Fulfillment services and contract packaging services are nearly synonymous; contract packaging services are provided by companies whose primary business is the provision of packaging services to another company. The scope of the operations of a fulfillment business is expanded to include packaging and shipment of products as well as returns and customer inquiries. Product packaging is one of the most important steps in manufacturing and distribution processes. All products are packaged in some way. Food packaging is necessary for transporting food and beverages so that they do not become damaged or exposed to contaminants during transit and while on display in grocery stores and other retail settings. Medical packaging and pharmaceutical packaging are required for the safe transportation and storage of medical devices and medicine. Cosmetic packaging protects products that come into close contact with humans from degrading or from becoming contaminated. Packaging design can be customized to meet the varied packaging needs of consumer, commercial and industrial products; special shapes like blister packages and clamshells can easily be formed around the contours of an object. The materials used to create packaging can be as thin as shrink wrap or as thick as steel.
Contract packaging companies design packaging products to accommodate the packaging needs of operations of all sizes. There are three main categories into which every packaging product fits: primary, secondary and tertiary packaging. Depending on the size of the operation, a company may need only primary packaging or a combination of primary and secondary. But contract packaging companies are also equipped to develop packaging for operations that require products from all three categories. Primary packaging is the material that makes contact with the product itself. If, for example, some olives are packaged in a glass jar, the glass jar is the primary packaging. Secondary packaging is used to group multiple primary packages together or to provide extra protection. If the jar of olives was packaged with several other jars of olives in a cardboard box, the box would be secondary packaging. Any padding like foam or paper would also be secondary packaging. Finally, tertiary packaging is used for bulk handling, warehouse storage and shipping. If several boxes of jars of olives were stored on a plastic or wooden pallet, the pallet would be tertiary packaging. If the boxes were shrink-wrapped together, the shrink wrap would also qualify as tertiary packaging.
Contract packaging services offer innovative product storage and shipping solutions. A company that harvests olives may be able to manage sealing the olives in jars on a large scale, but the actual storage of a product is only one component of packaging. In order to improve the olives' chances of being sold once they reach retail, the jar must be labeled. Some contract packaging services even offer graphic design consultation to make a product more appealing to consumers. Packaging is a major part of brand-identity, and contract packaging services can help products advertise themselves. Contract packaging services, particularly fulfillment services, also look for ways to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the shipping process. Fulfillment services can store and manage inventory, freeing their clients' factory space for production. Also, because they can dedicate their energy to shipment and storage, they are in a better position to ship products quickly and to handle product returns than the products' manufacturers. A fulfillment service is one way a manufacturing operation can improve its standing with its customers; all customers appreciate promptness of shipping service, and fulfillment services can give customers the attention that a manufacturing operation many not be able to give.
Contract packaging services also help to ensure the compliance of packaging materials with the guidelines set by regulatory authorities like the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture. Medical packaging, food packaging and all other packaging that comes into contact with products meant for human consumption are strictly regulated in terms of their composition and design. Many containers intended for the distribution of medicine are required to feature child-proof caps. In some cases, drug manufacturers may not be capable of shipping their products in such specialized containers. Contract packaging and fulfillment services also offer a much wider range of packaging products than many manufacturers can produce for themselves. Custom blisters and clamshells have become standard packaging materials for small consumer electronics, toys and even some snack foods. Blister packages are blow molded or vacuum molded; their manufacturers require access to plastic molding equipment and a sufficient stock of appropriate raw plastic material. Contract packaging services make such products available to manufacturers, protecting their products during transit and improving their chances of sale once they reach retail platforms.
Contract Packaging Terms
A material capable of holding materials together by exterior attachment.