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Articles from 2017 In June


Borden Cheese redesign unifies past and present

Borden Cheese redesign unifies past and present
Packaging redesign reaches across Borden's entire 120-SKU portfolio of cheese products including shreds, chunks and slices.

A revitalization of the iconic brand balances the past with the present to preserve what matters while making the packaging relevant to today’s consumers.

Any way you slice, dice or shred it, a redesign for an iconic brand in the dairy or any product aisle is backed by a lot of research, brainstorming and thoughtful decision making. That’s what Dairy Farmers of America faced for a new packaging design for its Borden Cheese, a brand familiar to generations of consumers. In a look that blends the past with the present, new packaging pays homage to the 8,000 family-owned American dairy farms that make up the Borden Cheese family while resonating with consumers.

Packaging Digest interviews Flavia Panza, senior director, marketing, Borden Cheese, Dairy Farmers of America (Kansas City, KS), about this shakeup for the entire portfolio of 120 SKUs across eight lines of cheese products including shreds, chunks and slices.

When was the previous design? And why the redesign now?

Panza: Our last major redesign was introduced in 2007. The Borden logo was changed in 2011, but the packaging otherwise remained the same.  Our packaging refresh today represents just one of the many efforts to revitalize the Borden Cheese brand—a long-term project rooted deeply in consumer insights and an understanding of the needs of the dairy market.

What was the timeframe from start to finish?

Panza: We began this journey in early 2016, starting with a major design exploration that included many rounds of concepts and revisions, followed by quantitative/qualitative testing and focus groups.  The new packaging graphics began reaching store shelves this spring.

What were the basic goals? What elements were retained?

Panza: At the onset of the project, our overall goal was to understand what elements of the current packaging were considered “mandatory” from a consumer point of view. In other words, what elements had to stay in the new design? What aspects of the brand resonated most, and what were seen as less necessary or superfluous? Our research surveyed respondents on everything from overall thoughts on the current design to the messages being conveyed through the packaging, as well as what kind of information consumers look for at the point of purchase.

We learned that the current Borden Cheese logo – including the unique font and Elsie the Cow – was iconic and well known.  Additionally, the red color from our legacy packaging also signified “Borden Cheese” and represented differentiation from others in the dairy aisle. We found that consumers were drawn to the wholesome, nostalgic feel of the brand and its packaging, which presented a unique challenge in our efforts to refresh and update such an established brand.

What’s the new design hierarchy and did that change from before?

Panza: The design hierarchy essentially did not change. We did, however, apply a consistent aesthetic language across the portfolio, including placement of standard packaging elements and color cues for various flavors.

One notable change is how we communicate our farm heritage and ownership.  Our research revealed that although our outgoing package indicated these aspects, consumers did not understand them.  To that end, a farm theme is more effectively integrated into the design, without being too overt or distracting. Our hope is that consumers will be drawn to this and feel good about their purchase supporting American farm families.

What new aspects reflect changing consumer preferences?

Panza: The farm landscape reflects our dedication to the American, family-owned dairy farms that make Borden Cheese what it is today. All of our packages proudly state “Real Cheese, Real Good” to highlight the nutritional value and quality of the product.

Additionally, we have added more information to the back of the labels to share our brand story, including our rich heritage and commitment to more than 8,000 family-owned dairy farms across the United States. The back panel of many SKUs now features a farm family—actual members of our dairy cooperative that help make Borden Cheese possible.

Next: Difficult decisions, consumer tests, lesson learned, challenges and more…

Product comparison of New (left) and Old packaging: Elements fundamental to the brand's heritage were retained, though modified for today's consumer.

What was the hardest thing to change or eliminate?

Panza: When we began this process, most of the members of the team were fairly new to the brand.  Therefore, consumer research was vital to our understanding of Borden Cheese consumers and their perspective on our packaging.  As we learned, we didn’t have license for a complete facelift, as many elements of the legacy design resonated with consumers as uniquely Borden. So the challenge became:  How do we stay true to the heritage of the brand while also positioning it as revitalized and more in tune with today’s consumer?

Were any consumer tests or metrics or analysis used?

Panza: Yes – we relied on quantitative-qualitative tests, as well as focus groups and surveys.  Throughout each of these, we examined many consumer perspectives to help us arrive at the winning design that is now on shelf.

What lessons were learned from the previous design or in this iteration?

Panza: In terms of design, one important learning was that consumers value transparency, so we ensured that our packaging would include a large window through which the product could be viewed. Because cheese is often used in recipes, we also made it easy for consumers to gauge the number of cups or portions contained in our packages.

We also gained an appreciation for having everyone–our internal team, agency partners, supply chain, and others–on the same page throughout every step of the process. Arriving at consensus is difficult in general, but you can imagine how many opinions surface when redesigning packaging for an entire brand!  The best measure we set forth, from the very beginning, was to allow consumer research and data to act as our North Star. This helped to keep everyone aligned and on track.

The biggest challenge was…?

Panza: Once we arrived at a winning design, we found that the work had really just begun.  Every item required detailed and lengthy audits by many cross-functional groups, including legal, R&D, operations, customers, and – of course – our extended marketing team. Another significant challenge was strategically managing inventory levels to ensure an efficient transition from old graphics to new. Each of these phases required close, diligent project management and organization.

Were any structural changes made to the packaging?

Panza: The structure of our packaging has not changed.  We still provide consumers convenient bags, such as our shredded cheese’s stand-up pouch with easy-open access.

Can you credit the companies that assisted you?

Panza: Design Partners in Racine, WI, was the principal design agency for this project.  Lundmark Advertising of Kansas City, MO, provided day-to-day operational support and coordination across our partners, such as the several printers we use. Our consumer research was conducted by Chicago-based C+R.

Anything else to point out that may not be apparent?

Panza: Packaging, in many ways, represents the “front lines” of the Borden Cheese brand. When consumers see our products on the shelf, we have an opportunity to connect with them and convey our unique story and values. They may not know it, but they were at the heart of this project every step of the way. Their insight and voice directly informed how we shaped every element of our new graphics. This consumer-centric approach continues to be integral to the overall revitalization of the Borden Cheese brand.

What Amazon buying Whole Foods might do for ecommerce packaging

What Amazon buying Whole Foods might do for ecommerce packaging
Grocery ecommerce will advance, say experts, because of Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods. Will packaging for fresh foods bought online evolve too?

A game changer. That’s what ecommerce and business experts are calling Amazon’s recently announced acquisition of Whole Foods. Amazon has already been leading in ecommerce packaging, especially for durable goods. How will this venture change the retail landscape, especially for fresh foods and beverages? And what might it mean for product packaging?

