Archive for packaging


The Forest Bioproducts and Paper Industries: The Need to Conquer Innovation Fatigue

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The North American paper industry suffers from a largely undeserved image problem. Many view it as an antiquated smokestack industry, when it has been a leader in exciting areas in technology and business practice. Fans of biofuels and green energy, for example, should know about the pioneeing efforts from the forest bioproducts industries, including many paper companies. “Green energy” from forest biomass has been the basis for economic success in pulp production for decades. A kraft mill burning black liquor is a stellar example of recovering useful energy from the byproducts of a renewable resource, coupled with smart recycling and regeneration of chemicals.

The industry has also been an important part of advances in practical aspects of RFID technology, in supply chain management, in green labeling and packaging, and in many other area. In nanotechnology, papermakers have actually been dealing with nanoparticles and complex colloids for decades, producing increasingly useful and practical products built with nanotechnology employed at a massive scale. In plant genetics, crop management, and stewardship over bio-resources, the forest products industry have demonstrated world-class capabilities and results. Industry stewardship has led to more trees and forest lands in the United States than we had a century ago. Advances in plant management have led to almost miraculous results such as the ability of carefully managed plantations of eucalyptus trees in Brazil to yield trees that can be harvested after just five years – and perhaps even less in the near future.

But with the proud history of innovation and leadership that I see in the forest products industry, it pains me to see how little recognition it received, and how little sense of that tradition seems to be alive in the industry today. On too many counts, the industry appears to be seized with innovation fatigue.

In the new book from John Wiley and Sons, Conquering Innovation Fatigue by Jeff Lindsay, Cheryl Perkins, and Mukund Karanjikar, we identify sources of innovation fatigue factors in three primary areas: the behavior of individuals including innovators themselves and the people around them (“people fatigue”), organizational-level flaws such as flaws in vision and decision making (“organizational fatigue”), and external factors such as challenges in IP law, burdensome regulations, tax policies, and trade policies. It is easy to point fingers at management and criticize their lack of courage or willingness to invest, but we must recognize that the forest products industry have faced unusually painful burdens due to external factors which have only strengthened systematic incentives to cut back on innovation and focus on cost-cutting.

There is a need for policy makers to consider the “voice of the innovator” and the unintended harmful impact that some laws and policies can have on long-term innovation. Policies are needed that put manufacturing industry on a more equal footing relative to global competitors who are generally free of the numerous burdens North American industry faces. Policies are needed that reduce the many disincentives corporations may face to be innovative and more visionary here on North American soil.

Meanwhile, there are other things that North American industry can do. Innovation, whether in business models, products, or processes, must be viewed not as an expense to avoid, but as a necessity to survive. The key may not be to conduct detailed research related to the commodities now being produced, but to boldly explore adjacencies and new product spaces as MeadWestvaco did. We see some of this in the biofuels area, such as creative approaches to integrated biorefineries using technologies suited for local biomass and other local resources and markets. We see this in many of the packaging innovations created by innovators in paper-related companies. We see this in the example of companies like Kimberly-Clark that transformed themselves from commodity makers to producers of world-class high-value consumer products rich with innovation and intellectual property.

The most exciting innovations of the future will come at the intersection of disciplines. Building the right relationships and networks across companies, innovators, and institutions will be needed to be aware of the possibilities and to seize them. The technologies we are using today and the know-how we have developed in the forest products industries may be the foundation for rich innovations in nanotechnology, health care, electronics, and various emerging fields, if only we have the courage to explore wisely, with talented minds empowered and motivated to find the paths forward, unhindered by the chains of innovation fatigue.

This post is related to a longer article written for Tappi360 magazine, Dec. 2009.

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Innovative Packaging to Alleviate Competitive Threats: Lessons from Aleve®

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aleveSome tremendous products don’t reach their potential in the marketplace due to inattention to packaging. Smart entrepreneurs in consumer goods, medical products, and other areas understanding that packaging not only governs much of the response of shoppers to your product on the shelf, but also can affect its value and function after purchase. Child resistant packaging is a classic example of this. Medications with child-resistant packaging can frustrate and irritate many consumers, and even lead to non-use of the product and failure to repurchase. Many child-resistant caps are hard top open for adults with limited mobility, hand injuries, arthritis, etc. Some frustrate strong, healthy adults, and have even led to injuries as people strive to pry a lid open with a tool.

