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Innovating Efficient Collaboration

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: September 5, 2008, from the September 2006 issue of GCI Magazine.

Words are powerful. Innovation has become a particularly powerful word in this industry. It’s a word I tend to explore at the beginning of each packaging article I write. I seek it out in each topic—after all, why am I writing about the topic if there is nothing original about it? What good does my topic do your business if it is not one that will propel it toward greater success? But the word innovation always puts me in a quandary. Coming from so many directions and so frequently, its meaning blurs. My analogy is air. If asked to define it, I’m not so sure that I could. It’s here where I sit; I breathe it to extract oxygen in order to live. But it’s markedly less breathable eight miles above where I sit, where a winged, turbo charged aluminum tube uses it to create lift. Innovation is seemingly everywhere when the industry speaks of new packaging releases.

I have concluded that I must stop asking “What is it?” when applied to packaging or the creation of packaging. Instead, I answer the question “What must it do?” Simply put, it must be an improvement that increases profitability—boosts sales, cuts costs, etc. I need only to define it by what it must be—a profitable improvement.

So, a logical starting point for making a profitable improvement in packaging is at the very start of a package’s life cycle—at the design stage. The innovation here is not in the design itself or the tools used to create the design—software running in a zillion units of computing power on your desk. The innovation is that there is simply a more efficient and faster way to communicate about and make adjustments to the package.

Speed in delivering new packaging is critical for a product’s speed to market—and that is critical for the product’s success. In addition to challenging package designers, this has created opportunities. “The Building Blocks of Stronger Brands” (GCI magazine, June 2006) cites a Wall Street Journal article that states that more marketing dollars are being shifted toward packaging, and, as discussed in the GCI magazine feature “Engaging Consumers” (August 2006), the packaging market for personal care products posts annual U.S. revenues of just over $3 billion, and steady growth is expected. New consumer profiles to target and new product concepts continually challenge packaging designers. Designers also are looking to differentiate and are exploring new materials to deliver brand messages. These requirements have to be taken into account within the package design process.

Product Life Cycle Management

Product Life Cycle Management (PLCM) is not a new term in the pages of GCI magazine. Software and services that manage the entire life cycle of a product—from conception through design, manufacturing and service—are estimated to be a $15 billion industry. PLCM is ideal for the creation and approval process of packaging because it affords the opportunity to reduce prototyping costs, reduce waste and reduce time to market. Investment in a PLCM system and its proper implementation is an investment in long-term savings.