Strategic approach to pack design
An integrated methodology that could improve the design of packaging has been put forward by a research team from the University of Alabama, USA.
The technique combines two packaging processes – quality function design (QFD) and the design of experiments (DOE). Quality function design establishes the specific needs of customers through market research, while DOE compares different elements of a design and tests them to see if they fulfill the customers’ needs.
The new model looks at different areas associated with design, such as processing, production and the actual product and its components.
The product planning stage highlights the needs of the customer and converts possible methods of production that can achieve the quality that is needed.
Once these results are known, the manufacturing challenges are identified through the process production model. Design of experiments is applied to identify the effects of the challenges on key product characteristics. This information is then fed back into the model, and using the production-planning matrix, the optimal level for each characteristic is given.
According to graduate researcher Shunta Garrett, the combination of these two processes ‘offers the benefit of co-ordination of the design and the manufacturing requirements and specifications’.
She also believes the new technique may ‘co-ordinate the focus of a company cross-functionally to allow global optimisation’.
The method has been trialled to help create sealing solutions for cereal packaging, as many consumers noted insufficient sealing within the packet and difficulties in opening the box. The team has applied DOE to identify and analyse the problems within the processing plant, revealing the factors in production are pressure and the rollers’ temperatures. From this, the ideal roller temperature has been found to be 230°C and the optimal pressure 80psi.
Garrett explains, ‘It was common practice among machine operators to increase the levels of temperatures and pressures in order to achieve the target seal strength.
‘However, when the levels of the factors are increased above the optimum levels identified in [our] study, the properties of glue on the packaging lid begin to diminish. This causes the seal strength to decrease below the target’.
She adds, ‘The results of the DOE helped to identify a gap among machine operators in understanding the relationship of the temperature and pressure to the seal strength. The test provided the operators with production control measures for the machine settings’.