If you are reading this article, you are possibly looking to expand your business and probably exploring the option of partnering with a co-packing company to make it big. Irrespective of whether you are start-up or an established big brand, partnering with a co-packer can mean enhanced production efficiencies and fairly reduced costs. However, to derive maximum benefits, it is extremely important to choose the right co-packing or contract manufacturing partner. Here are a few quick tips that can assist you in making the right choice of a partner for your co-packing needs. Keeping these guidelines in mind can not only significantly improve your identification and selection process of your co-packaging partner but also ensure long term business benefits.
- Do a thorough need analysis
The first step towards identifying a co-packing partner is assessing your need and having a clear understanding of why and where you need a partner. Answer to yourself as to why you need a co-packing partner? – Is it because you have outgrown your own capacity or is it that you do not wish to invest huge amounts in setting all of it by yourself. It would also be advisable to understand what all you need from your partner – primary packaging, secondary packaging, re packaging, private labeling, screening, warehouse and distribution or other 3PL services etc. before finalizing one.
- Check for their experience
Once the need is clear, identify the co-packers whose portfolio matches your specific needs. Based on your need and area of collaboration, check how much work has the co-packer done in the past, what are the clients they have served. Prefer a partner who has successfully delivered to other companies of your size and structure. Do not hesitate in asking for referrals from their other clients. Enquire about their performance and take feedbacks from other organizations who have used their services.
- Inspect the certificates
Once you decide to go for a co-packer, a lot of your business and brand value would depend upon the safety, quality and hygiene factors of your packaging partner. Hence, it is advisable to inspect the health and safety norms being followed at their end. Also, based on your need, check for the different certificates like ISO, HACCP, Kosher, Gluten Free, Nut free, organic etc.
- Believe your eyes
It is highly recommended to visit the co-packing facility and check their set up – warehouse, manufacturing units, product handling processes, cleanliness and safety norms being followed. Seeing with your eyes will give you clear understanding of the end to end process being followed and you can keep a watch for things that matter the most to your product and business.
- Connect at all levels
It may be a good idea to not just connect with the management of the co-packing partner you are about to select but also a few of their employees. Meeting the management gives a fair idea of their vision, ideologies, principles on which their business runs. You may be able to identify if it matches your business thinking and your partnering need. However, connecting with a few employees, maybe during a floor walk, may help you observe the ground level focus on processes and policies. If the employees are generally happy being there, it will speak volumes of that organization’s culture which will be key in a long term partnership.
Ensure that your new partner believes in ‘open communication’. For greater benefit, make it a two-way channel where you encourage your partner to contribute towards your business by sharing their expert tips and tricks based on their huge experience. Be an open listener to their suggestions and let them show their commitment towards scaling up your business. Remember, healthy collaboration is the key to effective problem solving.
- Look Beyond. Be Futuristic
Freezing your co packing partner while only considering your current need might not be the best thing to do. Since these partnerships are for a longer duration, they should be well thought and well planned. Have your business plan ready with futuristic growth and need plans. You may currently be looking for only a co-packing partner but if you foresee that you may need to use their services like labeling, milling, re-packaging, sterilization or maybe 3PL warehouse and distribution, choose a partner who offers multiple services under one roof. After all, you don’t want to get into the hassle of identifying partners over and over again.
- “Closer is better”
Like all other relationships, the rule of “closer is better” is applicable here as well. If your co-packer’s facility is closer to yours, you may be able to visit them or meet up more frequently. This enables a healthy knowledge transfer and builds trustworthy relationship which goes a long way in such partnerships. Additionally, if you do intend to use their logistics offering, do check their proximity with ports and rails to speed up your distribution cycle and improve sales.
- Look for flexibility
Make sure your co packing partner believes in flexibility as much as you do. Your partner should be able to support the changes in demands and handle fluctuations effectively – both time and money wise.
- Inventory Management is the key!
Do check out if your co packing partner has a robust inventory management system in place. Do they provide you real time access to your Inventory? This will ensure that you are always on top of how much is produced, stocked and shipped. You can reduce costs, boost up sales and keep accurate records with a fine Inventory management system in place.