Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bag Basics

Not all bags are created equal. There is a whole world of materials, sizes, thicknesses, imprints and closure styles.  Knowing basics bag specifications will help you choose the right bag for your packaging need.

Define the Need
The first step in choosing the right bag is to define what the packaging needs to do.  Some bags are strictly utilitarian keeping something contained. Others have safety in mind to protect from harmful materials. Still other bags are used for marketing to advertise a brand. Many times a bag has multiple purposes. Defining what you need the bag to do will help determine the right style.

Bag materials can be paper, plastic, vinyl, fabric, nonwoven and other specialty materials such as PET (recycled water bottles) or PEVA (vinyl with recycled content).  Determining the best material depends on the goals for the bag.  If you need FDA approved, biohazard protection then a bag made from virgin plastic with tight seals is required.  If the goal is something 100% biodegradable and recyclable, then paper would be your likely choice.  The bag substrate is an easy choice once you determine what you need the bag to do.

The size of the bag is determined by the size of what is to be contained.  Generally bags are measured width by length. Bags can have side or bottom gussets which is typically stated as the depth.  There are industry tolerances in bag measurements. Most bags are produced on moving equipment that makes exact precise measurements impossible.  Keep this in mind when determining the specs for your bag.

The thickness of the material can influence the strength of the bag.  For paper, thickness is called weight and is measured in pounds. In plastics and vinyl, thickness is call gauge and is measured in mils which is one thousandth of an inch.  Nonwoven material is measured in GSM or grams per square meter. Generally the greater the thickness the more durable the bag.

Closure and Carry Style
Bags are created to keep contents inside and to transport those contents.  Styles vary from open-ended, zip close, drawstring, tamper evident, and all sorts of carry handles. Consider what is going inside the bag, how secure you need those contents, if the bag is reusable, and how the bag is being transported. 

Printing on a bag might include important warnings, instructions, or offer additional advertising. There are a variety of imprint types. Screen printing takes a screen of the art and ink is flooded over that screen to produce the imprint.  Hot stamp imprints use heat and pressure to apply a foil imprint. Ink printer take a rubber pad plate dipped in ink to imprint the logo.  There are also heat transfer and digital printing options. The bag material will determine what type of imprinting options are available. Imprinting involves additional costs such as art services, set up, imprint plates or a per bag imprint charge.

There you have the bag basics. An understanding on your options makes you an educated buyer. Have a bag questions? Ask the experts below!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Tips to Save Money

Running a business can be expensive.  Supplies, people, technology, all add up.  Here are some tips to help you save money while still driving your business to success!

Employees are vital to making a business run, but come with salary and benefit costs.  You can conserve by using part-time employees with no benefits.  Explore internships or mentoring programs that cost little to nothing. You can have the human resources but for less.

Go to the Cloud
Avoid hardware expenses and the cost to maintain expensive software. Moving to cloud-based services allow you to pay by user.  This spreads out the expense and you are only paying for what you use.  As you grow you can update and or expand without large investments. 

Never take list price as your price. Work to negotiate savings. Things to consider are increasing the volume of your purchase to secure a price break. Explore free or discounted shipping. Review payment terms. The longer you have to use the money before it is in your vendor’s hands the better.  Get competitive quotes and don’t be afraid to pit vendor against vendor. It will keep your vendors honest and help you secure additional savings.

Bulk Buying
Evaluate buying supplies in bulk. Items like janitorial supplies, printer toner, or paper are great options to stock up on. Compare prices and look at the per unit price to be sure you are getting a value.  Factor in your availability of storage space for these bigger purchases.

Explore bartering services or products.  This allows cash to stay in the business while you provide inventory or services in exchange for something you need.  Do the math to verify you are doing an even exchange. This is a great option to keep money within the business.

Get Involved
Research trade associations and local community business groups.  Networking is the key to many successful businesses.  You will meet other like-minded professionals who can share tips on vendors or might be willing to barter.  You never know until you ask, but you first need to build your business connections.

