Monday, April 14, 2014

Top 3 Reasons you WANT an Audit… A packaging audit

by Rob Kaszubowski, CPP

The annual tax deadline is just around the corner, which means if you haven’t already filed your tax return you are probably scrambling to get your papers in order and digging through your shoe box full of receipts. Of course the one word that makes people cringe around tax season is “audit”. However, this year the packaging engineers at Chainalytics are putting a fresh twist on the old fashion “audit”.

Here’s the top 3 reasons that this year you actually WANT a packaging audit of your products and their warehousing & distribution system:

1)      Uncovering potential savings you never knew existed: Just like your tax professional knows the ins and outs and loopholes of the tax system, the packaging engineers at Chainalytics know the ins and outs of packaging and supply chain and how you can maximize your returns while minimizing your spend. The key is understanding your product’s needs, from a packaging and customer experience perspective, while also being able to protect the product during distribution through your supply chain.

2)      Fresh set of eyes: Staring at the same problem (or tax forms) for a great length of time usually leads to frustration with minimal changes or progress being made. A fresh set of eyes can bring a new perspective to the same old problems and quickly move to make changes and implement. The Chainalytics engineering team as conducted numerous packaging audits & assessments and have seen many of the same problems, challenges and obstacles that may be stalling your progress.

3)      Cash back return: A traditional tax audit usually means that something in your tax filing didn’t quite add up, which in turn means you likely owe the government more money, tax audits don’t often go your way. On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of our clients typically see significant cash back return with high return on investment when they hire Chainalytics for a packaging assessment. The outcome of a packaging audit leaves our clients with a list of packaging cost savings opportunities – targeted to reduce materials, improve cube utilization, increase trailer load weights and improve efficiency.

Even though the clock is ticking on your tax return for the government, there is never a deadline to conduct a packaging audit or assessment. The only down side in delaying an assessment of your packaging systems is you would also be delaying your cost savings potential.  If your packaging hasn’t been reviewed for supply chain cost savings in a while, there’s no better time to start than today. The packaging engineers at Chainalytics are ready to help!

To learn more about our packaging assessments and start a dialogue, emailus!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Considering Product and Packaging Shipability

by Rich Lindgren, CPP
I recently came across  “The real impact of high transportation costs” from CSCMP’s Supply Chain Quarterly. I found their three main drivers on how high transportation costs are affecting supply chain strategies were very accurate, with one critical packaging element absent.
The gist of the article suggests rising and volatile costs of fuel are causing U.S. companies to shift operations in the following key ways:
  • A shift from offshoring to nearshoring
  • A shift from product design for marketability and production to design for "shipability"
  • A shift from lean inventory policies to hybrid lean transport/inventory policies
In my day-to-day work on Packaging Optimization for our customers, the first two drivers challenge our clients with increasing frequency and intensity. There is a trend towards less overseas manufacturing or at least postponed assembly.  There is also clearly a conscious effort for almost all companies to make their product and packaging more dense. This has a ripple effect of savings in their supply chain and logistics specifically in efficiency gained through packaging materials, handling and warehousing.
What stood out to me as missing from the article’s “Shipability point,” and what I often see overlooked by some of our clients, is that shipability goes beyond on the size and shape of packaging.  Shipability should also include the product’s ability to survive the supply chain.  No matter how dense a product packs and ships as it fills out the perfect cube for your pallet or trailer load, if it is damage during the final mile before your customer gets it, the process failed.
Your product and package must work in concert to survive the rigors of your ever-changing supply chain.  Here is a simple equation demonstrating this point. 
 “Product + Packaging = Distribution”
packaging optimization consulting
If your product plus the packaging are greater than the rigors of your supply chain you are probably over spending on your packaging. If less, then you are going to see higher than normal damage rates.  It is evident there is a shift towards more single parcel shipments to end customers, which is causing many companies’ supply chain equations to fall out of balance.

