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Lessons learned: Packaging department advice worth noting

Exclusive excerpts from among 700 tips and insights you shared in a new Packaging World survey.

We were taken aback at the enthusiastic response to our latest Lessons Learned survey for 2008 when more than 700 participants voiced their tips and advice, all with an insight to share that we have edited for clarity. As in years past, respondents represent a broad range of packaging industry segments, including packagers, such as Kraft Foods, Pepsico, P&G, and dozens of others.
Packaging World posted in May a survey of four questions, the responses to which we'll report on over the next four months, starting in the July issue of PW. This month, Packaging Insights offers you an exclusive preview of some highlights from that initial feature. It focuses on select responses to a fundamental question that yielded hundreds of thoughtful comments: Based on your experience, do you have any advice on how best to work with other departments within your company on packaging-related issues?

Here are some of those comments:
Know who the decision-makers are, and make sure they know who you are.
Pretend other departments are external customers and "sell" the project or package's benefits.
People need a reason to participate. It's always better if you make them feel as though it's their choice.
Keep open communication, be honest, don't take things personally, ask questions, don't accuse.
The most effective way to sell an idea is to estimate the dollars saved by it. You can talk product image, or customer satisfaction, or credibility, or robustness/simplicity all day long, but a decision will be much quicker if you put dollars and cents to the proposal.
Start communications early on in the packaging development. We cannot afford to add the packaging material evaluation at the end of the process.
Create a cross-functional team and make sure it is lead by someone with great people skills.
Be sure to give credit where credit is due to everyone involved regardless of the value you personally assign to the contribution. Others also appreciate your consideration of all team members. It is a matter of integrity and fairness.
For the complete Lessons Learned cover story, see the July issue of Packaging World or revisit after the issue is posted around July 10.

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