One clever and perhaps under appreciated innovation in this space is the “Safety SquEase®” bottle developed by Procter & Gamble for Aleve® (now owned by Bayer), the over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever that is the nonprescription strength of Anaprox® (naproxen). I held a bottle of Aleve® for the first time recently and was really impressed with how they combined ease of opening with child-resistance. Turns out there’s a real story of innovation behind this product, with at least three patents that I’m aware of:aleve-USD330677

  • US Pat. No. 5,038,454, “Injection Blow Molding Process for Forming a Package Exhibiting Improved Child Resistance,” issued to Thornock et al., August 13, 1991.
  • US Pat. No. 4,948,002, “Package Exhibiting Improved Child Resistance Without Significantly Impeding Access by Adults,” issued to Thorncock et al., Aug. 14, 1990.
  • US Design Pat. No. D330,677, issued to Thornock and Goldberg, Nov. 3, 1992.

The system took years to develop and drew upon fundamental insights into the capabilities of children. Their inability to do two different things at once was the key insight that guided the clever, low-force development of Aleve®’s package. Rather than requiring high forces to be applied or complex operations that could frustrate many adults, the Aleve® package merely requires light force on two opposing tabs on the side of the bottle at the same time the cap is turned. Press gently with one hand, turn with the other: two different motions that stymie young children but are easy for adults. Looks like a minor packaking tweak, but the simplicity of the solution has extensive data and years of serious work behind it. Many elegant innovations are that way. Anyone can make something complex – it’s elegance that demands real brains and real sweat. Or grit, as some would say.

The Aleve® packaging system was the topic of a presentation to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on March 28, 1995 as part of their Safety Sells Conference, available online at The presentation by Gordon F. Brunner, a Senior V.P. at Procter and Gamble, provides valuable insights on how packaging innovations can provide potent competitive advantage while solving critical real-world problems such as safety. Here is an excerpt from Grodon Brunner’s talk:

P&G developed and patented a new bottle closure, “Safety SquEase,” that meets government requirements for child-resistance. It also adds value and consumer satisfaction to a new P&G over-the-counter analgesic by making it easy to open for most adults, including senior citizens.

My case study concerns P&G’s patented new child-resistant closure, which we have named the “Safety SquEase.” One year ago this Thursday we were honored to receive the CPSC Chairman’s first-ever “Commendation for Significant Contributions to Consumer Product Safety” for our invention and marketing of this new closure.

The “Safety SquEase” closure has been used on bottles of Aleve, our new, long-lasting, over-the-counter analgesic drug, since its introduction last year. We have also begun using it on our Scope mouthwash product and will introduce it on our Vicks NyQuil and DayQuil cough relief products this coming fall.

To really convey how we developed the “Safety SquEase,” I need to give you the context. Two long-standing corporate policies had a major influence. The first was P&G’s policy regarding the human and environmental safety of its products and packages. The second was P&G’s stated corporate purpose to create and deliver products of superior quality and value that best satisfy consumer needs. . . .

The development of the “Safety SquEase” cap for P&G’s Aleve brand analgesic is an excellent illustration of our drive for product and package superiority. For those of you who haven’t heard about it, Aleve is the result of a joint venture between P&G and Syntax Labs. The aim was to introduce an over-the-counter version of Anaprox, a fast-acting sodium form of the medicine in Naprosyn. Naprosyn, sold by Syntax, had been the leader in the Rx non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drug market for a decade. The thinking was to do what had been done in the early ’80’s when Rx ibuprofen, led by Motrin, was converted into the Advil’s and Nuprin’s of today.

When used at over-the-counter (OTC) dosages, sodium Naproxen has advantages over acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin. . . . At the same time, we knew that our competitors in the highly contested OTC analgesics business would not take Aleve’s entry lightly. Consequently, we wanted to increase Aleve’s margin of superiority with consumers if at all possible.

Our packaging people thought they had an answer — develop a truly user-friendly child-resistant package. Child-resistant packages are required for products like Aleve to help prevent very young children from consuming toxic amounts out of curiosity. Personal experience, feedback from family and friends, and consumer research, however, told us that adults regarded existing child-resistant packages as hard to open. Read More→

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Our Mission is the official blog for the new book, Conquering Innovation Fatigue. Here we provide supplementary innovation, news, tips, updates, and, when needed, a correction or two, to keep those who are using the big on the inside edge for innovation success.