Research and Development

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Continuous Improvement

No company that hopes to survive, let alone grow, can afford to ignore research and development.

This is particularly true for businesses that form part of a supply for a wider chain. In these cases, the R & D department, whilst focussing on the improvement of its own products, must also work to achieve the aims of its clients.

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Irish Flexible Packaging’s research and development department is concentrating largely on sustainability, and on products that can be used to replace plastic.

End users all over the world are becoming increasingly mistrustful of plastic, concerned about the environmental damage caused in its production, and outraged by news stories of the pollution caused by disposal. These concerns do not necessarily have to be based on hard facts; perception is enough. The marketing departments of food production companies know that not everybody in the supermarket aisles will read even the list of ingredients of their products, let alone well-argued explanations of their packaging methods.

IFP’s clients are well aware of the unpopularity of plastic as a packaging material, and many of them are working alongside IFP in their efforts to find sustainable, and practical, alternatives. Packaging materials for foodstuffs have to meet very high standards, not only to meet the expectations of the general public, but also to conform to regulations set out across the world, not all of them identical. It is no longer enough for the packaging to offer hygienic protection; that packaging must also be printable, and the print, too, must conform to high standards of legibility and durability. Shelf life needs to be enhanced if value is to be added. Health and safety may still head the list, but it is a very long list.

Paper-based products are the most likely alternatives to plastic in most cases. Paper is sustainable, and properly managed forests and plantations enhance, rather than damage, the environment. Paper is compostable, and biodegradable. IFP’s clients are aware of this, of course, and are supportive, but they have other concerns, too. The packaging must be cost-effective, and the efficiency of the production line that uses it must not be compromised. True, there are machines that will handle paper very efficiently, and will produce an attractive package at the end, but the capital outlay for new machinery may not always be viable for that company at that time, and IFP has a perfectly good grasp of the financial implications which may be a factor in change.

The foil back wax butter wrapping that is unique in Ireland to IFP could not have been produced at all, let alone as an economic and commercial success, without the work of the Research and Development team. With the Irish dairy industry forecasting huge growth in the coming years, such innovations in packaging are vital, and there will need to be more of them.

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Key Performance Indicators

Irish Flexible Packaging research and development department uses several key performance indicators to measure its success, but their priorities change according to the requirements of the client.

Client Satisfaction:

Client satisfaction has to head any list where Irish Flexible Packaging is working alongside that client, but beyond that there are challenges that will cross the board.

Public Perception:

The public perception of the product, and the way in which it impacts marketing, will be important to all clients, and the public is becoming increasingly well-informed when it comes to packaging.

Waste Reduction:

As a result, the public’s priorities are largely those of the marketing departments, which is why waste reduction is such a significant factor in Irish Flexible Packaging research. What waste there is has to be recyclable.

Production Methods:

Production methods need to be as environmentally friendly as possible, and this calls for cooperation with other companies in the chain. This ink is cleaner than the one we have been using; will it be as durable? Can it be used on all our products? These are just two questions among many that the R & D department faces as it looks to improve production methods.

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There are always challenges in Research and Development.

Irish Flexible Packaging is happy to meet them, and confident that it can overcome them.