Most packaging is designed for palletized shipment and is being asked to survive single parcel challenges. You can change any of the three variables in the equation (product, package or environment), but the distribution piece is often the most difficult and costly to change.  Companies that rely solely on supplemental packaging as the solution to this problem overlook the possibility of simple improvements to make their products more robust that can be more cost effective than adding packaging.
We recently completed a project that is a classic example of this. A customer with a domestically sourced product shifted from palletized delivery to a single parcel environment.  The team created a solution that incorporated small product improvements with engineered packaging designs to meet all out-of-box customer requirements while reducing packaging and damage costs.   
Chainalytics will co-present this “Story of the Mojo” with Stratsys at the upcoming 2014 ISTA TransPack forum on April 23rd. Check back here for more details and follow up to this story after the conference concludes.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Corrugated out of the Box Designs

by Rich Lindgren, CPP

I recently came across this article on Fast Company about a guy who has a kickstarter campaign going for his new "Cardboard" standing desk.  Before we go too much further, lets just clarify, this is desk is made of corrugated board, not cardboard.  Not sure on the difference, check out one of earlier blogs here.

Interestingly enough, Zach Rotholz, the designer behind this standing desk actually has a retail store in New Haven, CT called Chairigami where he designs and sells all sorts of furniture from corrugated.  Chairigami produces everything from beds to chaise lounges and now has expanded to manufacture both office furniture and trade show booths for a national audience.   All of the pieces are hand-made and produced in his small cardboard carpentry style store.

Corrugated Standing Desk
 The paper based furniture ends up being relatively inexpensive, very light to transport and move, plus completely recyclable when you are finished with it.  The featured standing desk is said to weigh less then 15lbs, strong enough to support 300 lbs on the top surface, assembled by customer in a matter of minutes without any tools, fastener or adhesives and last 4 years in a normal working environment and all that at a price point of $65.

One of the main pitches is why would you spend several hundred dollars on a new standing desk only to find out that you really don't like it.  Ironically, the other most cost effective option for "trying" the standing desk out would be just to find some old corrugated boxes and set them on your current desk.

Distribution Packaging for Standing Desk
I think one of the best advantages of this design is his actual distribution or shipping package, which is a single parcel ready flat pack, very similar to stuff you get at IKEA, but much lighter making it fairly economical to ship and expand his market reach.

The other fun advantage is that these are fully customizable with simple box knives or markers and if you don't like it, pretty easy to replace or fix.  Just keep these desks away from water, corrugated and moisture don't get along, kind of like the Movie Gremlins from the 80's.  Not sure if this is take over home furnishings for the majority of households, but I could see a nice niche for small apartments or student housing.  But I think the biggest market might be for trade shows.

Don't be surprised if you see our Chainalytics design team working on some new stuff for our upcoming trade shows!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

HealthPack 2014 and the Road Ahead for Medical Device Packaging

FMIC Premium Analytics

By Eric Carlson, CPP

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend HealthPack for the ninth consecutive year. In case you missed it, this blog will recap the annual event and highlight what you should look out for in the medical device packaging industry in the year ahead.

First, let me start by mentioning that 2013 marked the bittersweet end of an era; it was then that the dynamic co-hosting duo of Curt Larsen and John Spitzley finished their lauded run. Many thanks to both of them for helping shape the conference with quality and relevance, making it the premiere medical device packaging conference in the U.S. An additional round of kudos goes to the newly-minted HealthPack Advisory Committee that currently consists of a group of remarkably talented women:
  • Daphne Allen | Editor, Pharmaceutical and Medical Packaging News
  • Jan Gates | Owner & Principal Packaging Engineer, PackWise Consulting
  • Karen Greene, CPP | VP of Sales and Technology, Life Packaging Technology
  • Jennifer Griffin, CPP | Principal Packaging Engineer, Medtronic Vascular
  • Laure Larkin, CPP | Manager of Packaging Qualification, DePuy Synthes

HealthPack 2014 returned to Albuquerque with new host Jim George. Jim is Director of Education at the Kellen Corporation, the same company that took over the national management of IoPP in late 2011 after it merged with Landon Farrey & Associates.

Programming this year was fairly consistent in regards to the quality of content and variety of topics related to medical device packaging.  New this year was a pre-conference group discussion led by Daphne Allen. It was designed to mine the collective knowledge of the attendees about trends and possibly a glimpse into future developments in the industry. I would not be surprised to see this return in 2015.

HealthPack 2014 was well attended; each session had near capacity crowds.

