Do you know how many steps are necessary to design a distribution package? Here is a 10-step procedure that will help you design a distribution package that provides maximum performance at least overall cost.

Packaging product designer & manufacture, [email protected]

Identify the Physical Characteristics of the Product

Product knowledge means more than simply knowing the product’s dimensions and weight. You need to be aware of surface characteristics and susceptibility to abrasion or corrosion, its ability to hold a load in compression, the effect of vibration on its internal characteristics, and particularly the product’s shock and vibration fragility. Guessing about any of these factors is a sure path to potential problems.

Determine Marketing and Distribution Requirements

Package design must incorporate marketing and distribution requisites in addition to product characteristics.

You will need to know, among other things; the number of units that will ship in a container, the composition and attributes of the primary package, the identity of customers and their handling and storage requirements, the package disposal criteria, total volume expected per shift/day/year, expected life cycle, the planned modes of transport rules or regulations for packaging via those transport modes, and types of distribution channels.

The 10-Step Process of Distribution Packaging Design

Learn about the Environmental Hazards Your Packages Will Encounter

Knowledge of the distribution environment is key to designing an optimum package.

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Major hazards to be expected in the environment are rough handling, vibration and shock in transit, compression in storage or in transit, high humidity and water, temperature extremes, atmospheric pressure, and puncturing forces.

You can learn about these hazards in several ways; by observation, reading research reports, or measuring.

Consider Packaging and Unitizing Alternatives

There are many alternatives available for shipping containers, interior packaging, and unit loads. Consider and review all of them before selecting the final types for further development.

Trade-off analysis techniques such as make versus buy decision often help. Do not limit consideration only to materials with which you have experience.

Instead, periodically compare for instance paper with plastic, or wood with metal to ensure the best material for the particular project. Once you’ve selected the basic materials, detailed work on design can begin.

The 10-Step Process of Distribution Packaging Design

Design the Distribution package

Once information is gathered and the basic materials are established in steps 1~4, you are ready to design the distribution package (and the unit load where appropriate). Each component of the package is analyzed for strength and other required properties and compared with technical data available from suppliers.

Although you will find that some packaging materials have good design data available, most unfortunately do not. Those who are experienced in packaging frequently use their experience as the principal means for arriving at a successful solution.

Those with limited packaging experience may find that the lack of technical packaging information makes it difficult to arrive at an optimum solution.

As part of the design process, be sure to consider closure methods for the shipping container. The hazards of handling, method of packing, and type of product all have a significant influence on closure selection, along with any regulatory requirements.

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You can shorten the trial-and-error cycle by conducting engineering tests during package development. Seating goals for impact, vibration, and compression protection and then testing hem in the lab not only identify package shortcomings but also help to fine-tune the design to the optimum level of performance.

Determine Quality of Protection through Performance-Testing

After you have designed the distribution package, perhaps with the aid of engineering development tests, you should then do a performance-test.

This consists of subjecting the package (or unit load) to a sequence of anticipated hazards/tests in the laboratory for the purpose of a pass/fail decision. Will the shipping unit protect its contents all the way through distribution?

Your performance-test methods should be based on industry standards. Such standards have considerable experience and history behind their development and use, and successful completion of the test sequence almost guarantees damage-free shipments.

The most widely used standard is the International Safe Transit Association’s (ISTA’s) Projects 1 and 1A, in use since 1948. The American Society for Testing and Materials’ ASTM D4169, first approved in 1982, provides a more complete set of possible hazards with corresponding test sequences, and it permits the user some flexibility in selecting test intensities.

For users with clearly defined distribution cycles different from the standard cycles in D4169, the ASTM standard also provides means of developing a unique sequence of tests, resulting in performance-tests that can more precisely simulate your actual conditions.

The 10-Step Process of Distribution Packaging Design

Redesign Package (and Unit Load) until It Successfully Passes All Tests

There is an old saying: One Test Is Worth a Thousand Expert Opinions. Often performance-test results surprise even the most experienced engineers. Then it is necessary to repeat the design/test cycle, redesigning and retesting as many times as required for the packaging to “pass”the tests.

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Redesign the Product if Indicated and Feasible

Testing occasionally reveals a product weakness that can be offset with protective packaging-but at excessive cost. If at all feasible, the product should be redesigned to correct the weakness rather than redesigning the package.

This is particularly important when the cos of redesigning the product is less than the cost of extra packaging.

It is usually difficult for package designers to bring about product redesign when they are located organizationally in other than the product engineering group. If this is your situation, you should attempt to establish a continuing line of communication with the product engineers.

Sometimes this means educating product engineers in the hazards of distribution and showing them how to correct product weaknesses.

The 10-Step Process of Distribution Packaging Design

Develop the Packaging Methods

An important part of package design is packing of the product in the shipping container and unitizing of containers. Although this may be the responsibility of someone else in your plant, you must be aware of cost factors and the appropriateness of mechanizing or automating all or part of the operations. Sometimes a trade-off in package design must be implemented to achieve over-all system economics.

Document All Work

One step frequently overlooked in the design process is documentation. This includes documenting test results, specifications, drawings, and methods of packing.

Drawings should be in company standard formats with appropriate designations for reference in the corporate spec system. Relying on supplier sketches or drawings as reference documents is not a wise idea. They should be transferred to company format so purchasing, manufacturing, and engineering can reference them.

Packaging product designer & manufacture, [email protected]


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