Smurfit Kappa UK & Ireland are delighted to announce the launch of their new eCommerce focussed Experience Centre, based at the heart of the UK’s logistics “Golden Triangle” in Northampton.
The third Smurfit Kappa Experience Centre to open across the UK, this new flagship centre will incorporate all of the technology, skills and knowledge that Smurfit Kappa’s Mold and Yate Experience Centres boast, but with the additional facility of their very own ISTA Certified Lab.
Responding to requests for an ISTA Lab in the UK and another Experience Centre, both of which would be convenient for customers all over the country, the team at Smurfit Kappa decided that this new venture would offer additional expertise and state of the art technology to their customers.
The existing Experience Centres are already hugely popular with customers, as they allow Smurfit Kappa to support businesses through the packaging design process from ideation to delivery.Combining these two crucial facets of the packaging business under one roof means that customers will be able to quickly and easily source their packaging needs, from initial design elements, through test phases, and past final amendments and shelf appeal.Let’s explore them both in more detail.
The ISTA Lab
What is an ISTA lab?
To begin, we have to understand what an ISTA lab is - and its importance to the packaging industry.
ISTA stands for International Safe Transit Association, and an ISTA lab has been fully certified by that organisation. ISTA is perfect for companies suffering from eCommerce packaging related issues in their supply chain as ISTA labs are designed to minimise product damage throughout the supply chain, by putting packaging thorough a rigorous testing process. This is a particularly important matter when it comes to eCommerce ventures, in which packages are sent through the transit chain and can arrive to the customer in substandard conditions.
ISTA tests are designed to determine whether the package and product can withstand transit hazards through testing simulation, whereby real life warehousing and final mile delivery conditions are replicated.
There are certain tangible benefits to having received an ISTA certification - which can only be obtained from an ISTA lab.
What are the benefits of an ISTA certification for brands?
One crucial advantage of an ISTA certification is the confidence it instils in buyers, who know that the packaging has undergone rigorous testing procedures - and so won’t cause them reputational damage. In fact, an ISTA certification is often required by larger retailers like Amazon.
On top of that, you have the assurance that there will be a reduction in transit damage, and therefore product - and customer - loss.
The new Smurfit Kappa ISTA lab will not only be the company’s first in the UK, but their second globally. Previously, design samples were sent to the Smurfit Kappa Global lab in Hoogeveen. With the advent of this new facility, Smurfit Kappa customers from all over the UK will have access to quicker testing.
It will also be able to offer customers the facility to design, manufacture, test and certify products, all under one roof, to Amazon’s Frustration Free eCommerce packaging standards as Smurfit Kappa are proud members of Amazons Packaging Support and Supplier Network (APASS).
But the lab is not just for full ISTA testing, it can also be utilised for more basic requirements such as compression testing in order to validate how much weight a parcel can withstand during stacking. The lab is designed to help eliminate a range of packaging problems across the supply chain, minimising product damage and boosting manufacturers' bottom line.
How do ISTA tests work?
There are actually a range of ISTA tests, depending on the level of certification you’re going for. The 1-Series preliminary tests cover shock tests, atmospheric preconditioning, and vibration tests.
There’s a variety of shock test options: it’s up to you and the lab to decide which type of test is most suited to your operation and supply chain. The incline-impact shock test measures how the package holds up under tilted stressors, and it’s noted that impact velocity varies according to the package’s weight.
The atmospheric preconditioning for the 1-Series covers ambient temperatures and humidity. Jumping up to the 3-Series, and more specifically Project 3K - which concerns FMCGs - we find that the atmospheric preconditioning tests become much more thorough. Depending on how the goods are going to be shipped, the test can measure the package’s hardiness in ambient, chilled, or frozen environments.
Then there are five required shock tests - including drop-on impact and flat drop tests - as well as vibration and picking tests.
It really is a rigorous process - and having a Smurfit Kappa ISTA Certified Lab in the UK will make the process much more streamlined for customers.
The Experience Centre
The other half of a perfect pairing, the Northampton Experience Centre doesn’t have the accolade of being the first of its kind in the UK.
Instead, it joins two others in Yate and Mold. The Experience Centres exist to offer Smurfit Kappa customers a wealth of industry expertise. From design elements to sustainability options, the Experience Centre team are more than happy to share their ideas, knowledge and research.
How can the Experience Centre help brands design their perfect packaging?
The teams at the Experience Centre are adventurous, and keen to push the boundaries of what can be done - opening up new market opportunities for customers and producing the best packaging solutions for the brief. As they say, “the best way to predict the future is to create it”.
Years of global experience delivered to Smurfit Kappa customers locally - that’s what the Experience Centre promises. They won’t take over your project, though: there’s a holistic approach that combines customer goals and desires with Smurfit Kappa’s endless knowledge.
Packaging often seems like an unknown element in eCommerce - but Smurfit Kappa’s Experience Centre takes the guesswork out of it.
Is it all about the people?
The team at the Experience Centre are full of expertise, and a big reason why Smurfit Kappa is so popular. However, they are backed up by some pretty fancy software designed to demystify the packaging process.
There’s the Paper to Box database: a constantly updated log of paper grades that can be quickly combined to simulate box grades.
Then there’s Innobook: a resource intended to inspire packaging ideas, updated directly by the designers themselves.
Possibly most exciting is the Store Visualiser. Our team of graphic designers have worked hard to create a program that allows you to see your design on-shelf, alongside competitor products. It’s a wonderful tool for comparing how designs stand out - without risking the investment of having actually made the packaging - and for analysing how to improve.
As always at Smurfit Kappa, there’s a focus on sustainability. Brands often want to explore more eco-friendly options, and the team at the Experience Centre help them to better manage their environmental impact - whether that’s through sleeker designs that ship less air or FSC-certified materials.
The combination of Experience Centre with ISTA Lab means that Smurfit Kappa’s customers can reach out at any stage in their packaging journey. Whether it’s a new business who wants to branch into eCommerce and needs some guidance, or an established brand who wants to tweak their existing designs, the new packaging hub awaits. No challenge is too big for the Smurfit Kappa team!