Designing & sharing packaging specs on-line

If you want to share your packaging specs with colleagues or vendors, visit www.webpkg.com. The site's tagline says it all: "Design packaging.

WebPkg.com site users can point and click their way through designing genuine CAD documents for packaging, without having to lea
WebPkg.com site users can point and click their way through designing genuine CAD documents for packaging, without having to lea

Online. Free®."

In what is one of the most unusual and compelling value propositions we've seen on the Web for packaging, this site actually allows you to create and share a full-fledged and password-protected, Web-based database of packaging specs for folding cartons, corrugated cases and trays of paperboard or corrugated. For free. That means anyone anywhere in the world with Internet access can copy, view or print the specs, as long as they have the password that you create.

The site will also automatically generate actual CAD files for each package style after you point and click your way through a whole host of options.

The site is run by Design Axis (San Jose, CA), which essentially took its venerable "Pkg." carton/box design software and put it on-line.

How do they make money? By selling subscriptions to premium versions of the service. For $65/month, for example, you can have additional features, such as the ability to upload your own CAD drawings, illustrations, actual artwork or photos that you can attach to a specific spec. Conceivably, this means you could use the database to upload specs for any package, without being restricted to cartons, boxes or trays.

Another important feature: For an additional $25/month, you can allow your packaging suppliers to access portions of your specs that you allow them to see. For example, your folding carton vendor could access only those specs specific to that vendor. Up to 10 of these so-called "satellite URLs" or vendor-specific accounts can be created; 10 additional satellite URLs are priced at $25.

Packagers aren't the only ones who can use the site. Any vendor in the packaging supply chain can sign up and designate portions of its packaging portfolio to be viewable by other vendors, or by packager customers.

Robert Denola, president of Design Axis, tells Packaging World that new functionality is being added all the time, both to the free version and to the subscription version of the site.

The site is actually capitalizing on a larger trend that's just now shaking up the entire software industry: renting software over the Web vs buying it in a box. In the slow, unreliable Web of the early '90s, Web-based software applications were a fantasy. But as Web connectivity becomes more ubiquitous, Web connections faster and Web sites hardier and more secure, many software houses will become application service providers, or ASPs. Indeed, Microsoft itself just announced plans to begin renting its popular application software over the Web.

Design Axis, leveraging its robust Pkg. software, is one of the first such ASPs that we've seen in packaging. The concept, though new to most users, seems to be catching on quickly: Denola tells PW that just one week after the site's launch at the recent WestPack show, more than 1ꯠ users have signed up with the site to create their own specifications databases.

Supplier e-commerce sites

In the e-commerce department, packaging suppliers are now starting to take real steps towards e-commerce-enabling their Web sites. One supplier that has enabled on-line ordering of packaging components is McKernan Packaging Clearing House (Reno, NV), at www.mckernan.com. The site is essentially a searchable version of its catalog of surplus packaging components such as bottles, jars, closures, tubes and sprayers. We especially liked the clear instructions on how to search the on-line catalog. Component-specific search choices add to the ease with which you can home in on the right component.

For example, after clicking "bottles" and then "plastic," you're presented with two drop-down menus for bottle size and finish. When you perform the actual search, a list of components that meet your criteria is presented. Clicking on each component brings up a photo of that component. Although the quality of each photo was inconsistent, most were good enough to get the job done.

Ordering is done through a standard electronic shopping cart like the ones found on other e-commerce sites like Amazon.com. The only difference is instead of buying books, you're buying bottles.

We expect this on-line ordering functionality to show up on more Web sites, particularly those of packaging container distributors. As such packaging e-commerce sites proliferate, we'll cover them in future Web Plus columns.

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