In an earlier article, ‘Design: By Management or Maverick?’ in the May 2010 issue of Packaging South Asia, I wrote: Traditionally, management and design place themselves at the opposite ends of the boardroom table. Designers are viewed as the gifted visionaries who can deliver on intuition. Design management is all that has to be gone through to convert the intuition into a workable business product. In the process, designers begin to be regarded as some kind of creative mavericks. Design development becomes a process of solving the problems created by designers rather than using design to solve marketing or manufacturing problems!
Creative design and its optimized delivery in the form of an orchestrated symphony is the goal of every packaged branded product. In the article mentioned above, I wrote further: The idea that successful design could be the result of an integrative ‘groupthink’ involving left-brain analytical business managers working with right-brain intuitive mavericks began to be acceptable towards the mid-nineties. Remember this is around the time when Apple computers had just demonstrated how to out-innovate the competition by smart design. Every brand began to want to become the Apple of its category. Design software arrived. Professional design practice began to be more process and method driven to fit the overall efficient design management template. Great design was no longer magic. Designers and managers had started to learn to work together to deliver excellent quality output.
As a result, nowadays, almost every popular consumer brand sets up intricate management structures, with cross-functional reporting, to cater to their packaging design and management needs. While they have a common objective – to attain excellent, iconic, and successful packaging for their products, it is notable that the management structures set up by various brand companies are quite different.
What you learn after finishing packaging school
These varied packaging management structures are what the freshly minted packaging school graduates from IIP (and other similar places) encounter. In my earlier article, ‘What they don’t teach you at Packaging School’ in the February 2020 issue of Packaging South Asia, I wrote:
According to What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School author Mark McCormack, the first five years of your career are fundamental to the outcome of the rest of your life. For this reason, the role of quality education must be to equip the student with all that will be needed at the start of a career to be able to ‘dive-in at the deep end’ and be able to swim along. But is that really the case? The field of packaging is constantly evolving and encompasses so many diverse subjects and roles.
In this context, the vital importance of exposing students to aspects of packaging development management, in-depth, was discussed. Sriman Banerjee, Head of Packaging, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, based in the US, said,” Globally, management is not taught and becomes challenging for individuals. Fresh graduates find it challenging to navigate the corporate world. Graduates need to be prepared for this.” Vijay Sood, Former Head of Packaging, Nestle referred to the ‘push-pull’ between marketing and production functions in company management and termed it a ‘healthy disagreement’ aimed at finding best-fit solutions to product packaging needs.
Where correctly to place the management structure boxes?
The packaging management organization structure in successful international brand companies, for such reasons, is customized to deliver optimum results. Packaging technologists and developers are placed in the organogram ‘boxes’ where they can be most innovative and yet have adequate checks and balances. To get an international perspective of this, I invited Sriman Banerjee to comment, since he has worked over a decade in the US and Europe.
Question – In your experience, what is the best way to structure and take up packaging development management?
– Product manager with packaging team
– Packaging team with purchase team
– Joint team of marketing with packaging, R&D, production, and purchase
– Led by design agency and coordinated by packaging team
Sriman Banerjee – At the outset, we need to accept delivering packaging is a cross-functional effort. Packaging as an education discipline and industrial function has existed since the 1970s, but it has never been well understood in terms of the value it brings to the table. At times packaging is clubbed with R&D formulations, and at other times it is a part of a more extensive supply chain. Both of these have an adverse impact as the ‘packaging voice’ on the table is mostly lost, and the packaging concept is diluted. In my experience, packaging has delivered its best when being part of R&D or commercial and is recognized as a critical function and part of the core team. This role enables a seat at the high table of management as well as a better understanding and appreciation of the deliverables.
Question – In your experience, what are the various packaging management structures within which you have functioned? Led by:
– R&D department
– Technical/production management
– Marketing/product manager
– Purchase department
– Stand-alone packaging manager – reporting directly to top management
– Any other
Sriman Banerjee – In my career spanning 20+ years and several organizations, I have worked in R&D, supply chain, as well as marketing, led packaging functions. The role of packaging does not change; however, the priorities and weightage changes based on your functional reporting line.
