4 Types of Innovation Every Packaging Department Should Know About

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Innovation can increase a company’s profits, reinvigorate a customer base and streamline an organization’s operations. Although there is a common belief that innovation happens on the spur of inspiration, innovation requires a disciplined process to truly take shape.

Our ideation process philosophy is “Innovate First, Interact Later”. When we approach a new project, we look for ways to innovate through four different avenues:

1. Innovation through automation.

Small details impact cost and labor. Innovation through automation can include a new way of printing on boxes or a more efficient way of stacking pallets. We go through the processes with people, looking at different elements and options. Large equipment engineers can inform line layouts. Third-party companies are contributing to the automation of case packers and palletizers downstream. Innovation through automation is best for large storage units; it is less profitable for small SKUs.

2. Innovation through programming.

The book Atomic Habits deals with “habit stacking” – a process of getting things done faster and more efficiently. Scheduling innovation is similar. Consecutive SKU execution, for example, could be a smart way to save money and be more operationally efficient.

3. Innovation by sharing ideas.

Sharing ideas with a trusted partner is an overlooked asset.
Although big food brands have a lot of experience, they still see innovation as a competitive advantage and can benefit from an ideation process. Emerging brands may have less experience with new product launches, packaging operations and quality standards and can benefit from the wisdom of a packaging partner. For example, we helped a customer evaluate a powder format versus a liquid format for their product.

4. Innovation through continuous improvement.

Continuous improvement always starts with a question: What can we do differently to streamline production? Then move on to the follow-up questions: What if we used the X format? What if we choose an alternative packaging solution? How about changing the volume? What is the price of comparable products? The goal is to reinvent processes to reduce pennies per package. An existing brand may, for example, reformat product packaging to impact operational results, yield, waste and scrap.

Consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies deal with everything from changing consumer preferences and low margins to supply chain issues and economic fluctuations. Understanding – and implementing – a process of ideation through these four types of innovation can help CPGs continue to thrive.

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