Mar 03 2011

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Is Packaging Waste?

is_packaging_wasteWhile the emphasis over the last two years has been largely about survival for many manufacturers – managing cash flow while improving productivity and quality for the lowest cost – sustainability efforts continue to be important for most manufacturers, even if the subject is not dominating the headlines as it was a couple of years ago.

In fact, many manufacturers have realized that saving money and protecting the environment go hand in hand. At the recent ARC Advisory Group conference in Orlando last month, the Coca-Cola Company presented their strategy for balancing customer requirements, productivity and sustainability. Their strategy, guided by the Brundtland Commission’s definition of sustainability, rests upon three main pillars: social, environmental and economic objectives.

One of their more interesting promulgations is that “Packaging is not waste.” That’s an important consideration, because if you treat packaging as waste, your goal should be to minimize it. If you treat it as a value-add, then you want to optimize it. I think the real key is to consider the full lifecycle of packaging while developing the product, which means that during design, manufacturing and delivery of your product, you must consider both product and packaging characteristics, and how they each impact the other; in particular, how they impact manufacturability and logistics. You must then consider how you can optimize your value chain to produce both consistently, efficiently and with the right quality across all your manufacturing locations, including any outsourced manufacturing facilities.

So, how can you ensure that you identify and harvest your best practices, and share them across your multi-site and extended enterprises to meet your sustainability targets? For many, who are early on in the process of moving from a plant-centric focus to an enterprise-wide (and extended enterprise) focus, this is a herculean task. These manufacturers are typically running myriad manufacturing and packaging IT systems, focused on individual plant performance. You may have a single plant that is meeting energy and sustainable goals, but do you have sufficient data to know why? And, can you extract that knowledge and extrapolate it into learning, such that your other plants can benefit?

How do you treat packaging … as waste to be minimized, or as a value-add component to your product that is synchronized with production, optimized across your entire value chain? Regardless your answer, have you been successful in achieving consistent results across your entire enterprise? If so, it would be great to hear your story.

Jordan can be found on Google+

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2011/03/is-packaging-waste/


  1. Shipping Materials

    I agree with you Tim, there should be some analysis made and there must be a solution of this.

  2. Tim McMahon

    You state that packaging is not waste. I agree in principle but that does not mean there isn’t waste in packaging. Excess packaging is a waste. Over engineered packaging is a waste. Difficult to use packaging is a waste. Packaging that causes defects is a waste. Improvement can and should be made in packaging like all processes.

    1. Jordan Berkley

      I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, you really drive home the point that I alluded to -packaging needs to be optimized not minimzed. This requires doing a lifecycle analysis considering the items you delineated as well as impact on the supply chain, particularly around transportation and storage. Collaboration is needed between engineering and manufacturing to determine optimal packaging. Engineers need to see the manufacturing data on performance and defects as well as field data. Manufacturing needs to employ Lean processes to reduce waste during production and packaging ops. And, they need manufacturing analytics to both determine root cause of issues and uncover opportunities for improvement.

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