South Korea-based NeoPharm is a cutting-edge global skincare company with a 20-year history of growth and innovation in barrier technology against irritants and allergens. The company produces a number of successful brands, including Atopharm skincare for infants and toddlers with sensitive skin, and Zeroid medical skincare products.
Leading the skincare market for infants and children in South Korea, NeoPharm places high value on premium packaging both for presentation and damage prevention. But with the growing importance of the ESG movement in South Korea and abroad, and a company focus on circular economy, they decided to replace their legacy plastic air pillows used in transit packaging. Alongside a commitment to ensuring healthy skin, the company is seeking to play a part in creating a healthy environment for everyone. For NeoPharm, cutting down on plastic waste was a priority both for aesthetics and sustainability.
Conveying the right message
Parents are concerned with the presentation of the products that they order for their children. Taking this concern seriously, NeoPharm believed that plastic conveyed the wrong impression for a business that supports future generations. “Reducing plastic was important for the brand because of their focus on products for babies. Representing the future, it’s important to be stewards of the environment for the next generation and cut down on environmental pollution— including microplastic particles, which have been studied to impact babies as well as adults,” says Jin Yoo, Ranpak’s senior account manager for South Korea.
In addition, packaging presentation in the South Korean market is a big factor in how consumers evaluate products, particularly with the popularity of unboxing videos on social media.
Reducing the amount of in-transit damage was another goal. Not only were plastic air pillows increasing plastic waste and giving the wrong message to customers about sustainability, but they were also not as effective as needed during transit, leading to high-value product loss. With pressure on both material and labor costs, NeoPharm also sought a more efficient and cost-effective packaging line.
Given these priorities, any solution that would replace plastic air pillows needed to provide equal or greater levels of product protection while also being attractive to look at, easily recyclable, and made from renewable materials.
Switching to paper pads
NeoPharm turned to Ranpak because of their reputation as a leader in paper packaging systems. After close consultation, NeoPharm opted to replace their existing plastic airbag packaging line with PadPak LC (Light Cushioning) converters.
While Ranpak’s Geami was originally considered, NeoPharm preferred the look of PadPak for their in-the-box cushioning needs. Geami still holds potential for other applications at NeoPharm since it’s suited for packaging smaller, high-value items in retail settings either within a warehouse or at a cash-wrap station.
The PadPak LC systems use kraft paper, fan-folding it into light pads that are well suited to cushioning, blocking-and-bracing, and void filling. Offering visually pleasing aesthetics and high levels of in-the-box protection, the pads are created using a patented folding and stitching process, with paper specific to Ranpak machines. Both batches and individual pads can be made via five different modes of operation.
Two LC machines were installed at the end of NeoPharm’s product packaging line. The machines comfortably handle the requirements of the facility while maintaining a low physical profile in the packing area. “The PadPak works on a razor-razorblade model. NeoPharm does not own, but rather leases the machines while paying instead for their required packaging materials,” Jin Yoo explains.
The packing process is performed manually, with picked items being placed into the box along with precut pads manually placed by employee packers before being moved to labeling operations. By using precut pads, the packing line can move very quickly—the precise number of required pads are produced on demand to be available during packing. The packing configuration places items within the box at an angle so that they are both cushioned and blocked in place by the paper pads.
Ranpak’s team was on-site to help install and offer hands-on training to employees on the new systems, facilitating a quick learning process. NeoPharm experienced a productivity boost thanks to bins where workers could access the pre-cut paper pads, replacing the multiple storage areas that had formerly held plastic air bubbles.
Improved look, protection, and worker reception
Implementing the PadPak system helped NeoPharm with a variety of challenges. Switching to plastic-free packaging is in line with their ESG commitment to use 100%-recyclable packaging material. It’s also had the benefit of improving customer experience and boosting brand reputation with curbside-recyclable packaging. By using paper packaging, the company notes it is also better placed to comply with forthcoming changes in regulations.
Fewer packages are now damaged in transit thanks to the PadPak cushioning pad, which is designed to offer improved shock absorption. The company reports that no more than one or two packages out of every 100 are now damaged, thanks to the protective pads formed directly around the products.
Logistics and stockroom requirements are simpler because one material (kraft paper) now meets all transport packaging requirements, replacing the previous two types of pre-made airbags. Their original plastic air bubble solutions took up considerable space, with the inflated materials being bulky and requiring large amounts of storage area. Since switching to Ranpak paper, now a centralized bin system is used to store paper pads which are formed on-demand, saving both time and valuable space within the packing area. The system also eliminated the step of tearing plastic from the machine while producing air bubbles thanks to the integrated cutting blades within the PadPak solution, saving a step in the process and improving packaging efficiency.
Though packers had initially been hesitant to learn a new packaging process as their former system had become familiar to them, they quickly came to appreciate the new system and its increased efficiency. With the legacy air pillows, workers who were using large amounts of plastic packaging daily reported feeling guilty about the impact of these materials on the environment. They were impressed by how paper’s strength compared to the previous plastic bubbles, while being a renewable material and easily recycled. “The reception on the part of packers went from initially skeptical about new paper solutions to enthusiastic thanks to the sustainability improvements and the increased productivity and room within the packing area,” shares Jin Yoo, who was also frequently on site during the transition.
Says Yangsu Kim, CEO of NeoPharm, “Ranpak’s eco-friendly packaging was ideal for our ESG and social responsibility commitments. Their consultation was very helpful, and our packaging is now more protective and cost-efficient. It’s good to have a partner who helps with solutions that meet both our environmental and business needs.”