We live in a global marketplace where items of all shapes and sizes travel by truck, train, plane and boat on a daily basis on their way to millions of customers. These items need to be optimised for space and able to endure the journey undamaged.
Smurfit Kappa packaging may look unassuming, but there is so much more to it than may meet the eye.
As a market leader in packaging solutions, we know that a lot of science goes into making materials and constructing packaging concepts that can withstand modern demands in an efficient way.
Tucked away in the quiet region of Hoogeveen in the Netherlands is the packaging R&D facility of the Development Centre. A site like no other, this is where our products are not only tested, but where every aspect of them is interrogated to reach the highest standards.
To tell us more about this approach, we talked to Gérard van de Boogaard, Expertise Manager of the R&D in Hoogeveen, Holland.
The research and development aims not just to measure and test products but rather to improve them. For 20 years we have investigated the performance of packaging across the complete supply chain. In the last ten years, we have analysed 4000 supply chains. We do this to conform to ISTA (International Safe Transit Association) guidelines and have been ISTA certified since 2012.
"For us it's all about providing the best possible packaging through the use of in-depth research and understanding. Using state-of-the-art equipment and bespoke measuring procedures, the characteristics of raw materials are investigated and packaging optimised. This is to make sure that all required specifications are met, and exceeded,"says Gérard, who has 25 years' experience in the industry. "Having the ISTA certification is very important, but in order to deliver true value to our customers we like to go even deeper to fully understand paper, corrugated, packaging and the content in the complete supply chain."
It's this way of thinking that delivers two broad benefits to our customers; not only do they know that their packaging is best in class and designed for their needs, but they also get the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the solutions have been designed with guidelines that are researched, proven and benchmarked in practice at every opportunity.
"It doesn't just start or end in the lab. We work closely with our paper mills and corrugated plants, but most importantly, with our customers, when implementing new solutions to ensure a sound confirmation of how our packaging performs in real life. "The raw materials that we use to make our paper comes from our own sustainable forests, meaning that we understand and have complete control over our own supply chain – a benefit that we pass onto our customers."
To best understand the limits and possibilities of materials, Gérard and his team look at things from a number of perspectives before a pack finally qualifies. 1 – Protecting the primary pack It all begins with the primary pack. Every year we investigate dozens of primaries; from glass beverage bottles, to plastic detergent bottles, to cereal cartons to gift packs for smart phones. Of course, the effectiveness of the packaging is only as good as the way it interacts with what it contains. That's why our testing includes various scenarios to ensure that the products end their journey in the same state they started in. 2 – The right packaging Is the design optimal for its function and transport? Are there any areas where the design of the packaging itself can be improved? Will the components and overall structure be able to withstand the different stages in the supply chain? 3 – Stability and storage Transit and storage are an essential part of any supply chain and there are many optimisations that can be made to ensure ideal outcomes. Scenario testing ensures that the packaging is able to stack efficiently and can be moved/stored with minimal space and maximum resourcefulness, as well as being able to resist the burden that is expected during the handling.
Research and development of any kind relies on more than scenario analysis; it also involves numbers, data and measurable outcomes. This is why Gérard and his team frame their processes around three F's – Feeling, Fact and Formula.
"Feeling revolves around the customer's needs and how we can meet them. Whether it's about reducing wastage or preventing product damage, every need is different and every customer has their own responsibilities to fulfil,"he explains.
"Then we look at the facts. We look at their existing solutions, measure their effectiveness and quantify which areas can perform better, which gives us practical learnings to pass on.
"Finally, we have formula which is the result of the previous two steps in our exploration process. By quantifying the customer needs and their existing packaging solution shortcomings, we are able to find concrete ways to improve their production and packaging from the ground up."
The research and development in the development centre is just one aspect of what goes into Smurfit Kappa's SupplySmart commitment, which brings creative thinking, science and experience together for all stages of the supply chain journey. A service that combines big data from over 50,000 supply chains in over 30 countries with creative solutions, it reduces logistical burdens, costs and wastage without compromising on performance quality.
For more information, please visit SupplySmart.