Packaging Digest asked a trio of analysts (see their bios at the end of the article) for their opinion on the deal and its probable packaging impacts:

• Scott Deutsch is the president of Ehrhardt + Partner, North America, a global provider of warehouse management systems (WMS)/warehouse control systems (WCS)/voice solutions.

• Stephen Kaufman, is the chief product officer of BLUE Software, a label and artwork management solutions provider.

• Dan Wilkinson is chief commercial officer of 1WorldSync, a multi-enterprise, global product information network with offices in the Americas, Asia Pacific and Europe. 

Dan, you’ve said you think this acquisition of a trusted grocery partner could place Amazon as the clear market leader in e-grocery. Why is that so important?

Wilkinson: Trust has been one of the biggest barriers for the grocery industry in the shift online. Historically, consumers have been adamant in their desire to touch and feel a perishable food item before purchasing it, and only in the last couple of years have organizations been able to slowly gain consumer trust to purchase perishables online.

Whole Foods’ has built its brand on a reputation of trust, using its organic-only products and detailed product content approach to drive loyalty with its customers. With this acquisition, Amazon absorbs that reputation of trust and gains access to Whole Foods’ loyal customer base. Other retailers in the online grocery industry have struggled with this, including Amazon, due to its position as a marketplace, not a pure-play retailer.

Along with Whole Foods’ brand reputation, Amazon gains 431 new fulfillment and distribution centers across the nation, giving them greater power to improve fulfillment of grocery products and improve trust to acquire new grocery customers. With Whole Foods’ brick-and-mortar stores and Amazon’s powerful ecommerce technology, the company has effectively solved the last-mile fulfillment barrier that has prevented widespread consumer and retailer adoption of omni-channel grocery.

Industry experts have speculated that Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods is a strategic way of expanding Amazon’s distribution of fresh foods bought through ecommerce. What do you think and why? 

Kaufman: Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods might indeed be a method for expansion of fresh foods distribution, but the move goes much farther than that.

At the heart of this acquisition is Amazon’s pursuit of a richer and deeper experience with its customers.

You can only develop so much of a relationship with a web page and a box. The consumer is looking for engagement that can best be served in a crafted environment like a store. Much like Apple, Amazon realizes that a store can become an emotional destination, and Whole Foods already has developed this type of relationship with shoppers: 460 stores in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom, and $14 billion is more than an experiment.

Amazon also realizes that eventually Walmart and others will catch up with online retailing; Amazon wants to move into Walmart’s space to make it defend its home turf.

Add to this notion the idea that Millennials are increasingly more aware of where food (and especially fresh food) is sourced. Whole Foods’ supply chains only span a few counties for some products based on “buy local” sentiments. Amazon will find a way to bind these micro-chains to online fresh shopping, while simultaneously leveraging the in-store experience with the same consumer.

Expect to see a new blended experience between online and retail where online orders can be picked up at Whole Foods, and items ordered and purchased at Whole Foods can be delivered through Amazon’s growing delivery network. Shop with your friends, go to a movie and have all your groceries arrive tomorrow morning at your respective homes.

All makes for interesting and compelling combinations.

Wilkinson: I have no doubt that this was a strategic move by Amazon to improve its ability to sell fresh foods online. The two barriers that Amazon need to get over to penetrate this market were consumer trust and fulfillment. They solved both by buying Whole Foods.

Amazon is now in the position to leverage Whole Foods’ 431 existing stores across the U.S., which gives them valuable fulfillment centers in highly populated areas and the ability to distribute fresh food quickly and reliably. Amazon could also use these stores as additional touchpoints if they wanted to sell other product categories outside of food in Whole Foods locations.

Additionally, Amazon can now leverage Whole Foods’ reputation for trust and authenticity, which has been a key driver in Whole Foods’ ability to grow and maintain such a loyal customer base. Amazon’s choice to purchase Whole Foods instead of another grocery chain was strategic—it saw the necessity of consumer confidence in the food industry and chose the most trusted grocery chain on the market to help it grow its online grocery presence.

Deutsch: I believe the strategic value in making the acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon is really about building out its “local operational distribution model” to effectively compete with Walmart. Whole Foods is its “testing playground” to learn how to address the complex frozen and chilled grocery offerings.

In Whole Foods, Amazon obtains a high-end grocery chain with actually a limited market footprint, but room probably for greater operating efficiencies and thus the potential for lower and more competitive market pricing. When you compare the market footprint of Walmart’s 150+ distribution centers to the 11 distribution centers of Whole Foods, the scale of an Amazon/Whole Foods just does not compete effectively with Walmart.

Map shows the location of Walmart’s 150+ distribution centers in the U.S. Source: MWPVL Intl.

NEXT: The packaging implications?

What might be some of the packaging implications of this? Might we see Amazon investing in more returnable packaging rather than one-way/disposable packages?

Kaufman: We don’t really see returnable packaging as a driver or even a major factor in this acquisition. Returnable packaging at the single consumer unit level is expensive, impractical and potentially unsanitary. The idea goes back to the days of the 5-cent returnable Coke bottle; for a single glass container, which is not porous and relatively easy to wash and reuse, there was still only moderate adoption. And many returnables were more about reducing finished beverage litter than reuse of materials. Five-gallon water bottles can be refilled and reused, but few do so today.

Packaging is about consumption convenience and product advertising and we believe that returnable packaging will be little more than a novelty for some time to come.

Wilkinson: Amazon will likely benefit from Whole Foods’ focus on environmentally friendly initiatives—such as reusable shopping bags and eco-friendly products—in regards to delivery methods and packaging. It would also be a logical next step to use the Whole Foods stores as fulfillment and distribution centers, thus reducing a need for alternative packaging methods since products won’t have to travel far distances.

 

Deutsch: As Amazon and others explore new markets, such as groceries, they all will be confronted with consumer expectations. When you think about how dry goods are shipped today, the plain logoed boxes have optimized for traditional shipping approaches. However, this may not be the case for the grocery market.

If you look at Blue Apron’s delivery approach, it’s relatively traditional. It ships overnight in a standard container, just with dry ice. I would not be surprised to see Amazon and Walmart challenge the status quo by providing sturdier bag packaging for same day shipping. I expect this would be possible because the shipping vehicle would likely be staged differently than how they ship product today.

I do not expect returnable packaging to be an initial option, strictly due to the logistical challenge, but would expect to see by 2020 a greener option available. The packaging cost will become an important cost component once sufficient consumer stickiness and scale has been achieved.

How might this change the future of online grocery sales?

Wilkinson: The acquisition places further importance on cross-channel commerce in the grocery space. Consumers need to be met where they are, whether that’s in store or on their smartphones. A streamlined omni-channel approach to e-grocery will be crucial for competitors moving forward, with an increasing focus on the intersection of physical and digital.

