In a world shifting more and more toward e-commerce, packaging is increasingly the first tangible experience that someone may have with your brand or business. So how is your packaging delivering your brand’s promise to your customers?

Designing the “perfect” packaging operation solution for your business can be a daunting task. After all, there are many different types of equipment, materials and processes that can be combined in a seemingly infinite number of ways.  

What's really important is that the solutions you decide on work for your business. Working with a supplier that understands that no business is the same and a solution that works for one customer, no matter how similar, may not work for yours.

Plus, packaging must fill two important functions:

1) Your solution needs to protect your product, while 2) serving as an important customer touch-point. After all, packaging is often the first thing about a product that consumers notice. Packaging should reflect a brand and a business as well as the quality of product it contains. It needs to be functional, sufficiently protective and deliverable so that the packaging and contents both can be shipped without damage or other issues.

While there may not be one “perfect” packaging solution to suit every situation, there is certainly a solution that is right for your products and customers. Here are seven tips that will help you design a packaging solution that is perfect for your business.  

1) Form/Fill or Preformed: Choose Wisely

Form and fill equipment almost simultaneously forms and fills the bag with product. This option is available in both vertical and horizontal equipment to suit a variety of packaging needs, and is typically best for consumer packaged goods.

Preformed, on the other hand, fills a premade container with the right amount of product. This includes valve bags, open-mouth bags, boxes, pails, drums or intermediate bulk containers (IBCs).

Selecting the right package for your product will help determine the initial design of the equipment as well as the downstream accessories of your system, to include palletizing.

While form and fill is capable of much higher volumes and at a high speed, those aren’t the only considerations. Faster isn’t always better for business. While a faster packaging process offers less flexibility in bag shapes and styles, it also creates more scrap and waste than when using premade containers.  

Ultimately you need to consider what your marketing department — and consumers — require, as well as the logistical experience and budget of your organization to determine whether you should use form and fill or preformed packaging equipment. 

2) Listen to Your Product

In the end, it doesn’t matter what you think is best, because your product will determine the feeding technique that is needed for your packaging. For example, gravity, augers, vibratory trays and belt feeders all have use cases.

If your product has size variation (i.e., waxy chemicals, coal, cereals or cheese shreds), a belt feeder or vibratory tray is best. If your product is dense and flows freely like corn, grains or sugar, a gravity bagging machine may be a better option. 

Auger machines are used for flakes, powders and any other material that can be heated or ground. They are commonly used for ground coffee, calcium carbonate, brown sugar and many other applications.  

Regardless of the type of product and packaging solution needed, don’t forget about shipping, delivery or storage needs, as it is key for each product to arrive at its destination and sustain the proper shelf life without issue.

Because there are so many variations of product, each product’s unique characteristics dictate the best technique to move your product into its packaging container.

3) Decide to Be Fast … or Accurate  

That’s not to say you have to be the turtle or the hare, but increases in feed rate almost always come at the cost of accuracy. To ensure as much accuracy as possible while being practical, it’s critical that you define the performance criteria that will be used to measure success. Our Packaging Machinery Pre-Investment Checklist is a great tool to help with this.

For example, if speed is most important to you, consider net weight feeding systems that weigh product in a bucket within the equipment for measuring while the next container is being put into place. If accuracy is your greater concern, then consider gross weight systems that zero out the weight of the bag and equipment and ensure the weight of the packaging is accurate.  

4) Don’t Forget About Your Facility

When looking for the perfect packaging solution for your customers and products, it’s easy to forget that you also must consider the facility housing the equipment and the technical experience of the workers within that facility. If your equipment doesn’t fit well in the space or isn’t operated properly, you will have more headaches than the investment is worth in the long run.

5) Remember the Golden Rule of Packaging

Wasted space is wasted money. If you don’t maximize the efficiency of the space in your packaging solution, you are leaving money on the table. That being said, over-packing containers can lead to downstream issues. To marry the best of both worlds, consider adjustable options that allow you to ensure a good fit.

6) Install (and Maintain) the System Properly

Equipment is only as good as its installation and its maintenance. Too often, “perfect” packaging systems are designed but corners are cut during installation and regular preventive maintenance is neglected, derailing the success of the entire system.

To combat this and ensure peak operation, every part of the system must be consistently verified and tested to ensure it is running at optimal performance and safety.

7) Integrate Before You Buy  

The perfect packaging solution is greater than the sum of its parts. When designing your system, ensure you can harmoniously integrate the different equipment together before implementing your solutions. There are ways to improve efficiencies and reduce costs by considering ways to connect each part of your packaging line to one another for a more seamless process, reducing the amount of hands required to touch the product throughout production.

Packaging isn’t one size fits all. Find the right solution for your product, consumers and facility by making strategic decisions about what you really need from your solution.