The conference officially kicked off with a keynote presentation by Jackie Elkin (Medtronic) speaking on a very relevant topic, unique device identification (or UDI). The complexities, trends, and challenges were well expressed and, like all the other presentations, will be available for attendees to download. Jackie indicated there will be many challenges lie ahead for the global harmonization of UDI. There also appears to be lingering challenges related to the implementation of current FDA rules.

A recurring and popular program has been the IoPP Medical Device Packaging Technical Committee (MDPTC) Nurses Panel & Survey. Here, too, there were changes in personnel; however, these changes were driven by the coincidental family planning of the esteemed Jennifers (Foreman and Benolken). Congratulations to the moms!

Russell Darley of Sealed Air stepped in to host the nurses panel this year along with Charlie Robnett, the new Education Subcommittee Chair, also with Sealed Air. As usual, the nurses were frank and candid in their feedback and also, as usual, this program elicited the most audience participation. The annual nurses survey was replaced this year by a new Voice of the Customer (VOC) survey that specifically looked at our own medical device packaging community; the survey was led by Clemson grad student Kathryn Thompson. Hats off to Russell and Kathryn for including instant polls in the presentation; the polls truly seemed to engage the audience and were effective at collecting instant feedback from the audience.

The first day also included a slot for standards updates. There are many updates from ASTM, AAMI and ISTA.  Be aware that ASTM D4169 is going through a substantial rewrite specifically in the truck vibration profiles. Karen Polkinghorne (DuPont) provided an update on Tyvek transition. Two additional interesting presentations by Drs. Ondrea Kassarjian and Laura Bix led us to think further about the human and package interface and the application of affordances for intuitive design, respectively. I believe most of us were faced with a new definition and use of the word "affordances."

The keynote session on day two was an overview of the U.S.-E.U. Free Trade Agreement by Julian Carroll. Julian gave a fascinating and well-delivered discussion of the challenges ahead. Following Julian was Laure Larkin who shared her concepts of applying Quality by Design (QbD) developed for pharmaceuticals to perform stability studies for medical devices.

Also, I personally have not heard a more engaging speaker on the topic of statistics, so I give a shout out to Steven Walfish of Becton Dickenson. Brian Ingram also discussed heat seal coatings which was a sort of pros and cons presentation. A panel discussion was next on the agenda to explore several package testing developments. There were many questions from the floor and the panel – consisting of Dan Burgess, Jennifer Griffin, Scott Levy, Wendy Mach and Oliver Stauffer – handled the tough questions extremely well.

The MDPTC then gave an update of their activities to the main group. New officer elections will be held soon, but it appears the leadership team will remain fairly stable over the next two years. Similar to the standards update, the MDPTC also asked for volunteers and participants to become more involved.

Finally, Dr. Henk Blom ended the program with an interesting presentation in which he is trying to tease-out some predictive modeling from Taber rub tester data. He, or rather his plucky staff of interns, has performed thousands of rub tests on many polymer materials. More work needs to be done, but the data indicates that additional work and some inter-laboratory studies may help drive out variability in the methods and narrow the data variability.

Overall, it was another good conference. I look forward to attending next year when it’s held March 3-5 in Norfolk, VA.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Chainalytics & Stratasys to Co-Present at 2014 TransPack Forum

The annual ISTA TransPack forum is a great event showcasing some of the most interesting and technical topics on transport packaging and testing.  Held each year, TransPack brings together a global consortium of packaging industry leaders for a ‘spring break’ learning opportunity.  TransPack brings together industry professionals to share current best practices and packaging educators & test labs to review their research advancing our understanding of materials and environmental conditions.  Schools and agencies participating this year are Michigan State, Clemson, Cal Poly State University, Kasetsart University (Thailand), Virginia Tech, ITENE, BAM Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing, Korea Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS).

This year, the lineup of presentations appears to be as good as usual.  Included in the program is a good mix of topics to optimize packaging design including: paper reducing stretchwrap, edge protection, unitload stability, returnable systems in Northeast Asia, and clamp loading.  New this year is a segment dedicated to sustainability; the segment will include a Panel Discussion with participation and updates from Ameripen, Incpen, Fibre Box Association and Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC). 

As a TransPack first, Stratasys, the leader in 3D printing will be co-presenting with Chainalytics to stress the importance of packaging engineering design input to improve product robustness to best protect against expected environmental hazards.    

Please send us a quick email or leave a comment indicating you will also be in Orlando for the ISTA TransPack Forum!