The Real Deal on the Cost of Medical Packaging

In times of increasing cost pressure, medical device companies are tempted to try and save money by using cheaper packaging materials. Even saving a fraction of a cent per square meter can add up fast, if the volume is high enough. But this can be a shortsighted strategy, Nicole Kaller and Eric Schmohl from DuPont told us recently at the Medpack-Conference in Luxembourg.

Thomas Klein

"When companies define the packaging for their product, focusing only on the material price might lead to higher overall costs. They need to consider the total cost picture," says Schmohl, Customer Support Manager. The initial savings in material cost can be nullified by higher expenditures in later stages of the packaging process. "When we talk to medical device manufacturers, we ask them, 'What process do you have in place to package the device? What are your sterilization methods? What is your product return rate?' " Schmohl explains.

To determine the real impact of their material choices, medical device manufacturers need to take into account a number of factors. These include:

  • Qualification process
  • Price, weight and type of product
  • Quantity, size, and type of packaging
  • Packaging process: number of deployed seal machines, labor cost, waste, revalidation, labelling, repackaging
  • Sterilization process
  • Logistics, storage, and transport
  • Product returns and recalls

Many companies only realize the full consequences of their initial material choices after the packaging fails, according to an evaluation of about 100 material change projects done by Schmohl. "Then they become aware of the cost of failure. If nobody complains about the product, everything is fine. But as soon as something goes wrong, they become aware of the additional cost implications," he says. These add up quickly. "Depending on the product's price point and production quantity, even a small percentage of product returns can represent a big part of the cost picture," adds Kaller, Packaging Engineer at DuPont.

It's no secret that DuPont's Tyvek is pricey, and the question of cost comes up frequently with customers, acknowledge Schmohl and Kaller. They developed an Excel-based program that allows customers to enter the aforementioned variables (and some more) and calculate the total cost of packaging.

"In order to gather enough data to build the tool, we talked to a lot of experts in their fields -- machine manufacturers, sterilization service providers, sterile packaging producers, and so forth," explains Kaller. These and other resources have been leveraged to produce a tool that enables manufacturers to assess how cost-effective the cheaper options really are.

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Thomas Klein, Associate Editor


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