Saving money takes a little effort, but well worth it when the benefits hit your bottom line!  Do you have additional savings tip? Please share below.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Be a Lifelong Learner

The world changes at a continually faster pace. Staying up to date on trends is vital to the success of your business. Lagging behind in the latest products, systems, and requirements can increase your costs and possibly damage your business brand. Continuing education offers you the ability to stay up to date on techniques, new business models, or new ways of thinking. This broadens your skill set and could help you branch out into new areas. Check out these sources for the continuing education that fits your needs.

Product Training
Vendors often provide training free of charge. Learn product specifications and benefits. Many vendors unveil new items in their training programs. This will assure you are using or selling the right product to meet defined needs.

Online Sources
In today’s digital age, there are a variety of online based classes. Research topics that are specific to your industry or customer needs. If using a new education source, read class reviews, instructors’ bios, and verify the schools' accreditation status. Many classes are low cost and provide continuing education credits that are a requirement in many professions.

Community College or Local Classes
If the in-person classroom setting is more your style, look into local schools.  Most offer evening and weekend classes due to the demand for flexible education. This is an excellent option for busy professionals or working parents. Confirm the class content and if CEU credits are offered. 

Industry Events
Many industry trade shows offer seminars and classes during the event.  If you are investing in attending, look into any education available. Typically the educators are leaders in the industry offering first-hand knowledge. Take advantage of learning from the experts.

Life is the process of forever learning. Continuing education allows you to stay engaged in your profession, expands your resume, and can help you be more effective.  Become a lifelong learner today!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Review your Technology

The technology age is upon us.  New gadgets, devices, and systems are being born every second. New technology can improve efficiency, lower costs, and enhance productivity. It can be hard to keep up and determine the right systems for your business.  A technology audit is a tool that can help.  This audit reviews your current tools, systems, and processes which provides the information to evaluate new investment decisions.

Audit Team
A team effort is needed to get well-rounded opinions.  Typical participants include staff from operations, information technology, or system consultants. There are also companies you can hire if you desire more structured guidance.  

Take stock of what you have. Look at all software, hardware, system contracts such as annual registration fees.  Items reviewed generally include computers, servers, CRM, ERP, phones, email and any software used to help make your business run.  Having a complete list of what you are using provides the foundation for the audit.

Properly evaluating your current systems is the critical step of the audit.  A clear agreement on what are the business needs and goals is a must.  This sets the bar for how your team will evaluate your technology, not simply by is it working but is it the right tool to get you where you want to be. Aspects of the evaluation include pros, cons, cost to maintain or upgrade. 

Now the team explores the other technology tools. You might require outside assistance in this area since we don't know what we don't know. Evaluate these new tools by applying the same criteria, if they will help you reach your goals, pros, cons and costs. A tip when looking at new tools is to ask for customer referrals. You will obtain first hand feedback of how the tool was implemented, what oversights could have occurred and see if the tool is performing based on expectations. 

The data is collected. It is time to crunched the numbers, review pros and cons, and for the team to come to conclusion. The final product is generally a change plan. This plan maps out targeted investments or shifts in current technology. This plan can be presented for budget approval and then implemented.

Technology audits are useful in evaluating your current tools and if they will get you where you want to be. Have you been through a technology audit? Please share any tips below. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Healthcare Industry Trends 2015

The new year is in full swing.  Keeping up to speed on industry trends will help your business succeed in our times of dynamic change.  Various sources and highlighted the following trends that will shape healthcare arena this year.

Healthcare supply chain
Bigger can be better.  Supply chains will try to scale growing in sizes.  They will build partnerships with manufacturers; distributors will de-verticalize the supply chain driving a faster and more direct sourcing of products. 

Outsourcing with Home Care
We will continue to see the trend of care moving into the home especially post-acute care.  Better patient outcomes are found when patients recovery in the comfort of their homes.  Most hospital cost structures aren’t set up to profitably offer home care.  Formal partnerships will be formed with outsourced providers in the home care and hospice space. Providers working are smart to seek out this partnerships early lock in relationships now.