Online grocery initially developed slowly, as consumers had a strong desire to touch and feel grocery products before purchasing. However, with Whole Foods’ trusted brand reputation, Amazon customers can feel comfort in purchasing organic, GMO-free, high-quality food online.

NEXT: Location, location, location

Even with products shipping closer to where the consumer/buyer lives, Amazon would still have to ensure fresh foods are kept at the right temperature throughout distribution. What new packaging/shipping options might Amazon have now with the acquisition of Whole Foods?                                                   

Kaufman: Amazon, in its soul, is a technology company. The “Amazon Go” store showed that Amazon is thinking carefully about the use of technology in and around the retail shopping experience. Couple this pattern with the explosion of options provided by the Internet of Things (IoT).

Inexpensive environment monitors can be added to shipping crates so that Amazon can have data from “store to door” regarding in-transit humidity, temperature, direct sunlight, barometric pressure, and even radiation and exposure to noxious chemicals. These technologies will help ensure that delivered fresh food is safe and has been reliably transported.

In fact, Amazon could likely provide that environmental transit data back to the consumer through its shopping portal. It’s likely that Amazon already knows these basic environmental trends relative to transportation methods, and understands better than the rest of us that local redistribution from a Whole Foods store is a better bet than regional/urban fresh delivery.

In any event, Amazon will have the data to offer the consumer the best choices, and will evolve quality through data analytics and process genius.

Wilkinson: Amazon now has access to more than 430 Whole Foods stores located in urban and high population density areas. Amazon will be closer to the consumers it’s trying to reach, and may be able to circumvent creating new packaging and shipping options because the delivery distance is much shorter.

Deutsch: The last mile is where Walmart is staging the next battle ground by planning to leverage it’s more than 1 million workers who work at a Walmart store, which is within 10 miles of 90% of the population. So for Walmart, its approach will bypass the added logistical layer.

For Amazon, I expect it to eventually design a custom vehicle, similar to what the United States Postal Service (USPS) has done. These branded vehicles will account for dry, chilled and frozen goods.

Since products will all be local, delivery routes will enable less traditional box packaging. Consumers would be quite comfortable with the same shopping experience they are familiar with of the grocery bag. These bags would provide greater cross-selling opportunities by using the bag real estate for advertising and promotional benefits.

 

OUR ANALYSTS

• Scott Deutsch is the president of Ehrhardt + Partner, North America, a global WMS/WCS/voice solutions provider with more than 500 team members and 1,000+ customers. Previously, he was the director of global marketing communications at Honeywell Sensing & Productivity Solutions and helped the business transition successfully to a connected Internet of Things (IoT) world. His expertise is in the areas of developing successful communications and defendable positioning strategies. Deutsch has extensive experience in helping take early stage companies to expansive levels of growth and profitability.

• Stephen Kaufman, chief product officer of BLUE Software, is an industry-recognized thought leader and visionary. The former chief technology officer (CTO) of SHAWK! SGK, Kaufman brings both a unique vision and leadership skills honed over the course of 20 years in the Label and Artwork Management and pre-media industries to BLUE. His goal is to gain an ever-deepening understanding of BLUE customers’ future needs to enable BLUE to sustain its role as the technology leader in the next generation of solutions.

• Dan Wilkinson, chief commercial officer of 1WorldSync, brings more than 20 years of strategic business development and general management experience to 1WorldSync. Wilkinson plays a key part in developing the company’s strategic direction, and is responsible for ensuring that clients derive maximum value from its services and solutions. 

ADDITIONAL INSIGHTS

Many business experts are analyzing what Amazon’s recent move might portend. Here are links to some of the news reports to help put this transaction in overall perspective:

CBX Experts: Amazon's Whole Foods Acquisition is a Big Deal Indeed

Amazon Purchases Whole Foods: The Global Context

What Amazon’s Purchase of Whole Foods Really Means

Analysts react to Amazon’s $13.7B deal for Whole Foods

America is over-malled, but not enough warehouses to support Amazon

Amazon Robots Poised to Revamp How Whole Foods Runs Warehouses

Amazon to Buy Whole Foods for $13.4 Billion

Amazon is buying Whole Foods for $13.7 billion

There's a reason the grocery industry is panicking about Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods

Bona’s unique refill pouch enhances the consumer’s experience

Bona’s unique refill pouch enhances the consumer’s experience
Creative engineering of Bona's refill pouch improves the consumers' experience and allows it to withstand drops from head- or shoulder-high.

A new spouted stand-up pouch, typically seen in the wine category, is now adding consumer convenience and user functionality to bulk refills for Bona’s floor cleaners—and minimizes the product’s environmental footprint by replacing a heavier-weight rigid package.

Like nearly every successful packaging development, this project wasn’t just a simple drop-in package replacement. This premade pouch with comfort-carry handles, which holds 160 ounces or about 10 pounds of ready-to-use product, is different in several ways. For example:

• It is made from four webs of film (for several good reasons, outlined below).

• It dispenses the liquid cleaning product from a spout at the bottom of the pouch (instead of the typical top corner position of other refills).

Dan Smith, new product development engineer at Bona U.S., led this package development project in tandem with Bona’s product marketing team, and also worked closely with packaging vendors to ensure quality standards were met. Smith is a consumer product development maven with more than 20 years of experience in leading the creation of innovative products—from napkin sketch to production start-up—for the automotive, telecommunications and consumer product industries.

Smith tells Packaging Digest more about the pouch’s unusual construction and why the spout is at the bottom of the stand-up pouch. Carlos Boku Cornejo, sales director at pouch supplier Innovative Packaging Solutions (IPS), also provides technical details about the pouch manufacturing.

Why is there a need to enhance the refill experience for consumers?

Smith: Consumer feedback revealed that while our large refill-size products were popular due to cost savings, the packaging was cumbersome. Particularly when refilling our mop cartridge, the process didn’t meet our ease-of-use promise to consumers. When the wide mouth of the old 160-oz refill met the smaller opening of the cartridge, it was too easy to spill product. We also tested internally and, true to Bona’s commitment to innovation, we knew we could do better.

Why identify this as a refill pouch? Can’t it be used as the primary package?

Smith: Most Bona products are ready-to-use. We rarely offer a cleaner concentrate because the power of the Bona cleaner is the unique formulation of the solution. It wouldn’t make sense to have this refill pouch as a primary package as we have invested a great deal of innovation into the spray delivery mechanisms of our cleaners and mops.

Why a “soft” package (flexible versus rigid)? Is it better for ecommerce delivery? Is it better from an environmental viewpoint?

Smith: The soft packaging uses less material than a more rigid package. One of Bona’s key tenets is to also take environment into consideration, so this package uses 50% fewer materials (by weight) than our previous package, a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bottle. That translates into less waste in landfills for those who don’t or cannot recycle.

