The heavy impact of Lightweighting

The use of less material to produce packaging means lighter packs. This is called lightweighting and it has an impact on the whole cradle-to-grave life cycle of the packaging – in terms of cost as well as sustainability. It is easy to see why lightweighting has been a hot topic for some time.

Lightweighting, by definition, is the art of reducing the weight of a package without compromising packaging performance. It translates into cost savings, because less raw material is sourced and processed, less energy is used, and transport and storage requirements are reduced – just to mention the most obvious factors.

Lightweighting for a sharper competitive edge

In a fiercely competitive business environment, cost reduction is always a driving factor. Lightweighting can mean considerable savings, especially when it comes to brands that sell large volumes.

Of course, lightweighting has environmental benefits too: use of resources, energy consumption, emissions, and waste issues. Today, this is perhaps primarily an additional bonus, but will surely count as more important tomorrow. Still, the sustainability angle strengthens a brand’s environmental profile and credibility.

How is lightweighting important at PIDA?

A packaging project entered into the PIDA competition is assessed by a number of parameters. On showing that lightweighting is implemented in the packaging concept, it may earn bonus points in several award categories – such as innovation, user-friendliness and sustainability. Especially if the design is lean and simple, it results in a solution that uses little material and is easy to produce.

BillerudKorsnäs White is the company’s most exclusive cartonboard product, and the main packaging material at PIDA. The product is perfectly suited for lightweighting.

The board is strong, stiff and stable, which makes the packaging robust, tough and formable even in the lower grammages. Two reasons for strength and shapeability:

  • Made of long, tensile primary wood fibres from Nordic forests
  • Built as a multi-layered structure
Customers do request lightweighting projects … but most of the time lightweighting is just one of several factors in packaging optimization.
Lena Dahlberg, Manager Carton Solutions

Packaging optimization

“Customers do request lightweighting projects. Converters as well as brand owners. It happens. But most of the time lightweighting is just one of several factors in packaging optimization,” says Lena Dahlberg, Manager Carton Solutions BillerudKorsnäs. “Optimization is driven by multiple needs: cost pressure, better handling, toughness, printability, shelf impact, and so on. Lightweighting is simply expected to be part of it all.”

“The benefits of lightweighting in any specific case depend on a comparison with the previous solution,” Lena Dahlberg continues. “It’s different depending on what materials were used, the structural design, the type of product, the premium level, and all the individual specifics.”

So what is important for PIDA contestants, future packaging designers, to know about lightweighting? We asked Håkan Bergström, an experienced project manager at Göteborgstryckeriet – a printer’s/converter very familiar with various cartonboard materials.

“It’s all about volumes,” says Håkan Bergström. “For shorter runs the savings make a marginal difference. With larger volumes the savings can be significant, and as a consequence it’s only the large-volume customers who raise the question. What I think the packaging design students should be more aware of is the environmental impact. Better use of resources and a reduction of the total tonnages transported on our roads. Lightweighting does that, too.”

Success factors and pitfalls

Remember that lightweighting is not just about using less material. It is using a stronger, more suited material that allows for weight reduction without compromising performance. We are not just talking light weight, but right weight. And success is also about expertise in structural design, to ensure optimal function of the packaging itself.

In search of the right weight, there are three things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t mess with the consumer experience
  • Don’t mess with runnability and production feasibility
  • Consider the multiple requirements in a lifecycle perspective – production line, stacking and storing, product protection, transport, handling, display, use, recycling and disposal