I called on a potential customer this week. I showed him the features of my product, a patio door screen, and he was impressed. I brought him a sample. He installed it into his patio door, and it worked great. I gave him the pricing. He approved. Then, I did what every good salesperson does: I asked for the order. “Not so fast,” he said. “We need to discuss one of the most important parts of your offering—the packaging!”

Then he showed me a pile of damaged screens from a competitor. “We waited six weeks for these screens to be delivered,” he said, “and this is how they arrived.” He pointed to a stack of screens that were lying on a skid. The screens were obviously damaged and could not be used. They were simply placed on a skid like a tall stack of pancakes from Denny’s with only butter in between. As he talked, the pitch of his voice raised, as did his blood pressure.

“If a vendor is going to take six weeks to fulfill an order, then they better do something to make sure these screens get to us in useable condition!” he exclaimed. “Now we have this pile of garbage to deal with and another six weeks to wait!”

This caused me to ponder. With the crazy market that we are dealing with these days, it makes perfect sense that proper packaging is now more important than ever. Marketing students are taught many different concepts of what perfect packaging should entail. The one I liked the most and the one that I think is most appropriate to our industry is the three Ps: protection, preservation and promotion.

So, with door and window manufacturers looking at extended lead times these days, due to unprecedented demand, the first P, protection, is of utmost importance. Indeed, vendors must beef up their packaging to ensure that it can withstand the rigors of shipping. Remember, material handlers do not have an appreciation for what the end use may be for various products that are being shipped. This is especially true with products that are shipped via less than truckload. These types of shipments often entail multiple connection points, like layovers when traveling by air. Shipments reach these multiple transfer points where some products that have reached their destinations are removed from the truck while others are loaded onto the same truck to take their place. The items that remain on the truck are often unloaded and then reloaded. They are repositioned to make maximum use of the available space on the truck. The net result is that your products are handled numerous times by material handlers that are in a big hurry to load and unload so that the truck can once again be on its way. The bottom line is that when you design your packaging, you should consider that whoever is handling your products that are in transit is doing so in a big hurry with no knowledge of its fragility or intended usage. Remember that Samsonite commercial with the Gorilla luggage handler? You get the point!

The second P, preservation, is also of utmost importance. This P applies on the plant floor. Once your product arrives on your customer’s plant floor it must often be opened, put away, and reopened numerous times before it is totally consumed. In this regard, the packaging must be capable of being opened and resealed numerous times while keeping your product fresh and ready for its intended usage. The best example I can give of this is that of desiccated materials used in the fabrication of insulating glass. Desiccant beads are loaded into spacers to keep the airgap dry and fog free. Flexible spacer systems contain molecular sieve which is built right into the flexible spacer and so goes unseen. It also keeps the enclosed air dry within the insulating glass unit. The packaging for these components must facilitate easy resealing so that these desiccated materials are not left exposed to the hot moist air of the factory when the shift ends. This can use up the desiccant so that it no longer performs its intended function. So, your packaging must be capable of protecting your product until it is totally consumed with instructions available for opening and resealing for preservation.

The final P is promotion. Being a marketing guy, I can really appreciate this one. With your brand name placed in bold fashion on the package, it is displayed on the plant floor for all employees as well as visitors to see. However, this can work both for and against you. If the first two Ps are executed appropriately, then the workers on the plant floor will love your product. When plant tours are given, visitors will see your brand and employees will give your brand the thumbs up. Conversely, if the first two Ps are a disaster, then employees will tell their manager to get rid of that brand! Also, someday, when these workers get promoted to decision making positions within the company, they will remember your brand name either positively or negatively and this will impact your future sales for that customer!

So, with our industry’s production workers battling every day to keep their heads above water at high tide, component packaging takes on a whole new level of significance, especially as many materials and components are being allocated and lead times are being extended. Customers cannot afford the time and effort to return components and wait a second amount of time for them to arrive.

Making a great product is important but putting it into a great package really makes the difference!

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