By Brittany Willis, Senior Validation Engineer

Damaged product can eat into the bottom line quickly when it results in scrap. It’s important to have methods in place not only to detect and correct a problem once it’s occurred but also to continually improve design methodologies to better reflect the conditions a product is likely to see. Defining and understanding key parameters ensures that testing qualifies a product for shipment while also addressing any potential hazards in the field.

Building a solid foundation of environmental variables critical to function ensures that a product leaves the factory capable of performing despite changes in conditions. For example, knowing that corrugate and cardboard lose strength when left in humid environments is important to understanding what limits a package can withstand. Testing should be conducted to make sure material properties are not compromised even at environmental extremes. Understanding how a package will perform on a cargo ship in tropical waters compared to a trailer left to sit on a snow covered lot can make for a much more robust design and reduce the need for redesign later in the product lifecycle.

What is often harder to quantify, is the human element. What one person might consider normal operating procedure, another could find completely unreasonable. In some cases, data can be used to help turn these variations into usable test inputs. For example, outfitting a few fork trucks with accelerometers during normal business hours could illustrate the effects of different driving styles or identify problem areas of a warehouse set-up. In cases where it isn’t possible to gather data, observation can be used to ensure the design is not only functional but practical. Understanding how people are going to interact with the package from the beginning of the distribution line to the end can help identify potential trouble areas and prevent issues before they ever happen.

Imagine, for example, a product that is delivered in a bulk box and ultimately goes through a parcel service for delivery. The delivery personnel has the option to use a dolly or carry the parcel in by hand. Perhaps the product is sensitive to frequent, repetitive impacts, in which case dolly delivery requiring the use of staircases becomes an issue. Or perhaps the box is much heavier than it appears and carrying it by hand results in injury to the carrier or increased risk of drop and damage. Many of these problems can be resolved with very simple changes to the packaging but would be easy to miss if an engineer didn’t understand the conditions this product was likely to see.

Understanding the conditions, both environmentally and human driven, a package will encounter can improve the package design and ensure a smooth introduction into the market.

To learn more, schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.

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