How to Overcome Packaging Workflow Challenges
The demand for consumer-centric, personalized packaging is growing by the day. Though it's making things exciting in the marketplace, it also presents many challenges in the process of creating and maintaining printed food packaging and labeling, especially if you aren't digitally printing.
There are a few key items to consider that can positively impact the costs and time required of packaging workflows. Learn how to become more efficient as the tides of the packaging world ebb and flow, and how to keep up with speed to market with these tips from our experience in packaging and labeling for the snacks and confectionery markets.
Pro-Tips For Workflow Challenges
Reduce the amount of contacts involved in the approval process
Identify the key points in the approval process and remove any additional eyes that are not absolutely necessary. Think of each step in the process as a contact point and have one person own that step for review, contact, and approvals.
More people and locations involved create more opportunities for complications and confusion to arise that will hold up your efficiencies and can impact costs and chances for errors. Having one point of contact can greatly increase your speed to market and your sanity.
Make sure the lines of communication are open across the supply chain and there is clarity across the board. With multiple and similar SKUs it can be easy to cause confusion when a minor change is made to one item. If you need a change or spot an error during review, each point of contact needs to be easily accessible. Make sure the points of contact at the distribution outlets are clear in their needs, and these needs are clear to the packager and the supplier.
Digital Printing is a huge benefit for packaging workflows as the ability to make changes efficiently are extremely simple. If the opportunity for digital printing is available, it is worth giving it a review.
Hold a weekly meeting with the main points of contact to review the status of production for each SKU. This can be a huge benefit to those larger businesses with several points of contact and several SKU's to manage at different points in the supply chain.
Discuss what needs to be done for changes and make sure every contact is clear on each SKU's packaging requirements for a consistent appearance on the shelf.
Organization is extremely important, especially with multiple products and retail outlets with different requirements. A great way to manage your products is to have a folder or a binder for each SKU that holds all historical information on the item including status on changes.
Any change that is made should have its own documentation saved so there is always a place to find and go back if needed, and of course, for verification.
Working with different types of packaging and different brands gives us a solid understanding of the ins-and-outs of the varying packaging processes and labeling requirements that different businesses face. The one thing that stays consistent is the need for clarity, control, and efficiency.
The type of packaging being used impacts the complexity of a workflow. We will discuss only a few below and then provide some tips on how to overcome the most common packaging workflow challenges.
Clear Packaging- Sticker Labeling
Some of the products we fill and package are more simplistic to work with and the workflows for these are much easier to maintain. Candy or confectionery items are placed in the clear plastic bagging and we create a label that matches the item being packaged that meets the customer's needs and those required by their customer and the FDA.
We work with each customer to keep each of their SKU's specifications, sell by, expiration date precise and ready for print. This entry is done manually and can be tedious, but it's less difficult to manage than other types of packaging, but it's extremely important all the same.
An incorrect entry on a label can be extremely costly; in re-wraps, recalls, or worse, causing harm to a consumer. Once approved, we will then print the labels and attach them to the front and back of the bag as required.
Pre-Printed Front Label, Clear Back Packaging
The next level in terms of complexity is a product that requires a clear-backed package with a pre-printed label placed on the front of the packaging, and a plate-printed backing. This label will include the UPC code, expiration date, all ingredients, allergy information and other facts including nut allergy information.
We will receive bagging in the form of roll-stock that includes the customers logo pre-printed on the film. We will print the required information on a printing plate, lining it up on the labeling machinery, printing, and making sure the labeling ink is all set.
Once all of this is accurate, we will go into the computer attached to the printing machine, pick the file that matches the SKU to be packaged and printed, select and stamp this onto the back of the bag. It's always important to review the front and back of the bags once printed to make sure the labels are a match, reducing the chances of re-work for mislabeled goods. This includes reviewing the printed expiration. Everything must be error-free and match on both sides.
100% Pre-printed packaging
Some customers require pre-printed, glossy packaging that includes their logo. This process can be incredibly tedious because there are many people involved in pre-approval and there are a lot more compliance and regulatory hoops to jump through with multiple SKUs.
The customer will work with us before it goes to print to ensure everything is all set. With several SKUs, pre-printed packaging means each one has its own roll of film. This is a plus because it greatly reduces the odds of mistakes happening during their journey through the supply chain.
Every detail of the package is carefully reviewed by the customer and our team to ensure full compliance and a perfect package. This review will include the shape and size of the item to be packaged, including the minimum and maximum sizes that will be acceptable to be packaged. For example, if a gummy worm is double-length, it may not be acceptable for packaging.
During the approval process, every detail is inspected, from the percentages of sugars, fats, serving sizes etc on the nutrition labeling, and any information regarding kosher or organic labeling. It's also important to know who and how to contact for each SKU and the issues that may arise regarding quality, certifications, locations, refrigeration, micro-testings, etc. Each SKU may have more than 40 pages of documentation to review before going into production.
All of this is part of step one.
Once these have been reviewed and completed, the final review process begins, including how it should look according to our customer, and theirs. We will review and accept, then send to a printed packaging supplier to review. This will come back to us, then to the customer to review once more. If they make a change, the printer has to remake the package.
Managing workflows for your packaging processes can be daunting, but using the tips above can help improve your processes and in turn increase your quality of life.
About David Roberge
I am grateful for my 9 years as part of the outstanding Industrial Packaging team. I was able to hang out with some of the most knowledgeable folks in the packaging industry. I feel even luckier that I was able to share that knowledge with you. I love learning, hiking, and growing people and teams both personally and professionally, and helping companies grow better.