Management push through on untested concept...

Hey guys,

I’m in a bit of a predicament here and I was wondering if anyone has had something similar happen. I’m in the process of developing a new piece of packaging for my company. The concept is sound but it needs a good amount of tweaking to make its use intuitive. However, we’ve been given a deadline that really does not allow any kind of outside testing, and I’m afraid of putting a product in this package when it’s not ready.

What do you do when management is pushing through a design when there literally is not enough time to make sure it’s ready? I know there are going to be plenty of running changes because of this, and I’m not just trying to cover my a$$ saying well you didn’t give me enough time to make it right so I have to keep updating it.

Any thoughts or experiences like this?

I would approach your manager to let them know the risk of not testing. Poor sales? Damaged brand? Injured consumers/liability?
And then I’d offer some options:

  1. Do no testing, maximum risk
  2. Do some down-and-dirty friends-and-family testing right now, less risk
  3. Do appropriate testing, least risk

What’s new?

I my experience it seems like they talk about it for 2 years then give you the assignment and expect the product to be finished in 3 weeks :open_mouth: …3 weeks if your lucky. No time for exploration, experimenting or testing… :frowning:

I’ve found that when we launch product it can help a great deal to design the implementation of the product as well as the product itself. Without getting too much into it the product that I help develop is modular and is used by designers. Some of these products can be systems that are very broad in scope and require lots of testing in lots of configurations. Lots of testing means lots of time in itself, but it’s also an opportunity to discover hidden risks or potential in the project. Not everyone on a project team will make that connection, so take CG’s advice and talk to your manager about time testing and the risks of not doing it.

That being said, when you’re designing something try to communicate the scope, in your case time to implement vs. risk/reward along with the design itself. Sure, sometimes your designs might be shot down due to time sensitivity, but better to get shot down than burn down later. If it gets shot down, but you believe in it then work on it further on your own and prove it out.

Thanks everyone. I appreciate the feedback. Luckily, the product development has been pushed back and I have a bit more time on the product, giving me the time to test a couple methods of opening the packaging.

I’m going to take this as a learning experience, especially now that I’ve been consolidated into the big corporate office, I see how they always want everything yesterday. Now I have a solid example to show what could have happened if we don’t take the time to investigate all aspects of the project.

Unfortunately, not enough emphasis is put on packaging, it’s simply a means to an end. That’s an opportunity for me to show management and sales how valuable good packaging design is.

Good packaging design is very valuable. Management thinks the real product is inside (which is true) but the customer perceives the packaging as the product (First moment of truth).

Good luck


hmm products hitting market before they are properly tested.

cough cough … toyota… cough cough … microsoft… cough cough… graco (although in fairness you could really insert just about any brand name in there)

I face this everytime and I suggest you stand your ground. I do a lot of secondary packaging for beverage companies. When an incident occurs out in market, the liability falls on you as the individual. They may go after the beverage company, but that company will come and hunt you down. It’s their attempt at passing the liability back on the supplier and make them responsible for any compensatory damages.

If there is litigation, you WILL be called into court and asked specifically why you did things to the packaging. If you’re being pressured to move the packaging along, log your dispute through e-mail and save it. If and when anything goes into litigation, e-mails will be secured. In your e-mail you need to state that you do not agree with the packaging as is and that it may result in injury, etc. to the end consumer.

If you’re a supplier and your customer insists on it, they need to sign a release for the packaging which frees your company of any liability.

Amen. Packaging testing is farly easy depending on you concerns. To have managment say they do not want to test is not good buisness practice. What are your concerns? What test would you like to run?

It’s actually a bit more convoluted than them just saying “we don’t want to test”. Basically our time-table doesn’t allow for it, and I’m noticing this to be a consistent trend around here. In essence, I present a concept, be it packaging or display, it usually will have something unique or different about it that hasn’t been done at my company before, innovative in some way. Theoretically, the concept is sound, it would work with the proper engineering, and it certainly isn’t overly complicated or crazy expensive. Everyone always wants it yesterday, they see the design and say OK do it. There’s no problem there, but you need an appropriate amount of time to get it right.

Sorry for venting, but I guess my question has changed slightly. It really boils down to, after showing a great concept and given the green light, without the time needed to get it right, do you dumb down your design to get it out the door? I certainly don’t feel comfortable putting out a design that while innovative isn’t yet 100%. But do you have a choice since there isn’t the time and everyone has already seen the initial concept.

No, what it boils down to is poor project management. They need to know all the steps of product development straight through to commercialization. Based on the initial concept, they should already have a rough timeline established. Your responsibility is to provide them with realistic blocks of time for each step and reason as to why the step is needed. It’s your responsibility as the designer to make them aware of potential failures if steps are by-passed. Tie those failures to financial metrics and it’ll wake them up.

We often have a 38 week development timeline that often gets compressed down to 16 weeks. Each bypassed step that we object to is tied to a financial metric for both the customer and supplier.

Boosted, you’ll have to excuse me, as I am a little “green” in this area. Previously, in my division, we only focused on high end packaging in which the product was only placed in after purchase. Product testing wasn’t an issue because it was simply a gift box. Since we consolidated our divisions, I’m now working on packaging that the product is sold in. It’s more paper and print than plastic and injection molding, so I’m still learning a bit about this kind of package and designing for a harsher retail environment.

That aside, I really don’t know much about financial metrics, other than they are a calculation of revenue, costs and profits and their contribution to the company, although I could be wrong. I’d be very interested to know metrics period, although I should go talk to finance about that. I see from your coroflot profile, you are quite experienced with packaging development and financial metrics, perhaps you could provide an example of how I can tie potential failures to financial data. ?

Depending on where your primary product originates from, the packaging can contribute to loss of goods. For example, a company will experience up to 30% loss of goods due to damage during transit. Although the paperboard packaging is just a gift box, it can be designed to help minimalize that damage.

In order to figure that out, you should be conducting ISTA or ESTM testing to determine the overall “strength” of your packaging. ISTA 3E procedures involve a whole pallet of product which is placed on a vibration table to simulate load transportation over a designated distance. There are other tests like environmental conditioning. This is important if you’re using paperboard substrate and selling goods in a tropical environment.

So lets say you’re working on a package and you need to do an ISTA test to determine if the pallet load is stable. But management says, “Don’t worry about it, it’s just a box.” From past experience you think that a good amount of product may be damaged but you don’t know cause you didn’t get to test it. But based on what you know, you estimate a 30% loss of goods.

To create a financial metric based on these failures, you determine the unit cost and multiply it by units lost. If you’re working in pallet loads, then you multiply that again to the amount of pallets shipped in an average order. So you may experience 30% loss of goods on a pallet. You work your numbers and determine that equates to say $5,000 of goods lost times 3 pallets in an order. This would equate to $15,000 of lost goods in that one order. That can be a hefty loss since the whole order was $50,000.

If they had let you run your tests, you could have identified potential failures in the design and made the correction. Because of variability, let’s just say you reduce damaged goods down to 3% which is now only $1,500 in a $50,000 order. Let’s say you even add in the cost of the testing and an internal hourly rate for your services which equates to $1,000. You’ve then saved the company $12,500.

Success in this case is really based on the company’s/individual’s risk aversion. If it’s high, you’ll still be pushing through designs. If they’re more convervative, I promise you they will be a little more cautious and allow you the time to do you work. You just need to explain the ramifications in terms they understand.

This is so true!

I have had major retailers say if we come up with a great package, it doesnt matter what we put in the box. Obviously they were joking(a little) but packaging means a lot, it’s what you see first.


Thank you so much for the info!

No problem, there’s alot of depth in this material. So if you need anything else just let me know.