Question – What are your observations about:
– Design agency and product manager desires versus packaging team and production limitations
– Marketing desires versus vendor capability and purchase cost limitations
– International brand specs and local vendor capability
Sriman Banerjee – All of the above are valid. Although nothing is impossible in today’s science and technology regime, however, there is a cost associated with it. Also, the X vs. Y function impression and practice – both need to be addressed. If packaging needs to deliver, it needs to hear all functions and have a collaborative approach. You can still provide a cost-neutral packaging innovation if you are ready to change the paradigm, and the same needs to be convincing for everyone to agree.
There are several examples of innovation in India where the change of technology and economies of scale have been leveraged on packaging projects. These came by partnering with the supply chain, and in the same vein, working with design agencies and marketing, the best designs have come out winning awards and accolades. Some of the examples of collaboration would be Marico’s Parachute coconut oil blister pack, Horlicks new pack, and Zandu balm. All iconic packs have come out of partnerships and collaboration.
Question – What is your opinion about the most effective management reporting structure for pack development?
– Top management empowered, capable of over-ruling purchase and production.
– Embedded in the marketing function
– Embedded in the R & D function
– Embedded in the production and operations function
– Embedded as a part of the purchase department function – as ‘development buying.’
– Any other suggestion
Sriman Banerjee – There is a delicate balance between what is best and what is practical. If you ask any packaging professional, they would always choose the requirement of a stand-alone function reporting to management. However, in companies where packaging is the mainstay to sell products i.e., beverages, we do not see that. Therefore in given circumstances, the best place would be R&D. I would not recommend packaging development to be part of purchase, although one may see it as the best fit and best of both the worlds in terms of development and cost savings. However, I believe it would stifle innovation and research. R&D enables you to be more ‘flexible’ within the constraints as well as equally partner with marketing and supply chain to bring out the best-in-class packaging based on consumer insights and manufacturing capability.
Question – Should Packaging Development be wholly outsourced to a talented design agency capable of providing creative innovation? Does this apply equally for:
– Consumer food brands
– Healthcare & wellness brands
– Pharmaceutical brands
– Personal care/cosmetics brands
Sriman Banerjee – Un-boxing design and development
In the end, Sriman observed that it appeared that the most popular method of packaging management in India seemed to be to make the packaging function a sub-section of the purchase and supply chain function. He pointed out that this trend was contrary to the practice in the rest of the world. Globally packaging development is seen either with the R&D-supply chain or marketing departments. He suggested that the latest management configuration is to un-box design from the packaging development function and make it a part of the marketing group. On the other hand, packaging development becomes a part of the R&D group, while packaging technical is assigned to the supply chain. According to him, GSK, Takeda Pharma, Pepsi, and others are currently adopting this management model.
It appears there are many different ways of placing the boxes of the packaging management structure in an organization. Optimum results depend on how the structure balances and works as a cohesive team. In a dynamic business environment, it may be imperative to constantly juggle those boxes and be ready to think outside them, of course.
Responsibilities of the packaging development department
Design and innovate
– Suggest and develop new packaging formats for the range of company products.
– Design and develop packaging graphics to suit the printing techniques required for various packaging formats.
– Stay abreast of contemporary packaging trends and technology and competitive products on the shelves.
Test and define
– Test product and pack compatibility to establish the potential shelf-life of the product.
– Define the specifications of packaging components and lay down test procedures to be used.
Manage and coordinate
– Packaging development activity across all company and third party manufacturing locations.
– Printing artworks of all SKU’s and variants, including legacy materials.
Assist and support
– Purchase development activity with technical evaluation of potential vendors.
– Quality management activity by reviewing and updating packaging specs and resolving discrepancies.
Commercial and operations
– Evaluate materials options and establish a cost-effective bill of materials for the complete primary and secondary packaging.
– Assist factory production operations in selecting and setting up material handling end-of-line equipment to optimize production.