The soft packaging also tested better with consumers as a better visual appeal of the product.

Copy on the back of the pouch says that it uses 50% less packaging material by weight compared to the previous rigid bottle. Why was this important to include on the package?

Smith: This goes back to our brand promise at Bona. We want consumers to know we are keeping the environment top-of-mind in our packaging and products.

How important was sustainability in the design of this package? More or less so than the consumer experience?

Smith: In this case, we were looking to improve both the consumer experience and the impact on the environment. And I’m happy to say we met those goals.

As mentioned previously, we have a company-wide mission to consider environmental impact on every product and package we product. We also want to make sure that our products offer peace of mind for the consumer. No worries, no mess. This new packaging is a great marriage of both these goals.

Bona already has an HDPE refill bottle. Does that package contain any post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic? Does it hold the same amount of product?

Smith: This current version of the 160-oz refill offers the same capacity as the HDPE refill, which does not contain any PCR plastic. The Bona brand is associated with bright white packaging and when PCR plastics are added to the HDPE, it can add a yellow hue to the white bottle. We are looking into this and hope to incorporate PCR into the flexible pouch at some point in the future.

Are you keeping the HDPE refill package or replacing it with this new pouch?

Smith: We are keeping the HPDE bottle for other channels. Also, we shrink wrap a sprayer as a bonus sometimes onto the 160-oz bottle and we have not figured out how to do that yet for the flexible pouch.

You developed the pouch with IPS. Why partner with them?

Smith: IPS is a great partner and one we hadn’t worked with in the past. However, they came highly recommend and, once we saw their past work, it was a no-brainer to connect with them on this project.

The pouch design is a bit unusual, even for a premade pouch, in that it uses four webs of material and has a bottom and top gusset. Explain how this design came about and why. 

Smith: We wanted this large capacity pouch to be sturdy on shelf and at home. It was also important that the consumer could see when the pouch was empty. The clear top and bottom gussets allow for both a sturdy package and for it to be easy to see when it’s time to reorder.

How is this pouch made?

Boku: Similar to a standard stand-up pouch with a bottom gusset coming inline as a third piece…with this pouch, there are two gussets—top and bottom—folded at the same time, coming inline and meeting the front and back panels as the pouch is being sealed.

The challenge of it was, the top gusset is smaller compared to the bottom. We wanted the front panel of the pouch to be nice and flush—flat. If we made the top gusset too big, a lot of the material would be wasted because it would not expand all the way. And it would create a huge wrinkle. So we sized the top gusset according to the expansion of the bottom. The base of this pouch is close to 8 inches in depth.

Because the product fills so high, without the top gusset, it would have created too much stress on the side seals and started to collapse the pouch. As soon as we opened up that top gusset, the pouch just formed right.

We tried to keep the top of the pouch nice and square, but then it flared out too much because the top gusset is as big as it is. So we decided to taper it. We wanted to make sure the taper at the top of the pouch was just enough to give it the expansion needed without using any extra material and while giving it a flatter look. When you fill this pouch up completely, you’ll notice how perfect the pouch looks from the front and in profile.

Near the bottom, the pouch is shaped like brace punctuation marks {}. Why that design?

Boku: We did it out of necessity, but it turned out to be a clever idea. We were just trying to find a way for the pouch to stand with more stability. But it creates a window from the side.

The product has a color tint to it. On the front and back panels, we used a white polyethylene sealant for opacity. The top and bottom gussets are the same thickness but we used a clear base film so consumers can see the product from the top and bottom.

But, when the pouch is full, where that gusset goes upwards, you can see a peek of the product from the side, which is interesting.

What’s the benefit of having the clear bottom gusset showing the colored liquid inside?

Smith: We have different cleaners that are different colors. This allows the consumers to see the type of cleaner, as well as the liquid level inside.

Trimming the bottom corners like you did didn’t affect the pouch’s stability?

Boku: Because the bottom gusset is so big, we thought the pouch should be able to stand on its own weight without having to have that side seal all the way down. Sure enough, we cut it off and it worked out fine.

But when we cut off the bottom corners, there wasn’t enough stability to the pouch. So we made a thicker bottom seal, about 10 to 12 mm. That’s a huge reason why this pouch stands so well. When the product sits on a table, you’ll see those seals snap up. The design gives it some rigidity.

When consumers dispense the liquid, does the pouch collapse?

Boku: No. It maintains its billboard for the entire life of the product because the top gusset serves as a skeleton of the pouch. If it was just the front and back panels welded together, it would start collapsing.

This pouch dispenses, say, all but 20 milliliters of product. But then the consumer tilts the pouch—which is now very light—forward a little bit, presses the dispenser and gets everything out of the container.

But what’s nice about this pouch and having a dispenser at the bottom is, rather than having to lift or tilt a full pouch, you can just put it at the edge of a table or shelf, put the refillable container beneath it and press the button. Huge convenience factor.

Why is it important that consumers don’t have to tilt the pouch too much to get all the product out? Convenience, right?

Smith: It’s much easier for consumers to only need one hand to refill their smaller bottle or cartridge. This refill experience makes it all easy.

Why is a package design that enables nearly 100% product evacuation important?

Smith: There’s nothing worse than purchasing a product and leaving some of the solution or product in the packaging. We want Bona consumers to be thrilled, and that means they get every last drop of solution.

The design of the pouch helps keep it erect, even as it gets close to being emptied. Why is that important?

Smith: Again, it comes back to making the refill experience easy for consumers. We know consumers won’t use all the product at once to keeping it sturdy, and upright makes storage easy in a closet or on a shelf.

NEXT: Design and engineering challenges and solutions

 

What were some of the challenges in developing the pouch and how did you solve them?

Boku: The biggest challenge was the drop test. Bona’s HDPE refill bottle is like a tank. You could drop it from the top of a roof and it probably would not break because it is so durable.

Adding a flexible package was a concern for Bona. They liked the concept of a pouch but were concerned that a pouch holding 160 ounces wouldn’t survive a shoulder-high or head-high drop test.

So we built the material up. We’re using a 3-ply lamination. We always use nylon for something of this magnitude. The structure is polyethylene (PE)/nylon/linear-low-density polyethylene (LLDPE). The LLDPE is 200 microns, which is extremely thick—about 8 mils. We used that structure for the front and back panel, with a white-based poly, and then the same structure but in clear for the gussets. Total thickness is about 9 mils.

We did multiple drop tests and this can withstand a shoulder- or head-high drop test, which is incredible because of all that weight, especially with having multiple panels and seal areas. We used a special recipe in the polyethylene to withstand the force, the impact. It’s a special blend of PE resins. This was a challenge, but one we were able to overcome with the poly we used.

