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Specifications – bah humbug?

Providing, and obtaining, an accurate packaging specification is vital in today’s extremely demanding trading environment, says the IOP’s packaging training manager

“Getting it right first time” is a phrase often bandied about by quality gurus and consultants, not to mention the legions of managers who chant it as a mantra while perhaps not really being aware how important it can be.

On an almost daily basis the (UK’s) Food Standards Agency reports on product recalls, where a major food manufacturer or retailer has had to deal with a problem by taking back the product in question. Anyone who has ever had to deal with a product recall will know just how expensive, time-consuming and inconvenient it can be, let alone the damage that may be done to the product and the manufacturer’s reputation.

In the packaging arena problems can arise when the (packaging buying) customer does not know exactly what he or she is purchasing. If you ask for a definition of a packaging specification, you will get a variety of answers depending on the department, the company or their place in the supply chain. A full packaging specification requires time and effort to compile, and is often left to the last minute or even ignored altogether.

Often, even those people who believe they have a “specification” will have simply approached their supplier and asked for details of the product or component they are supplying, and boy, does that leave you whistling in the wind if something goes badly awry! Where has your control gone?

At this point, some of the packaging suppliers will have raised hackles – I mean, who wants customers dictating what they can or can’t supply? But remember this: a packaging specification is a legal document and, against a background of product recall and resultant litigation, protects the supplier every bit as much as it protects the customer.

So, as we move into 2008, be ready to add “update my specifications” to your list of resolutions. But please make sure that this is one you keep.

May I wish you a prosperous New Year.

IOP: The Packaging Society: 01476 514590;

IOP: The Packaging Society’s Ian Morris