The importance of correct packaging
Each product has its natural flow from beginning to end. Packaging is an important element that manifests its presence within all stages of the product flow. These stages can be identified as the purchase of raw materials, the production and sale of the final product, and not to forget transportation and distribution.
The role of traditional packaging is to protect a product against deteriorative effects caused by exposure to and usage in the external environment. Packaging logistics is quite a new discipline that has gained consideration in terms of its strategic aspect in providing a significant competitive advantage to improve the efficiency of the whole Supply Chain.
Over the years, packaging has become an important challenge for companies. Companies must analyze and study the best way to pack products taking into consideration the characteristics of the products such as the shape, components, etc. to minimize cost and improve the companies’ performance and reliability. As a result, the emphasis on packaging systems has been growing substantially as of recent (Regattieri, 2013).
Nowadays, a strong focus is being placed on Smart Packaging as traditional packaging is no longer sufficient due to continuously increasing customer expectations and increasing product complexity. Smart Packaging consists of packaging systems with embedded sensor technology used for different products to extend their shelf life, track and trace products, monitor freshness, display information on quality, or improve the product on customer safety. Smart Packaging contributes to the overall Supply Chain efficiency from being in constant contact with the products through strategic sensors devices on the packaging. These smart sensors add important functionalities to the packages and companies are becoming more reliant on them due to their numerous positive effects. Smart packaging is integrated into products such as food, pharmaceutical, and many more. The Supply Chain element is currently in a growth phase with immense potential. Latest developments such as thin-film electronic and antimicrobial packing are being analyzed to increase their capabilities and become even more accurate and safer (Cheung, 2018).
The three main Packaging levels
The packaging process consists of three main levels. The first level is about the structural nature of the package. This phase is the smallest. Within this phase, the package is in direct contact with the actual content.
The second level deals with visual communication and customer satisfaction. The main purpose of the second level is to associate the primary packages together.
Finally, the third level is designed and used for transportation and storage such as cartons. The packaging system is cross-functional which means that the system is being dealt with by different departments having each specific request about the design of the package. This can lead to misunderstanding and can be contradictory.
The three package levels are illustrated in the schema below.
The security of the products can be monitored by research design to increase the safety of the product during manufacturing and assembly, storage and picking, and transport. Smart packaging also plays an important role in traditional packaging. Information transmission is used to inform the management team on the correct way to store or transport the contained product. Organizations also integrate the internet of things (IoT) through an electronic device RFDI (radio-frequency identification) which is a tag on packages to enable companies to identify the products in real-time, reducing the risk of damages and mapping the path of the products to control the work in progress. An unprotected product could cause product waste which can be negative from an environmental and economic point of view (Regattieri, 2013).
Benefits to Smart Packaging
Smart Packaging can offer various advantages. They can fulfill the information, automation, marketing, and protective functions. To do so, packages are equipped with tiny electronic devices that add functionalities such as barcodes, LED, augmented reality, NFC (near field communication), loudspeaker, displays. To illustrate their use, a good example would be the intelligent drug packaging with build-in RFID (radio frequency identification) chips which are LEDs and tiny loudspeakers that register the removal of pills and sound an alarm if they are taken in the wrong order by the patient and can inform the doctor who is treating the patient.
Smart Packaging can also be used for logistics and marketing purposes. Johnnie walker blue label bottles use sensitive sensors that send information to the company if the bottle has been opened during transportation or storage and its location in the distribution chain (Emprechtinger, 2019).
Smart Packaging has a strong customer empowerment element through great new technological tools. These tools can offer a customer interface that is used to better understand the different purchased products. Scanning a food package brings the customer to a larger explanation on the products’ storage conditions, dietary concerns, ingredient research, and nutritional value (impacx, 2020).
Quality control is another strong advantage. Active packages use sensors that are being placed on the product. Organizations can detect the status of the product and see whether it is good or comprised. Furthermore, advanced packages can even go further by extracting unwanted particles inside the package which can increase the shelf life. These sensors result in simple access to absolute quality products from the manufacturer and longer-lasting solutions (impacx, 2020).
Being able to track products might be one of the main reasons for companies to integrate Smart Packaging inside their operations. Organizations are leveraging intelligent packaging systems to track their product inside the Supply Chain process. Smart packaging has made the process of locating products much easier and safer as too many products were difficult to track within a complex supply chain (Choudhury, 2018).
Finally, Sustainability can be increased through the use of Smart Packaging. It favorites the reduction of the packaging’s impact on the environment as it is economical, cost-effective, durable, and lightweight, enabling companies to have a competitive edge by reducing at the source and consequently reducing the carbon footprint (Choudhury, 2018).
The many advantages mentioned above attract companies to switch from traditional packaging with high risks of damages or product loss to Smart Packaging with additional advanced technologies that make the logistic operation more resilient.
Would you like to know more about the best way to integrate Smart Packaging within your Supply Chain? Contact one of ModusLink’s Industry experts by clicking here.
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