduce your packaging waste.

6. Downgauge & Automate

Flexible plastics like stretch film provide product protection throughout your products’ lifecycles. Stretch film is formulated to be durable enough to manage large, palletized loads in transit while still maintaining the structural integrity of the packaging and products contained within. Lighter gauges of stretch are now able to handle more load capacity than they used to, and automation of end-of-line packaging offers greater cost reduction along with the ability to run a faster production without sacrificing safety.

7. Start Now

It’s important to recognize the impact that packaging has on your overall business and to take action and improve your processes and your overall packaging now. The longer you put this off, the more you are spending without need. Packaging trends and the internet of things have made it easy to find inspiration for package design and connecting with professionals to assist you in maximizing your productivity with your packaging lines.  The route you take to efficiency through packaging is up to you, use these ideas above to make start making changes now.