PLM Missing a “P” in the Lifecycle – Packaging


still life portrait of a group of product packagingDespite all of the advancements in Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) packaging still requires a best of breed solution. For many industries the package is an equal part of the marketable product. As PLM has penetrated industries where packaging plays a key role, such as consumer packaged goods (CPG), there have been investments and improvements in the PLM suite. But none that I am aware of cover the full spectrum of product-package-label. Let’s look at where they need help.

PLM’s Expansion and Packaging Role

To start with, PLM has expanded significantly. I like to talk about this expansion in four dimensions, supporting more people, a richer view of the product, a larger portion of the lifecycle, and more processes. For packaging this means that:

  • The product record needs to cover packaging – one of the most dynamic and multi-dimensional parts of the product
  • The process needs to cover packaging design and manage packaging throughout the product lifecycle
  • The package should be managed in context with the rest of the product – contents, physical packaging, and labels

4 Dimensions of PLM Expansion

Why is Packaging Important?

Packaging is critical for multiple reasons. Two of these are marketability and compliance. From a marketability perspective a walk down any retail aisle will highlight all kinds of innovation in the last decade. Of course packaging needs to be functional as well (logistics, product protection, etc.) but boring simply doesn’t fly off of the shelves. Before I spend too much time on this, if you don’t recognize how important packaging is to your products you probably don’t need to read this.

What’s Needed for Packaging?

Packaging requires a number of capabilities. Let’s look at a list of needs and then we can discuss how to best support them:

  • Designing and managing the content – not really the packaging, but it needs to be in context
  • Physical container design – where a lot of the magic, creativity, and innovation comes in
  • Labeling / text for compliance – based on the content specifications / recipe, this can include ingredients listing, warnings, and other mandatory information like nutrition facts panels
  • Artwork – another source of innovation and creativity, but also intrinsically tied to the label. This also includes the many variations based on pack size, product variants, label copy, and promotional packaging
  • Logistical packaging design – shippers, cases, pallet stacking, etc.

How to Support Packaging?

For managing products integration is key. When one part of the product changes it often ripples through the rest. For example a change in ingredients might change packaging requirements due to photosensitive compound. Or a marketing change to a new container material may drive different label materials. Or pretty much changing anything drives changes to artwork. This can be something significant like a reformulation that requires new compliance information or a new promotion with a retailer that needs an extra “20% off” peel-away coupon. Integration helps keep the different aspects of the product in sync and manage change – this is why PLM is the right place for packaging.

So who supports what? Here is my current view, I look forward to input and feedback:

  • Content – look to PLM that can help manage the design from requirements through specifications. Formulation tools are very helpful here and should drive compliance-oriented text. Some examples are Infor’s Optiva, Oracle’s Agile for Process, Selerant. Some tools like SAP’s RM / PLM, Siemens PLM’s Teamcenter, or Dassault Systemes’ Enovia are appropriate for managing specs but don’t necessarily have the full tools to develop them. Perhaps DS with Enginuity and the new BioVIA brand will step up here.
  • Physical Container – Computer Aided Design (CAD) can play a key role here. Look for more flexible modeling capabilities that support freeform design (see information on direct modeling in our CAD strategy review).
  • Labeling / text – Look for process PLM / formulation tools that can manage this. But make sure this is part of an integrated product record, this is critical for compliance, traceability, auditability. See options under “Content” above
  • Artwork – I purposely split this out from labeling because I don’t know of a package that manages artwork in the product context effectively. Today this a best of breed and systems integration project. I expect that to change at some point, but who know when that will be. Look for solutions like Kallik, Schawk Blue, and others. Ideally you can get integration with text / copy here as well, which leads to a key decision point about how to bridge the content <-> text and  text <-> label copy gap.
  • Logistics packaging – There are some very interesting packaging design specialty tools that help with this problem. This is a best of breed / point solution that would benefit from integration but is probably not as a high a priority to integrate. Intellipack offers a solution here. There are also other specialty tools like Esko’s ArtiosCAD.

Final Thoughts

Integration wins the day. To manage change and keep everything in sync during product development and throughout the lifecycle a holistic view is critical. The largest part of what companies need for packaging will come from PLM, and the rest can be filled in with best-of-breed tools.