Innovation within the packaging supply chain is being stifled by a lack of communication, collaboration and investment, according to a report commissioned by research consultancy Faraday. The report, ‘Understanding and promoting collaborative innovation across packaging supply chains of fast-moving consumer goods’, identified environmental concerns as presenting the greatest need to innovate.
It concluded that, although businesses at all stages of the process were moderately innovative, the supply chain as a whole was not.
Many within creative groups agree that greater collaboration would benefit the industry.
Julie Jenson Bennett, head of innovation at consultancy 1HQ, says, ‘It’s about getting to a creative process and getting everybody engaged and involved. Ideas can come out of anywhere.’
Dr Walter Lewis, managing director of Faraday, says this was a common response. He says, ‘Almost everyone interviewed agreed that collaboration in the supply chain is very important to innovation, and we found that designers wanted to offer suppliers and brand managers the chance to innovate,’ he says.
The report, compiled by researchers in organisational psychology at Leeds University Business School, also identified consumers as the key drivers of innovation.
Ian Webb, managing partner at consultancy Webb Scarlett deVlam, agrees, but does not believe that greater collaboration is the answer. He says, ‘Don’t let process lead your innovation. Inspirational ideas based on consumer insight are the key.’
He adds, ‘The majority of really good ideas come from one source, so you have to keep them in the mix. Process should happen after the good idea has been locked down.’
The researchers suggest, however, that close collaboration between the retailers, who are closest to the end-user, and the rest of the supply chain is the best way to ensure consumer demand is met.
Mark Frost, creative director at Brand Me, believes this is the case. He says, ‘We certainly find that our larger clients like Sainsbury’s are benefiting from this already,’ he says, ‘It has a really good innovation team, and the communication between Sainsbury’s, ourselves, and the rest of the supply chain is very effective.’
A spokesman for packaging specialist Parker Williams says, ‘We are fortunate to have other experts from the packaging supply chain within our own group of sister companies [such as Sun Branding Solutions] and would very much support the suggestion that cross-discipline collaboration [will help] deliver the design vision. The best design solutions involve a broad range of skills across the process.’
The spokesman adds that Parker Williams believes in close collaboration and communication across the supply chain ‘so that we offer excellence at every stage’. He adds, ‘This means that collectively we ensure the designer’s vision is achieved through a rationalised process that is time- and cost-efficient. It’s about adding value to every aspect of getting excellent and effective design on the shelf.’
Ideas for best practice
- Have open, trusting, collaborative relationships, with good communication across the supply chain
- Address the needs of consumers
- Have processes in place to manage innovation
- Commercialise good ideas without wasting resources