Sometimes lateral flow test (LFT) kitting and packaging is considered too far into a manufacturing project. It is important to look at this as early as possible to make sure the solutions used do not lead to unnecessary costs and/or delays.
In this article, Abingdon Health has enlisted the help of our packaging partners to discuss why kitting processes and packaging formats are critical for maintaining a smooth supply chain and meeting demand.
LFT Kitting and Packaging Solutions
At every point of a lateral flow manufacturing project, there are costs, time, and material considerations. For example, when designing a robust lateral flow test specification, which materials will be available in the right quantity and quality? Is a layered manufacturing solution required to consistently meet demand in a territory on-time? Choosing LFT kitting and packaging solutions is no different. Which kitting process will offer optimum speed and output without compromising quality or negatively impacting costs? What packaging needs to be used to meet customer and regulatory needs?
There is a fine balance of trying to make sure what is good operationally also leads to a good finished-product and customer experience. If operational processes were the only consideration, the market would be flooded with tests in the same box, no branding, and no user-friendly features such as a place to keep a vial upright. But of course, there are differing needs for different products and markets which need several points of consideration:
- What material needs to be used?
- What layout/size suits the end-user?
- Is the material sustainable and of sufficient quality?
- What packaging format is suitable for optimum output from kitting lines and minimises write-offs or delays?
- What are the volumes and therefore are automated or manual kitting lines appropriate?
- Is a standard or bespoke process needed?
The Decision-Making Process
- Product items size and quantity
- Sustainability and quality
- Efficiency of supply
Product items size and quantity
This area is normally dictated by end-user needs. Tests serving ‘professional use only’ markets will have different pack size and component requirements from self-testing markets. For example, self-tests for vitamin D, menopause and ovulation, can come in 1-test, 2-tests and 5-tests pack sizes respectively. Whereas, professional use nucleic acid lateral flow immunoassays (complementary tests for isothermal amplification) can come in packs of 50 tests.
Self-tests purchased online need packaging to allow for quick and easy delivery through someone’s letterbox. For a professional testing many patient samples daily, bulk buying is more important.
Sustainability and quality
This area is broken down into the sustainability and quality of ‘supply’ and ‘materials’. There is a tendency for some companies to favour the cheapest solutions and work with one partner. However, this is where forward-thinking packaging specialists are invaluable. Knowledge of packaging options, quality grades, and how to ensure reliable supply leads to forward planning that helps to meet forecasts. For example, packaging specialists have already done due diligence on their list of suppliers and have costs in place. Meaning even during spikes in demand they can switch on contingencies without disrupting supply or dramatically affecting packaging costs.
Also, sustainability is a key factor in determining optimum pack sizes. Packaging specialists will combine end-user needs with operational efficiency needs, such as speed of packing and how many test kits will fit on a pallet. For example, if a batch of 100,000 test kits being shipped from lateral flow manufacturer to a distributor can be shipped on 9 pallets instead of 10 there are environmental, margin and pricing benefits. Less pallets in-transit means less CO2 per shipment and lower shipping costs can positively influence margins and the end-user costs. Which is appealing for many stakeholders.
Efficiency of supply
We’ve touched on efficiency of supply in the areas above, but it runs deeper. How a lateral flow test is packed can have a major impact on kitting line efficiencies and whether automated solutions are possible or not. This in turn impacts on labour usage, all of which needs to be factored into costs passed to end-users.
Clumsily thought-out packaging can lead to delays on kitting lines and potential write-offs and yield-loss. All of which will impact the end-user, either with the price they pay or the speed in which they can receive products.
In addition, it’s important to not over engineer test packaging. Gimmicks and differentiators may be nice-to-have, but this doesn’t help if more labour is needed or makes automation challenging.
Close-to-Market LFT Manufacturing, Packaging, and Kitting Solutions
The proximity of your LFT manufacturing, packaging, and kitting solutions in relation to your market can have a cost and efficiency impact. Optimum speed and reliability of supply is critical for maintaining a good customer and brand perception.
The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical events have created uncertainty within the supply chain. With some lateral flow test owners favouring perceived cheaper solutions in the Far East, miscommunications and supply delays are leading to problems in tests getting to the point-of-need efficiently enough.
For Abingdon Health with established links into the UK and European markets, the shorter transit times reduces shipping costs and lead times. Ultimately the greater security of supply appeases customer needs and cements trust in your brand.
The Key Take-Away
Every point along the lateral flow manufacturing process needs careful consideration and packaging holds some significance. When your product is in the hands of the customer, your brand is on show either receiving conscious and sub-conscious scrutiny. It is important to get the packaging right! But of course, there is a balancing act with hitting the optimum packaging and kitting processes.
At Abingdon Health, our specialist packaging partners work alongside our project managers to ensure every packaging and kitting solution is explored to deliver optimum output and efficiencies. Talk to our team to see how we can help you achieve your goals.
Authored by Malcolm Briggs, Abingdon Health’s Digital Market Manager.