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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Pushing the Envelope


More and more frequently I find myself buying products online. For a long time I stood firm in my belief that I wanted to maintain the human aspect of my purchase, coupled with a confidence that I had hand-selected a flawless version and it would be mine to enjoy seconds after purchase.

The appeal of instant gratification was more often than not the driving factor. I think that much of it has stemmed from a youth spent waiting the obligatory 28 days for delivery of anything exciting (‘exciting’ meaning anything from the back of a cornflake packet or comic book). But it’s a little different now, and what was a frustratingly common fourweek wait has more often than not been reduced to a far more appealing five days, or even one.

However, beyond my now quelled impatience is also the interesting discovery that so many of my high speed deliveries arrive in good health. This is a testament to the packaging that surrounds it, which I will admit often becomes a greater source of interest for me than the goods within.

In recent weeks I have been involved in a number of projects that have been focused on envelope-sized packages, similar in size to those that bring me my online purchases.However, when the control of temperature becomes a factor, the challenge of creating a solution that fits the need becomes all the more complex.

So why use an envelope at all, when we know a box will already achieve what we need? One factor is cost. If it works, an envelope solution should cost less – not only because of the price of the item itself but, with its reduced size, also the cost of delivery.However, this is only true if it works...

What must be ensured from the start when developing or selecting a thermal envelope solution is that its thermal qualification is just as robust as that of any other packaging type.After all, its route will rarely alter too greatly from that travelled by its predecessor.

The recent development work I have been involved in for this product range is showing that, with the right combinations of materials, the humble envelope can achieve impressive results against realistic thermal challenges. But it is a very different concept, not only in terms of thermal performance but also mechanical strength, when compared to a more rigid carton designs.

Having a mechanical test and development project running alongside the thermal development plan has shown that even though an envelope solution can reduce some risks by offering advantages, such as greater packing simplicity, it can present other potential risks that thermal evaluation alone would not have identified.

I have no doubt that thermal envelope solutions offer huge potential for making qualified thermal packaging even more accessible and I have already seen some envelope solutions being used to ship temperature-sensitive products.What I would say though about this packaging type is that, although we are very used to seeing it, the solution presents new challenges as well as advantages for our industry. But when thinking about the projects I am working on now and how this type of solution can support the thermal packaging needs of tomorrow, I for one am confident it can deliver.

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Richard Harrop is a qualified structural packaging design engineer, coming previously from the FMCG sector. He has been involved in the temperature-controlled packaging industry for almost 10 years. During this time he has developed and implemented several successful temperaturecontrolled solutions for many of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and biotech corporations.
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