Packaging and manufacturing processes are continuously evolving

daniel-magninDaniel Magnin
Global Head of Packaging Equipment & Operations


pierre-etienne-hannecartPierre-Etienne Hannecart
Head of Consumer Centric Packaging


Packaging has evolved from its basic protection function and has acquired enhanced features. It must be convenient, interact with the consumer, convey emotion and protect the environment.
Designing packaging is increasingly complex and requires both brands and equipment manufacturers to change the way they work.

Metal boxes were originally designed to merely offer consumers a flawless product. Packaging design then evolved, introducing the concept of functionality.

For example, making sure that consumers do not hurt themselves when opening a tin can, and that they do not need tools. Today we provide further convenience with easy-to-open lids and seals, and the ability to re-seal the packages for later consumption.

Packaging must thus not only preserve the product it contains but also ensure handling the product is an enjoyable experience, blending in interaction and emotion. The environmental impact must be as small as possible.

Packaging needs to serve the consumers’ current lifestyles. They want to eat on-the-go, fast, in portions, and expect the product to be customized.

Continuously innovating

This drives Nestlé to continuously innovate. Our products – and their packaging – must be designed so that they can easily adapt to all the distribution channels: discount retailers (displaying products on pallets), supermarkets (with high visual appeal), gas stations, e-commerce (including home delivery and drive-through)…

Packaging is constantly integrating new materials and techniques. Sustainability is the number one priority, for the product itself and for the environmental impact of its packaging. Everyone is working to this end, focusing on two goals : reducing the quantity of packaging required and developing environmental-friendly material.

Inclusive Design, a major challenge

Consumer profile and habits are continuously changing and developing. Our challenge today consists in offering packages that are optimized throughout the supply chain and designed to be used by the largest number of consumers, regardless of their age and abilities. We must take into account the ageing of the population, longer life expectancy and the growing number of senior citizens living alone and independently.

We must offer solutions meeting all these demographic changes. Inclusive design is an approach that does not exclude anyone when using packaging. If it is designed for an older market segment, surely it is suitable for a vast majority of the population.

Nestlé rolls out the Inclusive Design approach

Nestlé has been developing this methodology for four years in partnership with universities and based on functional analysis criteria and simulations tools. They allow us to define the ergonomic performance of our existing and new products.
Since designers know and integrate consumer expectations and the interactions with packaging throughout its life cycle, they design products that can easily be used by a large portion of the targeted consumer base.

NESCAFÉ® Gold is now packaged in a more ergonomic container featuring a better grip, a new seal and an easy-to-open tab. In the bottled water sector, the Hépar® bottle cap has just recently been fully redesigned. It ensures a better grip and is easier to open and close. Our aim is clearly to place consumers at the heart of our packaging development and to meet their expectations and requirements with simple, intuitive, easy to use and cost-effective solutions.

Redesigning machines and processes

Our machinery must meet the new production requirements, in particular with higher productivity and flexibility. One of our priorities is to implement the principles of Lean Manufacturing, that have proven their efficiency in the automotive industry. This consists in defining the needs from the early stages of the project, as well as extensive equipment specifications that integrate all the aspects of productivity:
– safety at work in order to eliminate any risk of accident caused by our equipment
– hygiene (product quality and machinery maintenance);
– line waste reduction (less material loss, less waste);
– decrease in efficiency loss due to scheduled or unscheduled production interruptions;
– and flexibility (it consists firstly in being able to make rapid and precise changeovers ; secondly in adapting to product and consumer changes, as well as new material technologies. New materials are generally more demanding, which requires stricter monitoring of the machine parameters while maintaining production speed.)

We first came up with a method to assist project managers in designing the new production lines. The methodology draws out which tasks they should carry out at each development stage.
Step two: set up models to define and validate the equipment, manage the project process, control performance and check that the project outcome is in line with the initial specifications. It is necessary to make sure that there is no loss of information and that the needs identified at an early stage have been perfectly met between the initial specifications and the machine production launch .
Step three: define standards on certain types of equipment and operating methods.

We are also working on communication between machines, in particular between the production lines and our centralized data management system. Nestlé is pioneer in this field ; one of our engineers is a member of the Board of Directors of OMAC (Organization for Machine Automation and Control). This is paramount in decreasing efficiency losses.

New technologies obviously result in developing lines and machinery; like mechanization and automation, which are aimed at reducing the risks related to manual operations. An emerging technology, digital printing is also a strong asset for the future. Digital or on-line printing of packages allows to customize them, to be more flexible on lines, to produce labels on demand and to reduce stocking up on materials. Although the technique is already in use, it is clear that it gets more and more industrialized.

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