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Understand your filling automation

It’s vital that you have clear understanding of your automation when specifying attributes, variables and the supporting documentation that will underpin your work and ultimately your product quality. This means getting into your factory and fillers, talking to your engineers, understanding production speeds, bottlenecks, design for manufacturing requirements and other equipment-based nuances. The aim here is simple: packaging that can be filled, labelled and closed at an appropriate output and quality level with minimal fuss or efficiency impact.

Appropriate attributes and variables

Now you understand your suppliers, automation and cost base you are ready to specify fit for purpose packaging. Attributes in my world are the inherent characteristics of a part – for example structure, shape, colour. A variable has a numerical range or criteria and is usually accompanied by a test or method of measurement. During this phase, depending on the maturity of your organisation you may well find some further gaps in protocols, package tests and measures. Treat this as a good thing rather than a failure. Uncovering one’s faults and putting a plan in place to remedy them increases your team’s knowledge, competences and develops qualitative output. Don’t underestimate the people development aspect of putting good specs and standards in place. We also used this phase of our project to pull in areas traditionally outside our umbrella of responsibility, such as high value tooling and secondary packaging, with further positive benefits to the business and personal learnings.

The benefits

So, you’ve increased your knowledge, defined your attributes and variables and have plans in place to fill any gaps in supporting protocols. What are the benefits you can you now expect to reap?

Starting with new supplier introduction you have an identity. The specification is your consistent point of reference and standard. You can categorically state your expected quality levels, protocols and expectations. You have your own baseline and are not governed by suppliers’ defaults. This identity will eventually filter through every part of your quality system, providing one consistent thread for activities such as certificate of conformance and facilitating a journey towards a more vendor assurance-based quality narrative if desired.

The resulting baselines will allow your organisation to more pragmatically take on cost vs quality-based scenarios. Clarity of cost drivers and functionality criteria will also combine to give your customer a much more consistent product experience, both functionally and aesthetically vs brand tier and finished good cost.

You will now have a powerful searchable tool. Not only will this save you many work hours. The resulting detailed documentation of materials usage can be a powerful measure of where you are and where you want to be in terms of sustainability, reduction, waste and compliance remits.

Good, consistent component specs will also provide the launch pad for good product specs. The next logical stop along the journey, in my opinion, followed on by logistics efficiencies at a tertiary level.

If you make it that far, you will likely reach what I see as the holy grail of this exercise. A position whereby you know your packaging commodities so fluently that generic component specs, finished good specs, quality documents and test protocols intersect to a point that for a new product you are literally only defining the unique attributes and variables. You have then found product nirvana and can either retire happy or start all over again.