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Ten Ways To Cut Packaging Costs

Wed, 11/02/2005 - 7:59am
Getting the Best Value Out of Your Food Packaging Investment

It’s an age-old business concern: Finding the right strategy to maximize a food company’s investments by streamlining costs and increasing the bottom line.

But it’s not necessarily the most obvious strategies that support cost containment and allow growing food companies to expand their businesses. As food companies consider their packaging choices, they should also keep in mind the unforeseen advantages and disadvantages of working with a supplier well into the future.

Here are ten tips food companies should keep in mind when selecting a packaging system to get the best bang for the buck without compromising package quality, product safety or customer satisfaction.

1) Don’t Forget the MAP. Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is a growing trend for the food industry because it protects freshness in products ranging from meat and baked goods to prepared entrees and fresh fruit. This process significantly extends shelf life and improves shelf appeal. MAP also allows producers and processors to maximize their market reach and minimize product loss during shipping and storage. Products can be brought to a larger distribution network since delivery schedules can be expanded. In many ways, an investment in an automated MAP system increases market options and opportunities to grow business. A wide range of rollstock machines, traysealers, and even chamber units with gas-flushing features are available to fit any size production facility.

2) Rely on Service. Getting great service is a must for food companies that need consistent and efficient production around the clock. Packaging companies that provide best-in-class machinery are better able to support it with service that keeps customers’ operations running smoothly and efficiently. Knowing a company has experienced field technicians, telephone trouble-shooting representatives and hassle-free parts ordering processes is one way to feel confident about embarking on a long-term working relationship. Another is being confident in a company’s technician training program for both employees and customers to reduce downtime.

3) Rethink Products. The more productivity, the quicker a company can cut costs and capitalize on its equipment investment. But sometimes making this happen requires a bold shift in packaging strategy. This is the path Daniele Foods took to move from selling its cured meats in bulk to a network of Italian specialty shops and delis. What the company realized is that sliced products are convenient and have proven to be an excellent way to introduce the public to gourmet specialties they might not otherwise try. With that it mind, the company selected a new thermoform fill-seal packaging system that was integrated with slicing equipment. A skin-tight sealed package was created using a top and bottom web of film.

With the absence of pre-formed trays or pouches to stock, packaging materials waste became negligible. Daniele also has the ability to apply two small top and bottom labels with its company logo. The company’s new business strategy and packaging system has enabled it to sell its products pre-sliced and reach new retail outlets, virtually doubling its business.

4) Label, Label, Label. When it comes to labeling a food product, having the ability to do it in-line often proves to be more cost effective than using printed films. Labels -- top, bottom or side -- often have a higher impact and better print quality. Expensive printed films can sometimes add excessive and unnecessary costs to a packaging operation. With pre-printed labels, multiple food product lines are easier to accommodate with relatively little effort.

5) Add In-line Zippers. Convenience is a major product differentiator that is fought and won on the store shelves as consumers increasingly make buying decisions based not only on product quality, but how they will use the product again and again at home. Processors are motivated to provide that convenience through value-added package features such as slider zippers. But cost-effectively adding unique and innovative package features while maintaining production efficiency can present a challenge to manufacturers.

To beat this, food processors can build an in-line zipper package inline in virtually any size or shape using rollstock technology. This type of system maintains the efficiency of high volume automation while allowing a convenient re-sealable feature to be added without slowing production. In-line zipper packaging can be vacuum-sealed and even created in conjunction with a modified atmosphere.

6) Go Compact. Small food operations can still get value and reliability without breaking the bank if they find the right packaging system to fit their business. The smallest rollstock machine available is as little as 10 feet in length and designed to save space in any packaging environment. Companies taking advantage of this opportunity will be able to quickly improve their business with a packaging system that does not challenge space requirements or affordability.

7) Consider Leasing. Companies that have the option to lease a packaging machine are better able to incorporate a high-quality thermoform fill-seal rollstock, traysealer or chamber packaging system into their production facility with a minimal amount of cash at purchase. Lease incentive plans include both tax and non-tax leases and their flexible-terms let manufacturers minimize upfront machinery expenditures and allocate resources to other business areas while increasing productivity levels and package quality.

8) Ensure Parts Quality. Ensuring the availability of good quality parts keeps a food company’s packaging systems running efficiently and profitably. Getting genuine replacement parts quickly and accurately is a must. Multivac, for example, puts a priority on rapid parts deployment and 95% of orders are filled and shipped the same day they are received from an inventory of more than 5,000 line item parts for faster turn-around times. The company also has a toll-free number that is answered seven days a week by qualified professionals.

9) Streamline Traysealer Processing. Increasing packaging capacity and flexibility, while reducing product changeovers is the best way to streamline a packaging line. For mid-sized companies using traysealers, selecting a machine that provides automated processing at a fair price is crucial. Some new machines on the market fit both these requirements and include a tray transfer system enabling filling and finishing simultaneously. A single-track configuration makes it an ideal system for integration into an array of food packaging lines. Don’t forget about the tooling. Go with a traysealer designed to provide quick and simple changeovers to take advantage of a wide variety of tray sizes, materials, colors, and shapes to differentiate product.

10) Prevent Downtime. In fast-paced packaging operations, delivering quality products at a profitable pace is critical to satisfy customer demands and meet business goals. Maintaining the condition of seal bars with regularly scheduled check-ups benefits the entire packaging operation. Common characteristics of seal bars in need of repair include peeling Teflon, sealant build-up, and film sticking to the seal bar. These detrimental conditions may result in packaging problems ranging from inconsistent seal widths, loss of peel strength, or leakers.

Take advantage of seal bar maintenance programs that provide for the inspection of components at least annually. This allows a processor to reduce overall maintenance costs. These programs are specifically oriented toward reducing downtime and enhancing productivity for medium to high-volume producers. Food companies that avail themselves of these services will minimize production interruptions and the high costs associated with emergency repair servicing.

10) Eliminate Product Returns. Excess packaging and returned food products that can’t be sold cost food manufacturers dearly. Finding a strategy to minimize returns is as easy as finding the right packaging system and material, then designing a customized package that enhances product integrity.

Summary
Cutting packaging costs in a food production facility requires the ability to pick the right technology and maximize its application to support business goals. Within this strategy it is also important to think beyond the packaging system to ensure production will be supported well into the future. Companies specializing in packaging have invested tremendous resources to develop solutions for food processors of every size. Take advantage of that expertise – a knowledgeable packaging professional can demonstrate the value of a solution from the retail shelf all the way to the bottom line.
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