Learn How to Keep Product Packaging in Spec by Eliminating Packaging Drift

Global brands, headquartered in North America or Europe, that source production in Southeast Asia (SEA) have very complex supply chains. Sourcing materials for these sophisticated, globally distributed supply chains is extraordinarily challenging. Shortages of materials, personnel, and transportation, due to the recent pandemic, have only exasperated the complexity of sourcing. How does this impact your product packaging? Consistently maintaining the quality of your product packages has become even more challenging.

What is Product Packaging Drift?

Product packaging drift occurs when a manufacturing process gradually (or, in some instances, abruptly) migrates from being in spec to becoming out of spec. Changes in process, materials, packaging suppliers, or other factors can cause packaging drift to occur.


Product Packaging Performance at Retail Stores


Color variations on product packaging is one area of packaging drift. This can effect negatively on brand perception by the consumer.

B​illerud has worked with many brands who rely on SEA product factories to manufacture and distribute their products. Over the years many of these brands have encountered instances were a package on the retail shelf deviates in either appearance, strength, or performance from the approved packaging prototype that the brand had approved for use.


When Billerud works with clients to develop a comprehensive packaging solution, we focus not only on creating an initial prototype to be used for the product package, we also consider how to consistently maintain the required packaging quality during ongoing production runs.


Design Specifications Should Clearly State Raw Material Quality Parameters


When documenting the specifications for a particular package design, it is critically important to clearly specify the range of upper and lower limits for acceptable quality. For example, with corrugated packaging, there are a number of components that can impact performance and quality such as liner board weight, percentage of recycled material, and gauge of the top sheet are a few examples.  


Creating a Structured Process to Approve Raw Material Changes


Although well-intentioned packaging suppliers may strive for complete adherence to manufacturing specifications, there are many real-world scenarios, including inventory shortages, unexpected supplier delays, economic pressures, and unforecasted spikes in product demand, that might compel a packaging supplier to change the raw materials used to produce your package.


A formalized, structured process needs to be instituted to make sure that each change in raw material is tested and approved before being used for ongoing production. Having the expertise of a Quality Control (QC) professional that can help manage this process, including only changing one raw material at a time, is critical to ensuring the ongoing integrity of your product package.


Potential Negative Consequences of Packaging Drift


In the unfortunate case that packaging drift does occur, the following negative outcomes may be experienced by a brand:

  • Damage to brand perception
    • Graphics deviate from brand standards resulting in sloppy graphics
    • Images appear blurry because they were printed out of registration
  • Increased product replacement costs
    • Structural integrity of the product package is compromised causing product damage and the need for replacement products
  • Sustainability goals may be compromised



Designing an ideal product package, creating a package prototype, and ramping up production are all necessary steps when developing new product packaging. However, processes need to be put into place and regular packaging performance audits need to be performed to make sure that the ongoing production of the product package is compliant with initial design and raw material specifications. Management of ongoing production quality from a quality assurance standpoint can be a formidable task. Partnering with experienced Packaging Professionals can help your brand have confidence that each and every package will perform as intended as it travels throughout your extensive supply chains and will leave consumers with a positive brand experience.








Additional Resources

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