Originally published in Adhesives & Sealants Industry Magazine, December 2022

Companies can focus on win-win-win strategies to impact people, profit, and the planet with supply chain strategies that reduce packaging, modify materials, improve processes, and reduce transportation and logistics costs.

By Lisa Anderson, Founder and President, LMA Consulting Group

With the increase in interest in the three P’s of the triple bottom line (people, planet, and profit), packaging rises to the forefront. It is controllable, and there are several options for how packaging can contribute to the triple bottom line. Starting by expanding your view from your suppliers’ suppliers to your customers’ customers, you’ll find several opportunities for recession proofing your business by partnering with supply chain partners to achieve the ultimate win-win-win.

Almost every raw material and finished good requires packaging. If you can minimize packaging without impacting product quality, you will have a direct impact on the triple bottom line by reducing materials and waste while increasing efficiency, effectiveness, and profitability. You could also redesign packaging to better utilize the packaging design to improve the carbon footprint, profitability, and people’s lives.

When assessing sterile medical applications, you could research the clinical requirements for the barrier. Good packaging design, material selection, and composition can minimize the requirements for the barrier. In a non-sterile application, you might evaluate the use of recycled content and biomaterials.

Pertinent Examples

As it relates to packaging design, material selection and composition, an adult incontinence manufacturer wanted to redesign the materials to perform better yet use less materials in the product for a win-win-win for the customer, manufacturer, and supplier. The R&D, Package Engineering, Purchasing, and Supply Chain teams collaborated closely with the supplier to develop new materials that would achieve the objectives. After several iterations, trials, and revisions, the team accomplished the triple bottom line. Less materials were used in the product, less packaging was required, less waste occurred on the lines with close alignment between operations, equipment suppliers, and key suppliers, and the product performance and customer satisfaction improved.

From a logistics perspective, the resulting packaging was designed optimally to maximize the product in the box, on the pallet, in the warehouse, and most importantly, in a truck so that they could gain up to 20% additional product on the truck for the same price. It also optimized warehousing and storage requirements so that they could shut down an overflow storage facility, not only reducing the movements but also reducing damage and wasted packaging materials.

In another example related to this manufacturer, the team was able to minimize the waste associated with the construction and elastomeric adhesives as well as the fastening tapes by focusing on the manufacturing process. Operations put attention on centerlining the process, asset care, and people development, and these “basics” delivered consistent results over time. Since materials were a preponderance of product cost, these saving went straight to the bottom line, but, more importantly, the people felt engaged, and the customers could count on receiving quality products that met their specifications on-time so that they could serve their patients.

In a life sciences manufacturer of proteins, a cross-functional team focused attention on forecasting sales by package sizes so that they could better align their operations resources to priority tasks to have the right products in the right package in the right place at the right time. Since they had several custom products in custom sizes, it wasn’t a simple task to standardize what was achievable while gaining a directionally correct view by package sizes so that they could set their bottling schedule to align with customer demand. However, after creating a demand plan to support sales growth objectives and translating that plan into bottling requirements by size, they were able to reduce waste, minimize non-essential inventory, and support aggressive growth targets with high on-time-in-full percentages and reduced lead times, creating loyal customers.

Winning Strategies

In each of these examples, the manufacturer communicated and coordinated across the end-to-end supply chain to achieve success. Within each supply chain partner, a cross-functional team participated to ensure the packaging and product was designed, redesigned, and adjusted with the supplier, manufacturer, customer, and even the end customer in mind. The most successful companies are focusing on win-win-win strategies to impact people, profit, and the planet with an eye across the supply chain to reduce packaging, modify materials and composition, improve processes, and reduce transportation and logistics costs while improving overall performance to the customer.