The development work we did on this will be helpful to people out there who wonder if any product of this weight could be packaged in a pouch. It will bring some confidence here. There is a lot of opportunity for companies to use this model for products of this much weight. Especially in the home care sector, like laundry detergent.

Dan also made a unique corrugated case to hold four pouches. Because the pouches are shaped a little differently, they designed the case to hold them securely. How they designed the box was creative. [Editor's note: See a photo of a single-pouch case on the next page.]

The shipping case holding four pouches for distribution to retail outlets uses an intricate partition to separate and secure the pouches. 

On the pouch at the side seals where the gussets join, during manufacturing of the pre-made pouch, you’re sealing through four pretty thick layers of material.

Boku: It’s 9 mil of material each, so that’s 36 mil total. On top of that, there is a matte coating everywhere except the photograph and the two gussets. Bona wanted to keep the image glossy so it would stand out.

But when you apply a certain amount of heat and pressure to a pouch that’s very thick, it can wear the matte coating off the surface of the film and perhaps burn the plastic. So we had to keep several factors in mind when we engineered the material: that it could pass the drop test requirement from head high, and also that it would not melt when sealing this thick of a material, times four panels.

Why use a matte finish then?

Smith: The matte finish is in line with our Bona brand so in was important that we made it work.

Drop tests were done from shoulder/head high because the product is often positioned on the top shelves in the store, right?

Smith: Yes, some of our retailers store/display the product on top shelves.

What tests did you do to ensure the pouch could withstand the pressures of use and shipping without leaking?

Smith: As per our standard operating procedures here at Bona, we performed a variety of drop tests and put the packaged product thru ISTA protocols, which simulate UPS/FedEx shipping.

NEXT: Bottom dispensing

Why add a dispensing spout at the bottom of the pouch? How did you come up with this idea? Most gusseted refill pouches are tipped to pour from a corner spout.

Smith: This was an important part of our testing process. We knew we wanted to improve the consumer experience (that is, make it easy to use), so we challenged the team with re-thinking the refill process. Because 160 ounces of liquid weighs more than 10 pounds, it made sense to use the weight to our advantage so consumers can rest the package on the edge of a counter and refill easily with no mess.

Is the dispenser sealed to the bladder on the pouch in any way or simply friction fit (pushed in)?

Smith: It is a friction fit with three seals between the tap and gland.

Does the fitment lock?

Boku: There’s a valve inside the fitment. When you press down, it releases the valve to dispense the product. But when you stop pressing down on the two dispensing tabs, the valve then shuts and stops the product flow.

How is the dispenser added to the pouch?

Boku: The entire pouch, except for the dispenser and the two handles, is made inline on the pouch machine. That’s the two gussets, the front and back panels, the die cutting of the handles, and the bottom and top tapering [shaping] of the pouch are all done inline.

The dispenser is placed on afterwards. The bladder piece attaches to the pouch and the dispenser part is actually loose. We half-torque on the dispenser piece and ship it that way, meaning not pressed in all the way. Because on the filler, a gripper mechanism will pull off the dispenser so a nozzle can drop in and fill the pouch to the correct weight. Then the mechanism puts the dispenser back in and torques it all the way on. Once the dispenser piece is applied all the way, there’s no way to take it off for filling.

When we did the drop tests, the pouch passed a couple times from head- or shoulder-high. After that, it would start to tear from the material, as opposed to from the dispenser. That’s pretty interesting how secure that whole dispenser area is.

Where is the pouch filled?

Smith: Near our manufacturing facility in North Carolina.

The dispensing tabs on either side make it easy to activate the dispenser with one hand. Was one-handed use an important feature for you?

Smith: Yes. Our current cartridge does not stand up on a counter, so this is an important new feature.

The dispenser is also tamper-evident. Is that an important feature for you?

Smith: Yes. Consumers want the confidence that they are using a product that has not been already opened.

The dispenser is tamper evident: A blue molded piece needs to be removed before the wings on either side can be lifted to open the valve so product can flow. The dispenser also has a foil induction seal and an overcap to minimize drips once the dispenser is opened.

Tell us about the handles in the header.

Boku: The pouch has plastic carrying handles built into it at the top, one on the front and one on the back, for comfort. Otherwise, just die-cut holes would have been too sharp on the fingers.

You can’t really see the handles from the outside until you pick up the package. We didn’t want to make it too obvious. We wanted it to be somewhat of a surprise when people picked up the pouch.

The pouch holds 160 ounces, which is about 10 pounds. Consumers can carry the pouch with two hands, if they wanted to, if they’re not as strong. Or they can carry it with one hand.

The two handles simply pinch together; they don’t snap closed.

There’s no need for the two handles to snap together, right?

Smith: Correct, it is easy for the consumer to put one hand thru both of the handles.

The plastic handles are sealed into the die-cut holes and provide a comfortable carrying feature.

Bona created a special shipping case to secure and stabilize the pouches. Please tell us more about the case.

Smith: We ship our current rigid product four to a case, so we wanted to mirror that for these pouches. We also created a single-pack shipper for Amazon and our own website sales. We tested the packaging to make sure the product arrived without any damage.

Designed for ecommerce sales via Amazon and Bona's website, the shipping case for a single pouch includes a partition to capture and contain the spout, keeping the pouch in place during distribution.

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Developing a strategy for your connected device

Developing a strategy for your connected device
Image courtesy Phillips-Medisize

By 2020, patients will have six connected items, predicts Matt Jennings, president and CEO of Phillips-Medisize Corp. “Investments in connected health solutions [are] accelerating by traditional medical device companies,” he explained during a company press conference at MD&M East 2017 in New York City. In addition, “pharma dosage forms are evolving and connected devices are proliferating to drive compliance and improved outcomes.”

Many of the products in today’s biopharma pipelines will require some sort of delivery device, he added.

Given the complexities of drug-delivery devices, especially connected devices, there is a certain amount of risk. With its recent merger with Molex, Phillips-Medisize is working to reduce that risk. “Molex’s capabilities allow us to develop more-complex connected and electronics-enabled devices,” said Bill Welch, chief technology officer. The 2016 merger has resulted in a company with “global scale to support integrated design and production of complex electro-mechanical devices and enhanced capabilities related to electronics, connectors, assemblies and other novel technology,” said Jennings.

Speaking of the effort to integrate strategy, product development, and manufacturing, Welch said that “our process reduces time to market and lowers launch risk.”

“We eliminate the separation between manufacturing and development steps, which could add 6 to 12 months,” he said. “We have parallel product and manufacturing development.”

For example, as Phillips-Medisize’s product designers are “going through product development,” members of its manufacturing team “participate in design reviews and other key development checkpoints to start conceptualization and specification of production tooling and equipment,” Welch tells PMP News

And there is never a “firm hand-off,” Welch adds. “As design development ramps down, manufacturing development ramps up. And we have one program manager for a level of continuity.”

