Reducing packaging variety


Comprehensive packaging optimisation at Kuchenmeister GmbH: The strong growth of the company Kuchenmeister GmbH over the last few years has resulted over time in a very diverse packaging provision.

"It was time to simplify things" says Hans-Günter Trockels, Managing Director of Kuchenmeister GmbH describing the situation. He sought support from THIMM. The two companies have been working as partners for more than ten years.

Reducing packaging variety

"The standardisation potential was huge" says Björn Bartram, Project Manager at THIMM, explaining the starting point. "Our objective was to reduce packaging diversity, specify standard measurements for optimum pallet utilisation and generally design the packaging to be more retail-ready" he added. Therefore items, packaging and packaging aids were analysed, the packaging range was standardised and with a new modular design, packaging machines were adapted and the entire concept was introduced into the company.
What sounds simple is in fact a complex web of the most diverse requirements and processes along the value chain. "The needs of purchasing, production and logistics as well as marketing and distribution, all have to be considered equally" continues Bartram. Packaging should convey product information to the end-user and contribute to differentiation on the shelf and be easy to dispose of. At the same time it must provide protection during transportation, be space-saving, stackable and easy to handle. This in turn requires a modular construction and standardised dimensions. And according to Bartram, "at the end of the day the packaging must be machine-compatible and support the processes to the best possible extent."

Effective packaging standardisation

Using the example of the "Lady Cake" brand which was purchased by Kuchenmeister, the dimension illustrates the possible savings effects. There were a total of 272 packaging items with 192 different designs to be optimised.
The result: A reduction of the packaging range to 31 standard module sizes with savings of up to 80 percent. "We have made the switch to display-crates. Overall a smaller sales unit with module dimensions of 400 x 300 millimetres was preferred – a typical size for shelf placements in this segment. Th transportation packaging was also adapted and now complements the product range. Overall the packaging was designed to be much more attuned to retail outlets and requirements" adds Bartram describing one of the projects carried out at Kuchenmeister. The additional costs arising from this range shift were offset by positive material cost effects. These in turn were achieved by the design optimisation of secondary packaging.
"Standardisation effects must be assessed as a whole throughout the entire packaging range" advises Bartram. "In short, packaging-relevant costs generally decrease significantly."

Harmonisation of the structure

However, range and packaging optimisation is not the end of the process: Due to the harmonisation of product and production structures, Kuchenmeister effected complex relocations, expansions and new procurements of packaging machines.
In order to convert many of the existing packaging systems to standard formats, the modular optimisation of product dimensions and changes in packaging formats was implemented. This led to a significantly improved volume utilisation level and to an optimised surface utilisation level on the pallet. Investments for final packaging systems were made in new assembly and packaging machinery. In the overall considerations, these were amortised within a period of less than one year.

Sustainable process optimisation

"The redesign of processes and structures was and is a key success factor for us" confirms innovative entrepreneur Trockels explaining the retrofitting works in his company. "We are always looking for new solutions and concepts in order to optimise our processes."
A reduced use of resources and cost decreases with a concurrent gain in flexibility and production reliability are the reward. Bartram views the outcome as positive, "apart from the overall saving effects we have also helped our customer to improve the degree of automation in the packaging process, to reduce downtime in production and to increase response speed in the event of production changes."