New product development at food drug and other packaged goods manufacturers is conducted behind a veil of secrecy for obvious reasons. After all why tip your hand to the competition any sooner than you have to? But is there a downside to this guarded approach? Wouldn't prospective vendors be much better positioned to supply more appropriate quicker solutions if they had more access to their customers' research and development people instead of having to put up with this atmosphere of secrecy which some describe as the "arm-in-the-white-lab-coat syndrome"? Clemson University's Bob Testin who chairs South Carolina University's school of packaging believes the answer is yes. The way he sees it how can a vendor know why his proposed solution missed the mark when the vendor is stuck outside the development process and sees nothing more than that anonymous white-coated arm taking in ideas and handing back rejections? Testin encourages packaging R&D people of today and tomorrow to find ways of developing a more collaborative approach to their business. Based on comments ascertained from several packaging experts collaboration makes perfect sense. For example packaged goods manufacturers appear to be relying more and more on their vendors for material and machinery suggestions. One likely reason for this is simply that manufacturers are not teeming with R&D personnel. Economics most certainly factor into this equation. Those firms with deeper pockets may have engineers that work for an R&D manager who in turn reports to a Director of Packaging or a person with a similar title. "In many consumer-oriented companies like ours packaging development is being whittled back and outsourced" explains Jim Scott director of packaging development for Nabisco Biscuit Co. East Hanover NJ. "Some companies rely ultimately on suppliers" he continues. "We've kept a strong packaging development group but designing packaging is really not our business. We take world-class technology from our material or equipment suppliers to help us move a product to market. We need to integrate their ideas to develop a cost-effective user-friendly product and package quickly rather than having to invent something." John Lowery an executive affiliated with recruitment firm Quality Search concurs but with an added recommendation. "Packaging research and development has to really push the vendor in terms of thinking outside the box. You have to come across as creative thinking outside the limits of today's technologies for ideas on different ways to get the job done."