Our factory move and spin-up went amazingly well. Like moving your home, there are things that you save, somethings you move and somethings you get rid of. This is true for factories as well. Think of it as having the opportunity to change some things and start new.
From nearly the day we have opened for business, we have provided smaller versions of our products for use as sample and for traveling. This has been pretty much a losing proposition for us and at the same time we looked at sample as a good way for people to try our products. I know how great our products are, but there is nothing like trying something to see if you like the product or if it works for you.
Our samples and travel sizes evolved over time. We went from squeeze bottles to tubes for some products while our soaps and RediCare stayed in bottle form. I must admit that one of my biggest design headaches are the samples and travel sizes because they are extremely hard to produce, actually travel and ship poorly and they are expensive to produce. So, when we decided to move, one of the things I decided to change was our sample and travel size products. The problem was that I did not know how I wanted to change the packaging and the move itself occupied most of my days for the last month. About two weeks ago it dawned on me that there might be a way so I started to explore some things with our digital label partner to see if he could print using his extremely high tech HP label printer to print on continuous film. When he said yes, I went to work on my idea.
Moving a factory and only being down for ten days is what we call a BHAG…or, a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Re-architecting a sampling and travel product design and system is even a bigger BHAG. The critical link was a way to do our digital design labels in film format and when I knew we could do it, I searched the world for a small format packet filling system that would let me design variable size packets with enough product so that people could be assured they liked our products and that they would work for them.
Here is the Plan
The way we will proceed with our sampling and travel size program will be to create oversized sachet packets that will give you the opportunity to try many of the Keys products to make sure you like them and that they work for you. We have ordered a wonderful machine that is a self-contained micro factory that will turn thin digitally printed film into packets that will be heat sealed and notched for each opening. Product will fill directly into these packets and be sealed in a closed sterile environment. They will then be cut and conveyored into bins for distribution, packed with orders and able to be sent to our sales team for in-store demonstrations and trade shows. As added information, our older tube samples were about 15ml (0.5 ounces). Our hope is that we will make packets that are the same size. We are in tests now to see if that works in the real-world because there are no caps for these pouches. The standard films are not foldable, so it might not be practical.
For those of you that are interested, here is what the machine looks like.
Briefly, the film is shown on the left entering the machine. a devise folds the film in half and then a heat sealer seals the edge to create a tube. Then the packet is filled from the hopper and the bottom and top edge is sealed. Then a combination cutter and notcher creates the individual packet. It is then conveyored out to a bin.
We expect the machine to be delivered in the next 30 to 60 days and should be operational in a day or two after we receive it. We will be preprinting rolls of film so that they arrive before the machine is here. Once we start producing, the machine will be able to make about 60 packets a minute or 1 every second. So, I am sorry that we have no travel sizes or sample now, but they will be flowing as soon as we get the machine and have it running.
Now for the Future
One of the major goals for this machine will be to create single use packets to be boxed together. The idea is to sell a box containing 10 or 20 packets that can be used for travel or to give to friends. Same product as our full size, just in a more convenient size for pocket, purse or to send. Once we have the machine running our samples, we will beging working to offer some of our products in boxed sets.
Our new packets are going to be much more ECO-friendly. The plastic used is easier to produce and it is food grade. They will be printed with soy based ink and are fully recyclable. Far less plastic also means that they are more earth friendly. One of my engineers did a quick calculation and these packets will only contain 2% of the pastic of our previous bottles and tubes. My guess is that is a little high. I think it is closer to 1.8% 🙂