Medical device packaging teams may be asked to take a certain percentage of costs out of a given product each year. It may surprise you, but redesigning one component—the insert, often called the IFU (instructions for use)—may help.
“The easiest way to save money on your IFUs is by finding less expensive materials, such as moving from 40# to 27# stock,” explains Lori Robinson, who handles communications for Robinson Printing. The company recently hosted a tour for the Institute of Packaging Professionals’ Southern California Chapter.
“As an example, we have made a suggestion to one of our customers to change a material in their In-Sheet product. We have found a better-looking, less-expensive material that will save them 5%,” she says. “The challenge is that the customer will need to change its specification.”
The very thinnest paper Robinson Printing uses is a medical-grade, 27# white opaque offset. “We print black ink on this very thin paper and see-through (of the ink) just simply isn't an issue. However, if our customers have a concern about this, we suggest using a special Pantone grey ink. This ink is still very legible, but eliminates any problem with show through on a thin sheet.” Many customers do want to continue using only black ink, and Robinson says that “it really has never been a problem.”
Particulates from the inserts have never been a concern or an issue either, she adds. “The paper is medical grade and this ensures very clean, fuzz-free paper,” she says.
A company can also save quite bit by reviewing its current IFU program, says Robinson. “We can often make suggestions for better layouts and sizes that will save the customer on material costs and more efficient layouts. For example, a better fold can get an IFU through a folder much more quickly saving valuable time and money.”
Robinson encourages medical device manufacturers to get in touch during the planning process so the final IFU is the most cost-efficient design possible, she says. “Our customer provides us with a final desired folded size for their IFU (based on product /package dimensions) along with the text. Based on this information our Graphic Designers will layout the IFU (including all the folds) to fit the final desired size. This ensures the final IFU is not obtrusive to the already planned packaging design. At this point we provide a folding sample so the customer can ‘play with it’ in the product's packaging and make any final tweaks to the design.”
In the case of a language expansion or other addendum to be added to an already existing IFU, Robinson says that her company can augment an existing IFU with an added panel or two by simply expanding the paper size. “This process is tricky, though, because there are certain folds that are optimal for speed through the equipment and for a nice, clean finished look,” she says. “When expanding an existing IFU to accommodate extra information, it’s important to use an expert in designing IFUs so your new design is as cost efficient and professional-looking as possible.”
Another way to save money is simply to order in higher quantities, Robinson says. “Simply taking the time to plan your orders for six months to a year can save a company significantly,” she says.
There are alternatives to the traditional insert. Robinson Printing offers InSheet, an insert or booklet that can be attached directly to a pouch or carton. The format can be used to streamline labeling practices and be customized in terms of layout for maximum space and lower pricing, reports Robinson Printing. “If the IFU is placed on the pouch, then multiple pouches can be placed in a carton ensuring the instructions do not get separated from the device,” she says.
There are also user benefits. “This would ensure the instructions stay with the device until it is removed from the pouch in a sterile operating room setting,” says Robinson.
Robinson Printing can also print on the liner of In-Sheet. “One customer prints important regulation symbols onto the adhesive liner. They like this option because the liner is permanently adhered to the packaging so symbols remain with the packaging," Robinson says. "Currently, we only have used black ink for this process, but we have the ability to print up to 2-colors on the liner. If someone wanted full, 4-color process, we could pretty easily retrofit our machinery to accommodate them.”
One customer had subjected to a drop test Robinson Printing’s In-Sheet holding a booklet, she reports. “They had an issue with the front cover of the booklet ripping off from the adhesive. This was solved by providing a thicker outer cover for the booklet. We are often closely involved in our customers' testing and validation practices and look to provide solutions both for quality and cost savings to the problems they encounter.”