Saturday, March 28, 2020

Spectrum of Packaging from Simple to Excessive

— Implications in modern packaging of a Chinese allusion “Keep the fancy case but give back the valuable pearl…”

There’s a household idiom in Chinese which goes as follows:
About 2,300 years ago, a jewelry dealer from Chu state (of the ancient China) traded pearls in Zheng state. One day, he had a very precious pearl.
In order to sell it at a premium price, he decided to make a fancy box for it. He had a top carpenter make an exquisite box with rare wood, then employ a top craftsman to carve delicate patterns top and elaborately decorate it with superior perfume and gem stones. The dealer then put the pearl in and was confident of the packaging.

A person from Zheng State was deeply enamored by the pretty case and bought it for a high price after some bargaining.
But the story didn’t end here as usual!
To his surprise, the buyer soon returned with the case and pearl. The dealer was literally a little frustrated and expected he would think again. But to his astonishment, the buyer took the pearl out, gave it back to the dealer and left with the glittering box only!
This Chinese idiom is used to satirize people who are bewitched by the gorgeous appearance and give up the precious essence, and also used more broadly to mean lacking judgement and making false choices.

In reality, few would go to extremes like the character in the story, perhaps. But when it comes to packaging, it does render us a bit of deja vu, especially with some health products in China. Some products are not as valuable as its packaging and that’s not exaggerating.

However, the importance of packaging should by no means be down played, either to sellers or buyers. Aside from protecting the products inside, a good packaging go a long way in terms of communicating product and brand values between the two parties.

Then, at the spectrum of packaging from simple to excessive, where’s the right point? Maybe there are a thousand hamlets in a thousand people’s eyes.
1. As a buyer/consumer, to what extent will you buy in a fancy packaging?
2. If you’re a marketer, how will you balance between luxury and simplicity of packaging?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Deliver the Bumpiest Mini Drawer Gift Boxes Project

Simple does not mean easy! Recently we’ve worked on a project where entails a two-part drawer gift box as an accessory to the larger complex box. This tiny box involves no odd shapes, nor complex structure or design! Just so normal except for its delicate size. But just as being so small in size, it had once been quite challenging – unlike round mini tubes(eg. lip balm tubes) which can run on machines. Here’s the story on how we struggled (if not got stuck) in such a ‘simple’ box, and finally were determined to deliver, but at the expense of profits!


This tiny drawer gift box, as shown above, would probably be figured as something not worth the candle by most suppliers, which could be told from the dimensions (as in the following dieline).
dieline

Failed Outsourcing Attempts
Frankly, the reason that we’d accept such an order in the busy season is partly because it’s an accessory, and partly because we thought we could outsource this part. Some peer vendors may specialize in such hand-made boxes.
The first few we contacted all declined flatly at the sight of the drawing. Then we tried to contact some factories who keep good relationship with us and asked for their favor. All of them agreed to try but gave up within one or two days. We were somewhat prepared for such reaction. With its delicate size, it can’t fit on the automatic box folding machines. And as it measures hardly the width of an index finger, it’s tricky for manual handling. Thus even the workers are not willing to work on this project because the slow progress affected their piece wages.
The time lapsed fast – two weeks had passed, and we had approached no less than 10 peer cardboard gift boxes factories. The main/larger gift box sets were already done and the agreed delivery time is almost due. However, the little box project was literally going nowhere!

Taking it on In-house
After unsuccessful attempting of outsourcing, we decided to face up to the difficulties. We were actually cornered. All we could do at that point is, to spare no effort, at any cost,  to get these little boxes delivered on time and without compromising the quality!
First of all, we shipped the main boxes out first as planned.

We then soon assigned a group to make these tiny gift boxes in-house. 

(This is what they look like before they are boxes)

But the difficulties are daunting! Such tiny gift boxes are by no means simple in making. Compared to bigger ones, these boxes just didn’t save you any  procedure. And you have to do the job by hand, while they are too small to fit in a finger to pinch the glued joints. The workers fumbled their way at the boxes...
(Small makeup brushes are specially used for applying glue.)

High defect rate:
Despite the annoyingly slow progress, the defect rate remained formidably high, glue stain, broken joint, adhesive failure... (1) As it’s too small, workers can’t wear gloves while handling. Thus, glue stains occurred at a high percentage. (2) The folds (especially the small joints at ends) of the white inner boxes – not reinforced by lamination, were fragile and apt to break during forming the shape.  (3) The methods and glues that work on regular gift boxes stumbled on these tiny boxes,  for example, after gluing and forming, the sticking area would simply break apart – some instantly while some after one or two days. When the boxes are so small that the folds are much more resilient than expected. That makes the job even trickier, so we had to try other glues and by extending the time of air-drying before pinching together.


Braving the Challenge/Solution:
The defect rate stayed high, and meanwhile as it was the busy season, there were many other orders in queue to be delivered shortly. Yet hard work didn’t lead to good outcome. Anxiety and frustration stole in. Over 3 weeks had passed so far, but merely 20% of the required quantity  was ready. Everyone was so anxious but seemed little could be done, the boxes would only be made one by one, manually.
 

Finally the seasoned factory manager decided to leave three deft workers to FOCUS on this project alone.  Another point was to Learn by Doing. And he himself joined the efforts in keeping improving, bit by bit, every step of the whole procedure. For example, the way of folding, time of air drying after applying the glue, and especially, practice sort of Work specialization among them, etc. Much credit should be given to the three women, for their nimble hands, patience, and industry. The efficiency are largely promoted, nearly up to that of ordinary gift boxes.

Express delivery.
All the tiny drawer gift boxes were finally finished, altogether! We dispatched these left-behind little boxes through express delivery service, at our cost, to make sure they reached the customer almost the same time with the mass cargo around the Christmas.

At last, this bumpiest project came to an good end! We lost profits in this order but delivered and saved the integrity! Besides, as a windfall gain, it extends our business a little, and we can accept orders of such hand-made tiny drawer gift boxes in future.
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Basically, it’s not so much about technology as about skills and attitude. When I look back to the anxiety and hard time going through then, it’s no more nerve-racking now,  just a part of routine work and worthy no fuss. But  these moments might as well be shared and kept for future reference as well. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Round gift boxes get popular in product packaging

Round cardboard tubes catch on in recent years! you can find more and more products are packed in tubes, cosmetics, food, tea and gifts, etc.
Compared to traditional square/rectangular rigid gift boxes, custom paper tubes packaging has its pronounced advantages:
1. Tubes are not so apt to bend from pressure. This advantage may come from its different material and production method. Tubes are machine rolled from kraft paper, layer by layer, and reinforced with glue. But non-tube rigid boxes are mainly framed/support by thick grey board. And all boards, whatever they are made of, tend to warp.
2. The shape make a difference. Pressure over round tubes are evenly spread along the rim, while other shapes can’t as they have corners.
Round Boxes

3. Round tubes are more simple in making. Round tubes production generally involves tube rolling, wrapping, some may require hemmed edges and finish treatment, etc. And non-tube packaging entails scoring, die-cutting, except for aforesaid steps.
4. Despite all the above merits, round cardboard gift boxes are even cheaper and more stable in quality.
Of course, many things factor in the choice of packaging styles. products, brand concepts, preferences of certain consumer segments and management teams among other elements influence what to box type to use.
We, Innove Packaging focus on custom cardboard gift boxes manufacturing. Welcome to communicate with us on any packaging needs or questions!