Packaging specifications are the backbone of your products' packaging system, yet not all companies internalize ownership of their specs.
Packaging specifications, aka specs, are the backbone of your product’s packaging system. They are the key communication tool to communicate our designs, requirements, and graphics to our packaging suppliers. Yet not all companies internalize ownership of their packaging specs, leaving a gap in their process on the quest towards quality that drives a Packaging Center of Excellence.
Packaging components will vary depending on material type and will often include a detailed drawing layout for production, a dieline for graphics and written directions to ensure conformance to ISO or FDA requirements.
Because the vast world of packaging touches all industries, packaging specifications will cover a similar wide range of materials and packaging types including corrugated fiberboard, paperboard, flexible films, bottles, closures, labels, pallets, and stretch film to name a few. When you consider the various tiers of primary, secondary and tertiary packaging within your value chain, the list will be quite expansive.
Currently packaging specs can live within enterprise planning resource (ERP) or existing product lifecycle management (PLM) systems. These platforms allow for internal process control, revision control and visibility across multiple sites and geographies.
However, not all companies are as advanced in identifying the value within packaging or especially owning those packaging specifications. In many instances, drawings and specifications are written and controlled by the packaging material suppliers. And while these suppliers also need their own specs to produce these materials, it leaves little control or ownership for the brand user.
Compiling and owning all of your packaging drawings, dielines, and specifications may be a long-term strategic activity, depending on the number of product SKUs and packaging components within your operations. But once you gather all this information there can be significant benefits for your organization:
1. Speed to react: When the time comes for change — to improve operational efficiency, address a quality concern, to implement sustainability programs, or execute a strategic sourcing initiative — having access to your specs can save days on the front end of your change management process. Easy access to digitized drawings and specs within your internal system enables fact-based collaboration to address any changes or modifications.
2. Competitive sourcing: When a single packaging vendor controls your design specifications it provides limited opportunities to shop other vendors for reduced costs, better service levels or improved quality. Pulling together bid packets without having your own digitized specifications can then be an arduous task requiring significant time and resources to compile these documents
3. Geographic flexibility/flexible operations: Having the ability to shift sources of supply or move manufacturing operations to different geographic locations allows for a lower rate of risk within your supply chain. Whether your company is looking to move manufacturing from China to Vietnam or from California to South Carolina, owning your digital packaging specifications can enable seamless transitions when these supply chain shifts are needed
4. Improved communications: Many companies operate with a centralized corporate packaging engineering team which support satellite plant manufacturing and production. Owning packaging specs within your systems can allow for fast and effective communication and collaboration with remote sites and cross-functional teams.
5. Version control: Following any new product launch, it’s common that packaging is optimized to maximize the product’s profitability. To achieve results, both designs and materials are often incrementally revised — changes to the primary, secondary, or tertiary packaging, or to all levels. Maintaining ownership of your packaging drawings and specifications allows for improved control managing these revisions along the way.
There can be great strategic value to internalizing and owning your packaging material specifications. Creating digitized specifications and owning these documents within your system is a foundational task on the road to establishing a Packaging Center of Excellence within your organization.