Before brand owners introduce a new product into the marketplace, it’s important that a four-step package development process is followed to save time by reducing iteration and prevent failures during production, transit or use of the package. (In this example, we will be discussing bottle design, however, the process is applicable to many other package types, as well.) The four stages of design that should be part of your process are:
- Define requirements
- Create design brief
- Develop design
- Test design
Let’s look at each of these separately.
Define requirements. This first step will set the tone. It’s where you should bring all of the “desirables” into the conversation. Discuss what qualities the package must have to be successful and document them using words (not numbers) at this point. These qualities can be defined by sales objectives, market research, focus groups, usability analysis, sustainability drivers, etc. Examples include pallet stability, shelf life objectives, production line goals (such as ability to run on an existing line), bottle usability, or product compatibility with the packaging material.
An important caveat. Write down the requirements, don’t just discuss them. List even the unknowns, so that you are aware of answers the process needs to deliver. Then get agreement from all the stakeholders before proceeding to the design brief.
Create design brief. This is the stage where numerical targets and tolerances are developed based on design requirements. Test methods and qualities also need to be agreed upon. As an example, to meet pallet stability requirements, a vertical load specification may be needed for the individual package, along with the tolerance and the procedure to be used for testing. Separating the dimensional and volumetric specifications from those related to performance is helpful in organizing information during the design phase. Once you have agreement, then you are ready to work on the design.
Develop design. You are finally ready to begin making an actual design for a container using the dimensional targets in the design brief. The goal is to produce a bottle that meets, but doesn’t greatly exceed, the performance specifications spelled out in the design brief. The goal is to design a robust package that can be made consistently, but not increase the package cost due to over specification.
Test design. First, verify that the design meets the specifications in the brief using the tests defined there. The tests must mimic real-world use and environments, and challenge the design’s ability to meet specifications under those conditions. The tests could be either computer simulations or practical testing on sample containers. Second, validate that the requirements are met by the package using line or transport trials with real containers.
Okay, so now for the “why you need to do this” part. People have a natural tendency to want to cut process corners in the interest of time. However, skipping steps frequently means that you have to start all over again. Discipline is required to follow each step in order to avoid mistakes and maintain the development schedule and budget.
So, do yourselves a favor. Follow the process to help ensure you can go to market with a package that will boost your chances of commercial success.
Author: Martin Geithmann is senior project engineer of PTI. He has 20-plus years of experience in preform and container design and optimal material selection for package performance.
PTI is a global source for preform and package design, package development, rapid prototyping, pre-production prototyping, and material evaluation engineering for the plastic packaging industry. For more information: www.pti-usa.com.