Above: Phillips-Medisize's approach to integrated lead times.

Phillips-Medisize put the strategy to work recently for an electronics-enabled inhaler. “We brought the end price down for the customer, improved the technology, shortened the timeline, and reduced launch risk,” said Welch.

But market success with a connected device depends upon more than design and manufacturing success. It also requires identifying the role that a connected device could play in improving patient compliance and outcomes. Phillips-Medisize is working to help companies figure that out. 

“To be reimbursed on improved health outcomes, you need to be able to track improved outcomes,” said Jennings during the press conference. “How do you do so?”

Added Welch: “How can I use data and connectivity to improve patient outcomes?” he asked. “If I cannot figure that out, I probably shouldn’t add the expense of connectivity.”

Welch said that Phillips-Medisize can conduct “device strategy engagements” to help companies develop a connected health plan. He pointed to a recent project in which his team helped a customer develop a connected device for treating multiple sclerosis. “Patient engagement and comfort” were among the goals of the project. “The reason the device is larger is to help patients with dexterity issues,” and the companion app is intended to help compensate for declining memory capabilities by logging key patient injection information beyond simple date and time recording," he told PMP News.

Checkweigher monitors filler-head performance

Checkweigher monitors filler-head performance
Checkweigher controller screen gives “at-a-glance” status of all filler heads, highlighting any critical situation. Statistical info and warning for individual filler heads also can be communicated to remote systems via the system’s Modbus protocol.

Because product giveaway = profit giveaway, you need to fix inefficient filling lines as soon as you can. A new option on the Versa checkweigher identifies when the filling machine produces overweight packages—as well as underweight ones—to help you keep fillers working at peak performance.

From Thermo Fisher Scientific, the Versa checkweigher—when equipped with this feature—will monitor the operation of up to 16 filling valves for liquid or viscous products: Think condiments, sauces, peanut butter, dairy foods, and personal care products like lotions, soaps and shampoos.

Alarms can be set to warn of deviations, up or down, from the ideal weight range. The system will also keep track of high consecutive rejects. All this is done in real time, so you can take necessary steps to maintain optimum accuracy throughout the production run and prevent problems. Remote monitoring is possible through Versa’s Modbus protocol.

Rick Cash, Thermo Fisher Scientific’s checkweigher product manager for product inspection, explains what’s involved in implementing this solution.

Fillers have been able to monitor and report on the accuracy of individual heads for a while now. What’s the benefit of having the checkweigher do this, instead of the filler?

Cash: This system is for fillers that do not have weighing capability. Monitoring flow is a good metric of performance but is not the same as weight.

What extra checkweigher setup is needed to connect it to the filler/filling valves?

Cash: The checkweigher needs a synchronizing pulse from the filler—every fill cycle—to identify when the leading bottle arrives at the checkweigher.

How does the checkweigher get that synchronized pulse from the filler?

Cash: The filler triggers a pulse upon the completion of a cycle and the subsequent release of the bottles, delaying the pulse until the initial container is about to reach the checkweigher.

The signal is a simple two wire D.C. logic signal sent to the data out of the checkweigher. The signal must be held high for a specified number of milliseconds prior to the arrival of the first container from each filler cycle. There is no other technology required.

What types of fillers does this work with?

Cash: Volumetric liquid or viscous product fillers. Also, those that have 16 heads or less, and a synchronizing pulse that properly identifies the leading bottle from every fill cycle.

How much does this optional feature cost?

Cash: It adds approximately 10% to 12% to the price of a checkweigher.

Finding better ways to ship: Why European manufacturers need better hubs

Finding better ways to ship: Why European manufacturers need better hubs
Image courtesy DHL

Pharmaceutical and medical device markets are growing fast. Right now the largest markets are located in the United States (about a 35% share of the world market) followed by the European big five (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom) plus China and Japan. If we fast-forward just three years, the picture looks substantially different. By 2020, we are likely to see the epicenter of global markets shifting to China, India, and other developing countries across Asia. This trend sends a clear message to today’s Europe-based manufacturers—you need to find better ways to package and ship pharmaceuticals and medical devices to Asia Pacific.

Analyzing the current challenges 

Companies responsible for the packaging and shipment of pharmaceuticals and medical devices face a variety of challenges. Broadly these fall into three categories: challenges of quality assurance, regulatory compliance, and delivery speed.

It’s impossible to overstate the challenge of quality assurance. In getting pharmaceuticals and medical devices from A to B, life sciences and healthcare companies must pay meticulous attention not just to the quality of raw materials and the manufacturing process itself, but also to the end-to-end supply chain. Goods that are sensitive to temperature change and physical shock may leave the factory in perfect condition, but might arrive at final destination only fit to be scrapped.

Also hugely important is the challenge of regulatory compliance, particularly with cross-border transports when goods are subject to multiple and often differing tranches of legislation. Patient lives and brand reputation depend on getting compliance right.

Delivery speed, the third key challenge, is becoming increasingly critical as European manufacturers seek to supply the growing markets of Asia. Achieving an ambitious production target is only a source of celebration when the pharmaceuticals or medical devices also make a lightning-fast journey halfway around the world. Pick-up times can’t be missed. Parcel sorting can’t be bungled. The entire shipment process must be tightly orchestrated, meticulously rehearsed, and competently executed every time. 

Investing in multi-million euro facilities

To answer all three of these challenges, logistics service providers are investing not just in their network development and fleet renewal but also in specialist infrastructure.

DHL, for example, has recently made multi-million euro investments in two new hubs certified for life sciences and healthcare product handling and shipment—one at Leipzig airport in Germany and the other at Brussels airport in Belgium.

These hubs will not only serve European-based pharmaceutical companies. A U.S.-based pharma company that wants to send something from its operation in Europe to another location in Europe could utilize the Leipzig hub, as could a U.S.-based pharma company wanting to send something from the United States to Europe.

Best seen at night – the Leipzig sorting center

With a €230 million expansion investment, this high-precision hub in the heart of Europe covers a surface area of two square kilometers and includes a distribution center as well as an aircraft hangar. Every sortable item that arrives at the hub travels from the bay or the apron into the hub to begin minutely detailed and carefully coordinated logistics choreography through DHL’s fully automated sorting facility (the largest in Germany).

Best seen at night—during its operational peak—this facility features four sorting belts running one on top of the other and extending a total length of over 22 kilometers. Each conveyor gear wheel meshes with the next like clockwork to guarantee that processes flow smoothly. The facility includes impressive technical features to accurately, safely, and sustainably handle in excess of 100,000 parcels and documents per hour.

