Manufacturers are usually experts in just about all aspects of their products, from design and production to distribution and applications. Packaging, however, is one area where there is apt to be a knowledge gap. The sheer variety of formats, techniques, and materials makes it a difficult discipline to master, especially in a climate where attention is so tightly focused on the core business.
"Typically, packaging is its own separate industry, requiring multiple pieces from various manufacturers to all come together. It tends to operate beyond the standard expertise of a company that makes, for example, household or electronic items," says Adam Richardson, vice president of marketing at Uneka Concepts, which in February moved to 5870 Stoneridge Drive.
Today's emphasis on localization - sourcing packaging components close to the point of production - further complicates the equation. U.S. entities that have made the shift to offshore manufacturing often assume that even simple business functions like trucking or overnight services will be as flexible and abundant overseas as what they are used to at home, Richardson observes. Similarities exist, of course, but other cultures do certain things differently. "It's not necessarily that they are behind the times," he points out, "but it's different, and you have to understand the local supply chain," whether in Singapore or Guadalajara, Mexico.
In these situations, Uneka steps in to do the "heavy lifting." The firm has extensive packaging experience and expertise, supplemented by "long-term relationships and local support," Richardson notes. "We know where the right manufacturers are for specific types of products. And, as a smart, experienced design firm, we take manufacturing capabilities into account, so we don't design something that can't be built."
Fortunately, meeting these standards does not rule out creativity. In fact, Uneka Concepts' projects often incorporate unusual elements, like a fancy die-cut corrugated wrap or thermoformed inserts inside a folding carton, that give a package its distinctive appearance. Out- of-the-box conceptualizing can provide unique and compelling solutions, he points out. A recent example is the bag-in-a-box container that looks like a woman's clutch purse recently developed for the Mad Housewife brand of wines.
The rush to environmentally friendly packaging also influences Uneka designs. "Some plastics are actually more green than paper because of their carbon footprint, and helping clients navigate this area is a big portion of our business," Richardson remarks. He's also noticed a changing outlook on costs, reporting that "more and more companies are considering green packaging even if it has a higher price tag."
Uneka's new quarters in Hacienda will give it plenty of room to keep up with the 20 to 30 percent annual growth rate it has experienced since inception in 1999. Along with roughly 6,000 square feet of offices, the company has 8,000 square feet of warehouse and lab space. The latter houses an array of equipment - CAD stations, printers, cutters, drill presses, bandsaws, etc. - to make tangible structural and sales-presentation prototypes, although "in today's world you can do so much via computer-generated renderings," Richardson confides.
The company's total employee population approaches 40, divided among the Pleasanton headquarters, offices in Guadalajara, Shanghai, and Ningbo, China, and a satellite sales office in Atlanta. For a peek into Uneka's rich portfolio, go to www.uneka.com .
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