What does a packaging engineer do?

Designing packages with both form and function in mind, highly qualified packaging engineers pay attention to the critical details that end users appreciate, yet often take for granted. Their well-designed packages also play an integral role in the entire supply chain.

Role of packaging engineers

A packaging engineer’s focus is both wide and narrow, starting with identifying the package’s purpose. What does the package need to accomplish? What requirements does it need to meet — for the customer and the end user? These top-level considerations will guide the package engineer from conceptualization to design to development of the best packaging solution for the given product.

Having a broad understanding of all phases of a product’s supply chain and logistics enables the engineer to design a package that is reliable, efficient and appealing throughout the entire cycle.

At the same time, the packaging engineer must also hone into the granular details. In carton manufacturing, for example, it’s up to the engineer to design a package that can be easily die cut and scored so that machines can print on it, open it, fill it, fold it, close it and glue it.How the package will secure the product in place and whether or not the product requires an internal partition are all key considerations that packaging engineers take into account in their design.

Packaging engineers focus on both primary and secondary/tertiary packaging. Primary packaging is designed to enhance product appeal and ease of use for the consumer or other end user. This packaging is closest to the product. Secondary packaging is often the transportation packaging, but in some cases the primary is the secondary, like for a washing machine.

Packaging engineer considerations

With the end user of the product in mind, a packaging engineer might consider the following:

Questions packaging engineers ask:

  • What are the client’s needs and priorities? Are they more interested in functionality or appearance? Is budget a concern?
  • Do they require easy-to-open packages and/or packages with safety locks?
  • Will they use the product once and dispose of it — or does the package need to last for a few days, weeks, months or indefinitely?
  • If the product has a longer shelf life, how and where will it be stored? Does it require refrigeration?
  • How fragile is the product that this packaging will contain?

Secondary/tertiary packaging takes into account various factors along the logistics chain to ensure that products are safely handled, stored and transported.

Highly qualified packaging engineers will design packages that are both durable and cost-effective.

A packaging engineer considering this phase might ask:

  • Does the product require refrigeration? Can it sustain humidity or extreme (high or low) temperatures during transport?
  • Will the packaging allow the product to be handled by conveyors?
  • How will the product be stored in distribution and fulfillment centers? Are there size, shape or weight constraints that need to be taken into account?
  • Is the packaging strong enough to survive truck clamps or manual drops?

Benefits of working with packaging engineers

Highly qualified packaging engineers leverage their expertise to promote optimization and cost savings. Aiming to improve quality and efficiency, engineers will focus on finding the most effective way to “contain, communicate and protect your products while moving them from a manufacturer, warehouse or in-store fulfillment center to a final destination (usually the consumer’s home, office or other designated end point),” according to Rob Kaszubowski, packaging engineering manager at Chain Analytics.

Source: Chainalytics

Optimization considers the impact of packaging on the environment by reducing product damage and waste. To this end, packaging engineers will identify the best carton substrate (underlying materials) for both primary and secondary/tertiary packaging. As part of the packaging design, engineers will also recommend the most complementary and cost-effective options for printing and adhesive closures.


Designing a Sustainable Packaging Program eBook Preview

Download our eBook, Designing a Sustainable Packaging Program

Supply chains hold countless opportunities for organisations to save on costs and increase efficiency.

Packaging engineers can help identify the potential for cost savings throughout the entire supply chain. In the production phase, engineers can design packages that allow for faster, easier filling. They can recommend the ideal size and shape to: 

  1. Increase the efficiency of loading into shipper cartons
  2. Maximize space during shipping and storage 
  3. Enhance the appeal of retail displays.

Engineers find the most cost-effective and efficient materials to protect the product against damage en route to every point between the manufacturer and end user, including to and from storage, distribution and fulfillment centers.

Highly qualified packaging engineers stay on the cutting edge of industry trends

Emerging trends in packaging include the growing popularity of flexible packaging; a greater focus on packaging appeal for e-commerce products to help them stand out in an increasingly competitive marketplace; and an ever-increasing awareness of environmental impact. 

Work with trusted packaging engineers

Packaging plays a critical role in the entire supply chain — and in the product’s appeal to the end user. Details matter. Performance counts.

Don’t entrust your packaging needs to just anyone. At Billerud, we believe in progress and are committed to sustainability. We offer first-class packaging materials, innovative packaging solutions and a network of like-minded partners. We’d love the opportunity to partner with you.

Webinars & Videos

Webinar - How to Take Control of Packaging for Improved Profitability

Most organisations’ packaging operations could be more efficient and profitable. Find out Managed Packaging helps their partners take control.