Brand new, ultra-modern sorting center for Brussels

Opening in July 2017, the new Brussels hub more than triples DHL’s sorting capacity. With a total project commitment of €173 million, the company will be able to handle almost 40,000 shipments per hour (up from 12,000), ensuring each item takes the fastest possible path through the facility and onto the airplane. On average it takes just 6.5 minutes to sort a parcel. No matter which way it lies on the conveyor belt, a scanner will read its label. Whatever its shape, size and weight, it will be moved swiftly and smoothly.

Instead of bulk handling, damage is avoided by controlled unloading. A high-performance cross-belt sorting system protects each shipment by placing it in its own tray. And there is an efficient conveyor braking system to slow items down, with gentle transitions and pinpoint accuracy from the sorter to the takeaway lane.

Dealing with stricter air transport regulations

The next process step in shipping high-quality, fully compliant pharmaceuticals and medical devices as rapidly as possible is the task of aircraft loading. This introduces an additional challenge for life sciences and healthcare shippers. Stricter air transport regulations mean that each item must undergo rigorous and auditable security screening. 

To deal with this, DHL has invested in the latest real-time tomography technology (RTT). This provides a partially automated screening service—the machine examines each item and, if it detects a potential security threat, it sends a 3D image to a security agent. In addition, DHL can screen employees at its Brussels hub using x-ray technology and metal detectors that are familiar in every international airport these days. Also the company is innovating with a unique airlock concept in its sorting facility—a total of 28 automatic airlocks protect employees, assets, and shipments throughout the journey from landside to airside.

Strengthening trade from Europe to the world

Thanks to these kinds of investment in hubs and technology, Europe-based pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers are now able to strengthen their trade connections with the rest of the world, especially the growing and potentially lucrative markets of China, India, and beyond.

Andrew Mitchell is Vice President - Healthcare & Life Sciences EMEA at DHL.

Nature’s package keeps coconut water protected

Nature’s package keeps coconut water protected
Genuine Coconut Water, which uses nature’s “package” to protect the raw water inside, debuts in the U.S., with a suggested retail price of $3.49 to $3.99 per coconut. Consumers drink right from the original “container.”

Sometimes you just can’t improve on the package Mother Nature designed. That was the conclusion Genuine Coconut Water came to for coconut water, popular these days for consumers looking for a crisp, natural and refreshing beverage. So it found a way to poke a hole in a coconut, plug it and sell it at retail.

Consumers drink the 100% certified organic and raw, non-processed coconut water directly from the fruit itself. Minimally packaged, the film-wrapped coconut sits in an open carton, which includes a straw.

The patented easy-opening system is a ring made of recycled coconut husk fiber and natural resin. This allows the brand to tout that Genuine Coconut Water is a 100% organic certified, authentic, ecological and almost totally biodegradable drink because it uses only natural coconut resources.

The coconut’s natural protection ensures that the water it contains is free from any microbes for safety and to preserve the water’s flavor and aroma.

Bill Sipper, managing partner for leading beverage brand management and consulting firm Cascadia Managing Brands LLC, gives us a few more details about the non-package for the Genuine Coconut Water product, whose distribution is now being expanded to the U.S. after its initial introduction into Europe and Canada.

How is the easy-opening system—a unique ring made of recycled coconut husk fiber and natural resin—added to the coconut?

Sipper: It is literally added by robots.

How is it opened?

Sipper: You take off the film surrounding the coconut and literally pop open the tab like you would on a soda can. It is that easy.

This close-up shows the easy-open ring on a Genuine Coconut Water's coconut.

Is there a tamper-evident feature on the ring?

Sipper: No, but one would clearly see there is a slight hole in the coconut.

How do consumers access the liquid?

Sipper: The final area is accessed by puncturing it with the attached straw.

Do you have to use a straw or could you tip the coconut into your mouth?

Sipper: You can drink it either way. The straw is easier. You can easily cut a hole into the coconut if you want to drink it that way.

How do you label the product if the contents are “approximately” 12 fluid ounces? 

Sipper: Every coconut is different. Therefore we use “approximately” 12 ounces as a basis.

How is the coconut merchandised in stores? It looks like the coconuts sit on a round carton or paperboard sleeve.

Sipper: It sits in the round carton in the refrigerator in the produce section.

You say it is currently available in Europe and Canada, but then list the U.S. retail price. Is this being sold in the U.S.?

Sipper: We are just now introducing it in the United States.

What is the shelf life of the product?

Sipper: Once it is on the shelf, the shelf life is three weeks.

Are all coconuts coming from Thailand?

Sipper: The coconuts are sourced in Thailand and then sent to Spain where our processing facility is located.

How are they shipped?

Sipper: They are shipped 15 coconuts per case.

iColor® Digital Label Presses Offer a World of Creative and Business Possibilites

UniNet’s iColor® line of Digital Presses provides an extensive set of printing capabilities that allow users to conquer new markets, set their business apart in a crowded marketplace, diversify, and broaden their printed offerings to increase profits with powerful, compelling and visually appealing finished labels and packaging.

Serialization validation: Start early, says expert

Serialization validation: Start early, says expert
Vito Pirrera, executive vice president, business strategies, for Vantage Consulting Group

Validation is a critical step in implementing serialization programs. Planning your validation approach early on can help you establish your solution objectives and work toward minimal production downtime and cost, explains Vito Pirrera, executive vice president, business strategies, for Vantage Consulting Group. Vantage is a New Jersey-based manufacturing automation consulting firm with particular expertise in serialization and validation.

PMP News asked Pirrera a few questions about serialization validation and best practices.  

PMP: When it comes to serialization, what must be validated in terms of software, equipment, packaging, and labeling?

Pirrera: You need to validate the entire solution as it applies to serialization. If your solution is made up of stand-alone, pre-configured, “roll-up” equipment (or a manual pack and scan/case label station), you validate each of these—either independently or together. The software and operator interface(s) in these scenarios are typically integrated with the stations, so it’s validated as part of the equipment.

If your solution requires that you retrofit existing packaging equipment with the serialization system—such as integrating cameras onto an existing labeler or at the infeed to an existing cartoner—you still validate as it applies to the serialized solution. You do not need to validate (or re-validate) your labeler or your cartoner.

PMP: Can you explain the planning process and when qualification, testing, piloting, and validation must be performed?

Pirrera: One of our primary mandates is that everyone should be involved at the start of the project, including validation and quality teams. Oftentimes, validation isn’t considered until the end of the project cycle, resulting in a mad scramble to get documents developed, reviewed, and signed for execution. That’s one of the primary reasons to engage everyone upfront. Another is this—if you know, upfront, that your procedure calls for a bracketed PQ (smallest bottle and largest bottle, say 30 cc and 650 cc), why, at Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT), would you run the 150 cc bottle?  If validation is involved early, it can help tailor the FAT to include meaningful test cases and you can develop a customer-driven FAT (in your best interest) rather than an OEM-driven FAT (in their best interest).

