Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Value of Intelligent Packaging

Packaging is a hot topic. Particularly when a new fancy cell phone or game platform is launched, or any computer product, there's a lot of buzz about packaging and how difficult the newer rigid plastics are to open or how over-packaged these (and other) items may or may not be. And obviously, with the green, eco, earth-friendly, environmental trend, packaging has been vilified as an unnecessary and wasteful landfill-clogger.

The movement toward economy in packaging is healthy, no doubt. The mantra reduce-reuse-recycle makes sense. The companies involved with the design and manufacture of packaging are hyper-aware of the rumbling by consumers. The fact remains, though, packaging itself is extremely valuable. The urge to label all packaging as bad is simply short-sighted.

With great packaging, the eggs you enjoy for breakfast remain whole and fresh until you cook them; the allergy medicine you keep in your desk is safe and retains its efficacy for when you need it most. No doubt about it: the safety and freshness of all the foods and medicines we ingest are due to proper packaging. In fact, the value of all products in the retail marketplace is greatly affected by packaging. Outside the retail realm there is smart packaging that keeps the individual components of computers, MRI scanners, space shuttles, airplanes and automobiles safe and ready for assembly, long before you see the final product.

Smart packaging is key, ideally beginning in the design stage of the product being packaged, through manufacturing, storage, shipment and use, so that entire process is focused on using the exact quantity and quality of materials required to protect the safety and functionality of the product. If the TV and each of its individual components have been properly packaged all the way from factory to consumer, the TV will function longer, meaning it will stay out of the landfill or recycle stream longer.

Intelligent packaging is being developed all over the world by companies and individuals who care about getting it right. It's not just about carbon footprint or monetary value. It's a delicate balance to reduce packaging materials, be aware of safety both within the manufacturing plant and for the consumer, ensure the whole life of the product being packaged, and maintain fiscal responsibility.

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