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Article by Nampak 20 September 2012

Best practice in the innovation space

At Nampak, Africa’s largest packaging company, we believe in the incredible power of ideas, particularly in the highly dynamic and rapidly evolving world of packaging. However, we also believe in the power of process and structure as a means of shaping ideas and enabling their journey to reality.

As a result of the complexity and diversity of packaging, Nampak’s innovation process embraces all supply chain stakeholders, such as logistics, operations, service and support, as well as design, marketing and sales. At the same time, it applies to a wide variety of areas, like manufacturing processes, pack renovation, printing/finishing techniques, raw material supply, sustainability, technology and much more. As such, it is a perfect example of best practice in the broader innovation space, specifically in terms of its emphasis on due diligence, inclusivity and scope.

“The ability to engage all stakeholders is a key driver of our success,” says Nampak. “Likewise, Nampak Research & Development in Cape Town is an important differentiator that enhances our capacity to deliver significant value.”

Nampak R&D, which is widely regarded as one of the most advanced packaging science and technology facilities in the southern hemisphere, plays a leading role in Nampak’s innovation process. While it is mainly recognised for its work in the areas of food hygiene, microbiology, packaging science and problem solving, it is also home to Nampak’s in-house innovation centre and business information hub. Here, expertly trained staff from multi-disciplinary idea generation teams facilitate brainstorms and think-tanks for Nampak’s businesses and customers. A dedicated venue offers a contemporary workspace, while global packaging trends are readily accessible at the touch of a button. A document centre and technical library cover a network of contacts, regulations/legislation, market knowledge, information tools and news alerts.

There are five stages that define Nampak’s innovation process, namely explore, build, team, implement and result. A series of gates offers checkpoints to assess and ensure readiness before progressing to the next stage.

In the explore stage, Nampak gets to grips with the possibility and scale of the customer opportunity, gathering insights regarding the nature of the market and profile of the consumer. Factory and trade visits also provide a basis for adding value across the supply chain, while general research showcases the latest packaging trends locally and globally.

During the build stage, blue-sky thinking leads the way for reality checks in the form of financial, market and technical assessments, and competitive analyses. Specific questions are “Will it work?” and “Is it needed?”

In the team stage, a feasibility study includes the functions of packaging, as well as trials. Once a summary of ideas is in place, prototypes are developed and tested. Then, the implementation stage begins! By the time stage five kicks in, there is consumer testing that tracks performance and sales. When the packaging and costs are finally approved, it is all systems go, as plans for communication and launch are given the nod.

Nampak’s innovation process has been refined over many years of hard work and practical experience. As the company focuses on growth in Africa, innovation is going to come to the fore, especially regarding challenges, like infrastructure gaps, poor logistics, skills shortages and the needs of an emerging middle-class consumer base. In the meanwhile, in South Africa, shelf-ready packaging is on the rise, and the impending Waste Management Bill requires bold, progressive thinking around sustainability issues.
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