This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the first computer training manuals ever released titled Computer Training and Education, The Picture in 1962 by F.J Gruenberger. Gruenberger, who worked for the Rand Corporation based in Santa Monica, wrote his paper with the aim of highlighting areas of threat to computer education as well as detailing the potential rate of growth of computers within the U.S, which he said at the time was “probably exceeded by no other technology”, a statement that is arguably as true today as it was then.
In 1962 there was a severe shortage of people who had practical computing skills and this was mainly due to the number of computers there were in existence at the time, coupled with the fact that any computer would have been rendered virtually obsolete by the time it was built and delivered such was the pace of development. The progression of computers was so swift that only 2 years after releasing his paper the world had its first Super Computer. In 1964 the CDC 6600 by Seymour Cray was released and it revolutionised computing. It was 10 times faster than anything on the market at the time, had 60-bit words of memory and sold for a staggering $8 million dollars each and was testament to Gruenberger’s vision at the time that “the total computing capability of the U.S will at least double in the next twelve months”. These days computers might last a little bit longer than those of the 60’s but the number of daily software alerts and updates you receive on your PC or laptop gives a good indication as to the continued rate of progression that the Industry is renowned for.
It’s amazing to think how far computers have come in a relatively short space of time and almost impossible to imagine what’s in store in the next 50 years. I doubt anyone involved in the early computer era of the 50’s and 60’s would have believed you if you’d have told them that by 2012 computers would be small enough to fit into your briefcase, let alone your pocket and explaining the Internet to someone who needed a small gymnasium to store a single computer would probably have taken quite some doing. In fact it’s probably fair to say that the vast majority of us who use computers for daily chores also find that we require them much more for leisure purposes than they would ever have been intended for and that the information at our finger tips would be practically impossible to have imagined in 1962.
Gruenberger then, one of the first teachers of training in the world of computers and the man who stated that if he had to start from scratch would rather have a computer and no teacher than the best teacher and no computer might look at today’s world with a touch of irony for it would seem that in 2012 man who was once considered that teacher, has at the hands of the computer, most definitely become the student.
A Brand Scheme
Working for a company with a name such as Brand Packaging Services, I recently decided it would be a good idea to try and understand the nature of the brands that we work for so I packed up my bag for the day and headed off to the big smoke where I’d enrolled in a Lecture that was held at the Microsoft Offices in Victoria on the subject of Brand Management. The Lecturer for the day was the renowned Professor of Marketing Mark Ritson who took us through the case study of the well known Brand “Snapple”
Snapple, who had its Brand Heritage firmly entrenched in the East Coast of America, primarily in New York had started life as a business selling all-natural apple juice to health stores in Greenwich Village in 1972. The business grew slowly and steadily, in time moving into Pennsylvania and New Jersey until by 1984 turnover had hit $4 Million dollars and by 1986 had doubled to over $8 Million. Selling their brand at premium prices and using individual distributors, Snapple had set up a network that proved to be invaluable to the growth of the company and soon took the decision to hire an Industry expert from seven- up in the form of Carl Gilman.
Among the key decisions that Gilman took in his time at Snapple was to restrict the sale of the brand to the East Coast of America, and against ever increasing demand, avoided approaches to move into the West Coast, which ultimately turned out to be the USP of the business. By 1992, having built up sales to $674 million Snapple was bought by Quaker for a massive $1.7 billion! Unfortunately for Snapple the next 3 years proved to be disastrous for the brand and in 1997, with sales dropping to $422 million was sold to an investment company who over the course of several years managed to re-establish the brand and turn it back to the success that it is today.
Now I’m not a Brand Manager and can’t pretend that sitting in a Lecture for one afternoon qualifies me to speak as one but even I could tell that starting something from scratch and building it into a brand worth 1.7 billion in the space of 22 years is quite some achievement. One thing however that did strike me through the course of the day was the sense of fate that incorporates the early stages of a brands life and how the decisions that people make are often born out of external pressure and demand rather than as a result of any strategic planning. For instance Snapple grew its product lines, a lot of which failed, largely because the network of independent distributors they’d set up were demanding more product to keep their own businesses occupied and not, as I would have assumed, part of some grand scheme to dominate the beverage Industry and take over the World.
It seems to me that a brand’s equity grows over time as much by luck as judgement, not to take anything away from the founders of these companies who are the people brave enough to take the plunge in the first place, but it’s what we buy into, what it represents and how it makes us feel that place value on what would otherwise simply become another product on the shelf, and that’s the fascinating part of the whole process. The fact that brands can enhance the way people feel, and act is the reason that I love what they do for us. Granted they’re not the answer to every problem under the Sun but if they manage to bring a little bit of cheer into a person’s life then that’s all that really matters!
