Great Packaging Part 3: Show Me the Money!

Posted on Mar 13, 2019 by

Any packaging project – large, small, simple or complex – requires the basic elements of planning, timing, and budget management. These three components will determine the financial success of the project. Unfortunately, it takes years of experience to learn how to accurately plan a realistic packaging budget. For those new to the packaging process, it can be overwhelming to work through the process of identifying, defining, and managing expectations for a complex and variable stream of sequential and concurrent activities.

The greater budgeting challenge is the ability to consider and analyze all of the variables that can potentially impact the costs related to a packaging project. This is demonstrated by the all too frequent packaging assignment, which ends up being over-budget as a result of scope creep or by encountering unanticipated activity once the process has started. So how do you begin to estimate all possible packaging costs?

1. Understand the process – A packaging project will never be a singular task. While it usually follows a standard start to end process, each company has a unique set of criteria that has to be integrated into that process. You cannot successfully plan for a budget unless you understand the intricacies and nuances required for each organization you work for.  Bypassing or omitting a component of the process can be the basis for huge cost overruns.

2. Agree on using the word “budget” – It carries different meanings among participants in the process. The static implication – is to allocate or to define a specific limit or amount. If you are given a fixed budget for a packaging assignment, the team you select will have to identify and execute the necessary activity required to complete the work within set timing and expense.  Budget can also mean an estimated or projected amount – perhaps more readily interpreted as a projection or approximation of cost but not necessarily tied to specific limitations.  Budget or estimate, as the project leader, it is your responsibility to clearly and precisely identify the desired outcome of the brand, design system and package structure (or multiple SKUs) in their final form. Sharing and confirming the budgeting language will ensure teams are deploying the appropriate process and tools to achieve your budgeting objectives.

3. Establish scheduling (timing) forecasts By breaking work into manageable units and stages you can build your scheduling projections based on those same units, and if possible, build a contingency factor into your budgets. A word of caution – in order to build budgets that you can achieve, each “state” needs a clearly defined path to completion. This is critical especially if your project requires integration of multiple teams. Continual updated and shared communication keeps all teams on track so there are not delays to the schedule or expensive and unnecessary “redo’s”.

4.  “Set the body in motion” – The premise that once you set a body in motion, it will remain in motion applies here. Once you set a team in motion, anything done to deviate from those expectations adds time, which equates to unplanned cost to the process, making adhering to a budget difficult for anyone. 

Throughout the budgeting/estimating process it is critical to identify and utilize experienced support teams to carry your timing and budget objectives efficiently and accurately through the packaging process. By identifying and using the appropriate teams and tools you can reduce or eliminate unnecessary redundancies and errors that result in costly rework.  And while excessive and last minute changes can be devastating in controlling project costs, even the most experienced professional cannot anticipate random issues that arise in creating and putting a product in front of the consumer. 

For those new to the packaging process, working with experienced supplier partners provides a valuable real-time education on the intricacies and nuances of managing and budgeting for the packaging process as you learn to constantly juggle interrelated, concurrent activities. Whether you are managing multiple SKUs with frequent turnover or managing your first product roll out, your packaging activity must be focused on garnering that valuable first and lasting impression with the consumer while keeping the project within budget.

If you need help with budgeting, planning or timing in order to move successfully through the packaging process, contact us at 920-886-7727 or  Throughout our 60 plus years of supporting customers with consumer brands large and small, we apply our experience and expertise to the entire process to create efficient and effective solutions.