So, the five-step process we recommend is as follows:

  1. Get your documents developed early.
  2. Have a meaningful FAT.
  3. Do as much of the SAT and IQ/OQ execution on-site but off-line.
  4. Complete your on-line installation.
  5. Complete the qualification.

PMP: What are the challenges and sources of delay?

Pirrera: Believe it or not, reviewing draft protocols, test plans, and final reviews and signing said protocols and plans are typically inefficient (read, time sinks). 

Another, more damaging, source of delay is related to extensive line downtime. In a manufacturing environment, production is king. Any time a line is not producing, there’s lost revenue and inefficiencies. If the serialization equipment arrives on-site and you immediately take the line down for installation, start-up, SAT, IQ/OQ (and sometimes PQ) executions and you encounter discrepancies—something not functioning correctly, connection to the plant Level 4 system is “buggy”—the time that line is now down can increase by 3-4 weeks easily.  These delays are certainly avoidable.

PMP: What are potential solutions?

Pirrera: It’s not that hard to mitigate extended line downtime.  Set up the serialization solution (to the extent that you can) in a separate area—a spare bay or a storage area with extra space. Connect the plant’s Level 4 system to the solution. Perform equipment start-up (we call it pre-SAT), run the SAT, and run as much of the IQ/OQ as you can or as your quality group will allow. By conducting a proper risk analysis, you should be able to leverage to the IQ/OQ, most of the work done during SAT. If you’ve done all this “on-site but off-line,” when you finally take the packaging line out of service for installation and to finish the validation executions, the time it remains out of service is severely reduced.

As for reviewing and signing protocols, one solution is to arrange the ever-popular “signing party.”  Get a conference room, order lunch, and invite the team. Everybody loves free food!

PMP: How can Vantage Consulting help?

Pirrera: We typically run this whole process for our clients. While it seems an obvious solution, it is often overlooked. Most projects run the same old way all the time. However, a serialization project requires connections to higher level computer systems for number generation, data management, work orders, etc., and this presents a new set of problems during start-up, testing, and validation.

Vantage has been executing this process for a couple of years and the effects on reduced line downtime are demonstrable. We can come in and educate the project team on how this works and show them where the time savings are. We can also help in developing better testing and qualification documents.

PMP: You mention that there are pitfalls to vendor-driven validation test. What are they and how can they be avoided?

Pirrera: Most serialization solution providers have some flavor of canned validation protocols and FAT plans. The problem is that they are usually generic and oftentimes don’t satisfy their client’s internal testing requirements and procedures. FAT documents are a good example in that they typically cover the bare minimum and (through no fault of the OEMs) are designed to not fail. As previously mentioned, involving the validation and quality teams upfront can help to better design the testing that happens at the provider. One of the biggest mistakes, mostly driven by schedule crunch, is to gloss over or rush through the FAT to get the equipment on site to meet some pre-described installation plan. The equipment shouldn’t leave the OEM until team is satisfied that everything functions as intended.

PMP: You mention the value of onsite testing prior to the validation phase and how it streamlines the serialization process. Can you explain this more?

Pirrera: “Onsite but offline” testing is an implementation model that’s gaining favor in pharmaceutical serialization projects because it can help manufacturers avoid the pitfalls that go with broader integration. It is built on creating a testing environment, whether it’s in a spare bay or in some empty space in the warehouse, that enables the team to test and validate (to the extent allowed) new solutions without risking extended production downtime. The team can work on most of their life-cycle documents, Site Acceptance Testing (SAT), Installation Qualification (IQ), and parts of Operational Qualification (OQ) while the equipment is off to the side. It’s only when the solution is functioning as intended that the line is taken out of service and the equipment is installed—saving weeks of potential downtime (and reducing stress!).

PMP: What other advice about validation would you give to packaging professionals?

Pirrera: Incorporating “onsite but offline” testing into the serialization process planning from the beginning will ensure the best results. Getting the validation and quality teams involved upfront is important for developing meaningful protocols. Lastly, don’t underestimate the time it takes to execute the testing and validation protocols—something unexpected always happens. Plan for the worst and execute to the best.

Save the dates for these upcoming medtech events: Medical Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis November 8-9 and BIOMEDevice in San Jose December 6-7

Acquisition aims to help MDMs simplify supplier base, inventory management

Acquisition aims to help MDMs simplify supplier base, inventory management
Image courtesy Quality Tech Services (QTS)/Cretex Medical

Cretex Companies has acquired Quality Tech Services (QTS), a medical device packaging services provider. The acquisition is expected to help medical device manufacturers streamline their suppliers.

“The addition of QTS to our family has expanded Cretex Medical’s product and service offerings to provide end-to-end solutions for OEMs across the medical device outsourcing value chain,” Steve Ragaller, CFO of Cretex Companies, tells PMP News. “Cretex Medical is a family of companies that specializes in providing a broad range of manufacturing solutions to medical device OEMs.” Capabilities include precision machining of implants and components, metal and plastic additive manufacturing, plastic injection molding, stamping, metal forming, laser technology, sterilization cases and trays, orthopaedic and surgical instruments, and medical device assembly, and packaging, he explained.

QTS brings several capabilities to Cretex, Ragaller says, such as package design expertise, materials sourcing, engineering validations, critical inspection, cleaning and passivation, cleanroom assembly, kitting and packaging, labeling, and sterilization, lab testing, and supply chain management.

Such a wide breadth of services should be of interest to medical device companies. “Medical device OEMs are increasingly looking for providers who bring end-to-end solutions,” states Doug Wilder, president of QTS, in a new release. “They are actively pruning their supplier base and rewarding those who can do more. Combining Cretex and QTS creates significant upside for our customers.”

For instance, “there seems to be a growing trend within the orthopaedic market to replace the traditional implant caddies with single pack and kitted sterile products,” Wilder continues. “This reduces repeated reprocessing of unused implants, simplifies inventory management, and better addresses the requirements of the FDA UDI requirements.”

The Cretex Medical family now consists of six companies including rms, rms Surgical, Meier, JunoPacific, Spectralytics, and QTS, with a total of nine ISO-13485 certified manufacturing facilities across the United States, says Ragaller. “Cretex Medical now boasts nearly 700,000 sq ft of manufacturing floor space with close to 2000 team members.”

Each of these companies will continue to operate under their original names to maintain their strong brand equity, says Ragaller. QTS is in the process of rebranding to better reflect unity amongst the Cretex family of companies, he adds.

For more details, visit www.cretex.com.

Cretex will also be exhibiting at MD&M Minneapolis November 8-9 and BIOMEDevice in San Jose December 6-7.