Using a S.W.O.T. analysis for better packaging engineering

by Todd McDonald on May 14, 2015

Often, as part of a company’s overall corporate planning process, a S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis is performed. This can be an invaluable exercise to help businesses improve operations, discover opportunities (such as new potential customer groups or broader product distribution), deal with risks and position themselves optimally in the market. But would the same approach work for medical packaging engineers when it comes to deciding whether to accept or reject a specific material, design or technology?

If you ask Abhishek Gautam author of the Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry (MDDI) Device Talk article, How SWOT Analysis Can Enable Better Package Engineering, the answer is yes.

As Gautam points out, “Medical packaging engineers often select material, design, and technology based on face value created by the “advantage and disadvantage” decision-making model. But such decisions are accompanied by opportunities and threats that can assist or prevent businesses from creating competitive advantage.”

As shown in the chart below, Gautam uses vacuum thermoforming to demonstrate what this process might look like.

Strengths
What is it good for?
Weaknesses
What is it not good for?
  • Longevity of Molds
  • Superior Product Protection
  • Premium Aesthetics
  • Stack-ability
  • Easier to Handle (Rigidity)
  • Cost-Effective at High Volumes
  • Robustness to Sterilization
  • Reduce Development Time
  • Recyclability
  • Modular Molds
  • Dedicated Prototyping
  • Process Validation
  • Footprint Optimization
Opportunities
How can I optimally use it?
Threats
What are the risks if I use it?
  • Longer Development Time
  • Larger Carbon Footprint
  • Costlier at Low Volumes
  • Capital Intensive
  • Low-Flexibility to Change
  • Variable Process Tolerance
  • Increasing Petroleum Costs
  • Reclassification of Materials
  • Sourcing
  • Technology Obsolescence
  • Competition
  • Increased ISO 11607 Scrutiny

Which made us wonder, what would this process look like if it were completed for our proprietary blend of HDPE, TEQethylene™? Perhaps something like this?

Strengths
What is it good for?
Weaknesses
What is it not good for?
  • Resin is Readily Available and Widely Used
  • No Concerns About Reclassification of Material
  • Ease of Recyclability (e.g., Curbside)
  • Cost-effective
  • Durability/ Impact Resistance
  • Improved Clarity
  • Low Volume
  • Fully Functional Prototypes
  • Flatness
  • Rigidity
  • “Crystal” Clarity
  • Ease of Production
Opportunities
How can I optimally use it?
Threats
What are the risks if I use it?
  • Supplier Provided Stability Data for Assurance of 11607 Compliance and Speed-to-Market
  • Lower Carbon Footprint
  • Mono-polymer Sterile Barrier Systems
  • Petroleum Costs
  • Few Manufacturers with Necessary Experience / Expertise Level

By analyzing a material like TEQethylene in this way, it becomes obvious that because this alternative to PETG uses a widely available resin, sourcing becomes less of risk. In addition, because this material can be recycled curbside (in the same way as an HDPE milk jug), the hesitation recyclers have with recycling other materials such as PETG with an APET bottle recycle stream are eliminated. As a result, the reclassification of materials is no longer a potential issue.

Finally, this analysis makes it clear that the best way to incorporate such a material into medical packaging design is to identify a supplier that is not only has the experience and expertise to work with what can be a challenging material, but also one that is equipped to provide stability data to alleviate 11607 compliance concerns and increase speed to market.

What about you? Have you used a S.W.O.T. analysis beyond the typical corporate planning?

 Learn More About TEQethylene

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