Tim Britt, Sales and Marketing Manager, Brand Packaging Services
Many Industry professionals, when asked this question, would assume the co-packer only gets involved at the end of a projects life cycle and although that can be true for some jobs its becoming more important for companies to approach the co-packer at a much earlier stage, and sometimes even before they’ve begun the manufacturing process.
Contract packers have always been an integral part of the supply chain, ensuring products make their way to the shelf in both the timescale required, within budget and in the condition retailers expect, but what if you get to the point where you’ve manufactured a product, have retailers lined up and then can’t find a suitable co-packer to oversee the final stages of your project.
It sounds impossible to think that you’d get to this stage and not be able to find a suitable supplier, but many things can influence the end of the supply chain. One thing nearly all co-packers have in common is the increase in demand for their services during the lead up to the holiday periods such as Christmas and Easter. Brand owners and project managers are generally aware of this trend and can use their knowledge and skills to ensure their supplier has the capacity to handle their project but placing additional work load on an already stretched work force can sometimes cause issues that can normally be avoided. Obviously it’s not always possible to plan so far in advance that everything runs like clockwork such as when demand for a product outweighs manufacture and this is where having a partnership with your supplier really comes into its own. By working in partnership with suppliers and not simply seeing them as a means to an end, you encourage more trust in the relationship and this often results in a sustainable partnership that can react to market conditions much more flexibly and result in significant achievements for all concerned.
Another problem than can arise as a result of last minute planning is the difficulty in actually finding a supplier who is set up to handle the job with the necessary equipment, systems and work force in place. Most co-packers will specialise in certain sectors whether it be pharmaceuticals, toiletries, confectionery etc, and will have the appropriate equipment and certifications in order to work those sectors, so doing your homework prior to approaching these suppliers can be time saving and result in a smooth running project. Generally if you have a partnership with an existing supplier they would be open to discussing procurement options for equipment to tender for most contracts but this again is something which takes time and should be considered in great detail and from the outset.
The diverse nature of the packaging Industry as a whole tends to mean that most projects have a bespoke time frame and keeping within those constraints is specific to that individual job. Working with co-packers from the early concept stage can ensure that all parties are aware of their responsibilities and the time frame their expected to work towards giving everyone the chance to plan ahead and ensure your project gets completed in the most efficient and manageable way.
Tim Britt – Tim.email@example.com
Sales and Marketing Manager
Brand Packaging Services
Can Contract Packers have an influence on the materials used in the supply chain?
Contract Packing is evolving – even as we speak companies are looking at ways in which they can improve their systems, customer service, increase their volume and reduce their costs of production through efficiency measures. There’s nothing new in this you might say, but the high interest in sustainability from both the business sector and the general public gives the impression the Industry must look at its influence on companies who are interested, if not devoted to the issue of sustainability.
From a sales perspective it’s always been a case of working with your partners in order to fully understand each other’s requirements but nowadays it seems that it’s just as important to work in a consultative manner in order to incorporate the knowledge from within the Industry and identify the possible pit falls of ignoring the sustainability issue. Granted the bigger players in Manufacturing can spend the money needed to develop their own departments dedicated to focusing on the big picture but is this a realistic and viable option for the smaller more independent manufacturers, producers and retailers.
With Trade associations covering 85% of businesses involved in the supply chain supporting the code of practice for optimising packaging and minimising waste, the Industry organisers obviously work hard to raise awareness, and with manufacturers and retailers always looking to tailor the type and amount of material needed to provide the right protection for the much greater resources typically invested in products, it’s important to remember the Contract Packers role in this process. As Co-Packers we’re primarily responsible for putting components together and bringing the product to the shelf in a saleable condition and sustainability is fundamental in helping to achieve this; but we can also use our experience in the Industry to recommend suppliers of appropriate materials, building on our existing relationships with partners and even place ourselves in position to work on a consultancy basis when the planning of product and packaging design is just in concept.
By recognising the importance of the issue and responding in a pro active manner, such as looking at our own internal energy usage and sourcing the appropriate materials for individual projects we take more responsibility within the supply chain and reflect the importance of sustainability as a whole.
Co-Packers can, and do have an influence in the materials used in the supply chain and are certainly playing their part in the evolution of packaging. As a result of working towards highlighting the benefit of sustainability – economically, environmentally and socially we can ensure we meet the needs of the manufacturers responsibilities and by demonstrating our desire to be involved in the sustainability of their products can continue to evolve as businesses whilst sustaining our own direction and development.