The Study of Packaging

The Study of Packaging

Though we have mentioned it before, it is still sure to surprise a number of people to learn that a growing number of colleges and universities around the United States are offering classes, undergraduate degrees and even some graduate degrees in packaging studies.  Though this may come as a surprise initially, when you consider that packaging has become a multi-billion dollar industry that has existed since the earliest times, it makes sense to train those that will inherit this industry in the history, technology and motivation behind the packaging.

If you consider any product on the market today, you quickly come to the realization that the packaging industry consists of many different components.  After someone decides to market a product, there may be consultants to assist in package design and marketing.  There may be graphic designers for the package itself, working with a marketing team to ensure the package appeals to the target audience.  There will be manufacturers for the bottle, cap, box or other containers to be used.  Engineers will design a packaging line consisting of filling equipment, capping machines and other necessary packaging machinery.  Across the entire packaging spectrum, there will be research and development specialists to build and design better, safer and more efficient packages and packaging equipment.  From concept to the shelf, hundreds of people will be involved in the packaging of most individual products in one way or another.

Studying packaging can help the next generation understand the importance of the package itself as well as the packaging process.  A package can serve a number of different functions and each individual packaging project will want to focus on one or more of these functions.  Will the package need to:  

  • Keep the product free from contamination?  
  • Communicate to the end user the necessary message?  
  • Appeal to the target audience?  
  • Provide a convenient and safe container for the product?

Once the package has been selected and serves the needs identified, the packaging process must also be taken into account.  Packaging equipment can range from simple tabletop filling and capping machines to completely automated equipment and power conveyors.  Like the package itself, the packaging process will be different for each unique product.  Some questions to be answered will include:

  • Does the packaging system need to be sanitary and include container cleaning equipment?
  • Which type of filling machine and filling principle will work best for the product and package?
  • Which capping machine will be able to handle the cap or caps chosen for the product?
  • How will the conveyor system best be designed to handle space and speed requirements?

Also keep in mind that the technology and packaging used in the industry are constantly changing, adapting and improving.  So the best package and packaging machinery for a product today will likely not be the best package or packaging machinery for the same type of product in the future.  Understanding not only the package and the packaging machinery, but the growth of the industry, the technology and what drives it will help to prepare the next generation of packaging professionals.  When you consider that the above discussion would likely consist of less than a chapter of information, structuring the preparation through higher education actually seems long overdue.