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Smith & Nephew works packaging suppliers into its sustainability efforts

Jason Strachota, packaging development engineer II with Smith & Nephew, Inc.’s Advance Surgical Devices Div., discusses how his company employs Life Cycle Analysis in sustainable package design in this excerpt from Healthcare Packaging’s "Voices of Leadership."

Pw 41981 First Person

Packaging World:
What are your company’s sustainability goals, and how do you reach those goals in terms of your facilities, packaging lines, packaging materials, etc.?

Jason Strachota:
Smith & Nephew views facilities and packaging as important opportunities to employ sustainable business practices. In packaging materials and design, we look for ways to reduce material sources, consolidate multiple package designs into one universal design, and eliminate unneeded materials wherever possible. We are approaching this in a disciplined manner using Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) to model the environmental, social, and economic outcomes of packaging design or re-design.

What are you looking for from packaging materials/components suppliers in helping your company reach its goals?
We expect our suppliers to actively increase the efficiency of their internal operations so that we can effectively manage manufacturing costs. We expect our suppliers to align their performance with Smith & Nephew’s sustainability objectives. For example, we currently monitor suppliers’ performance with respect to environmental, social, and regulatory compliance including on-site visits. We recently have begun to implement a global supplier sustainability questionnaire that requires suppliers to provide evidence of their sustainability commitment on a wide range of subjects.

What are you looking for from packaging machine/controls suppliers? Do suppliers need to help your company improve Overall Equipment Effectiveness, provide quick changeovers, etc.?
Smith & Nephew uses Lean methods in the production of our products, and values equipment suppliers that make our operation more efficient. We look for equipment that supports our Lean principles. For example, equipment with a small footprint, designed for one-piece flow, and that supports a quick changeover process. Our equipment suppliers should have a global support network that allows us to standardize equipment at our facilities around the world.

Regarding medical devices, does your company work with nurses, surgeons, or other healthcare professionals to gain their input?
Our packaging engineering group actively engages our sales organization to get feedback on new design concepts and any ideas for improvement with existing packages. We also use our customer service data to gauge feedback on certain designs that may be more susceptible to customer dissatisfaction.

In addition, we have conducted “Voice of Customer” surveys and have visited with sales reps on a routine basis. The feedback we receive provides input needed for modifications to existing packaging and the designs of future packaging. We also meet with supply chain and other hospital executives, nurses, and surgeons to obtain information on what improvements they would like to see in our products, including packaging. This is leading us to incorporate changes into product design, especially related to packaging optimization. 

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