Wellness Programs
Insurance reform and high deductible health plans are driving increase in employer driven wellness programs.  These programs offer discounts with insurance costs by tying them to an employee's healthy lifestyle choices.  The rise of digital tracking methods are being adopted by consumers and help increase program participation and tracking.

Standardize data
Beyond "Big Data", the real trend is improving the quality of data to be more accurate and normalized.  Standardize data allows information to be easily shared and understood across systems and partners within in the supply chain.  Better data will equate to better care, better patient outcomes, and improved cost savings.

How does your business fit into these trends? Now is the time to take steps to be part of these solutions and maximize your growth.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Tips for Setting Goals

As the year comes to a close, many of us are planning new goals.  Here are some tips to help set appropriate goals, keep on track, and drive success.

There are likely a million different goals you want to accomplish from growing sales, reducing costs or losing 10 pounds. You can’t do it all. Too many goals are overwhelming. Prioritizing will allow you to focus to be more successful.

Action Plan
Crafting an action plan of how you are going to accomplish the goal will force you to think of the behaviors, tactics, and resources needed. If the goal is to lose weight, going to the gym three days of week and cutting out dessert would be part of your action plan. If your goal is growing sales, your action plan might include increasing your marketing budget or hiring a new sales rep.  List detailed steps and create a timeline for your action steps.

Involve Others
Goals are rarely accomplished in a vacuum. Others are directly or indirectly influencing your success.  Business goals need group activities and team buy-in to be accomplished.  Personal goals can be encouraged by moral support such as a work out buddy or family plans to eat better. Support systems are vital to keeping focus.

What is measured gets done.  If you measure results weekly, you will know where you are at to your goal.  These results will motivate you to keep on track or redirect your activities for better results.

If you aren't where you want to be, you might need to change tactics.  Increase the days at the gym or cut more calories for weight lost goals.  If your sales aren't meeting expectations, research a different marketing campaign or new sales person.  By examining what is working and what isn’t, you can adjust to guide towards success.

When you reach milestones, celebrate your success.  These can be small things such as a company pizza party or a personal gift you had your eye on.  These celebrations help you stay motivated to push through towards your goal.

Being focus, realistic, and tracking your results will lead to goal accomplishment.  How do you set goals and keep on track?  Share your tips below.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Tips for Planning a Successful New Year

In the hustle bustle of the holiday season, many of us are also closing year and planning the future.  There are many ways to forecast to create the strategy and tactics to reach your goals.  Here are the high level steps to help you craft a plan towards success.

Data Diving
One of the first place to look before going forward is by looking back. Take a historical look at what worked and what didn't this past year.  Review end of the year reports based on your collective goals. Evaluate what efforts helped reach your goals. Decide what can be changed, tweaked, or remove to drive better results in the new year.

Competitive Analysis
Another helpful piece of information looking at what your competition is doing. Are they going after new markets, offering a new product, at a different price point or brand message?  Determine if you want to be a me-to or go a different direction.  You need to have a unique selling proposition for your business model that differentiates you verses your competitors.  Keep this in mind as you plan.

Marketing and Sales Plan
This is where the rubber meets the road. You can do a lot data analysis and market research, but your sales plan is where your brand message and product/service offering is broadcast to the world. This should be a heaviest hitting part of your plan for the year. Here you decided what sales efforts, advertising, and promotions you are running. Determine if you are launching new product, attending new events, hiring new staff and beyond. 

Put it all Together
Crunch the numbers and create the forecast for success. This isn't a true crystal ball into the future but should you a rough idea of direction. Review all these pieces with your team. Get collective buy-in on the path. Is the plan realistic, achievable, are you taking into account potential roadblocks or contingency plans for uncontrollable items such as government regulation.  

Now that you have the plan, go forth and prosper. Remember the old adage what gets measured gets done. Monitoring the success of your plan and adjusting as appropriate will keep you on track. 

How does your team plan for the new year? Do you have tips that might help us all? Please share below. Happy Planning!