It’s been a very busy week preparing for our non-plastic hotel pilot. As mentioned before, this was originally scheduled for April before Covid shut everything down. Apparently local occupancy is back up to 65% or so for this particular hotel. So, it seemed like a good time to try it again.
What this meant was that we had to pack 2500 individual aluminium tins by hand. While I had already packed about half the order previously, we are past the 6 month shelf-life of these all natural products. So, it’s no longer safe to use them.
I did try to see if I could reuse the tins from the previous batch, but the time it takes to do that (not to mention the difficulty of not scratching or bending them) proved to be too hard. So, at some point, I’ll empty them and put them in my growing “To Recycle” box.
Lessons Learned So Far
So, what did I learn from this experience so far?
- Packing everything by hand way required us to handle each unit about 5 times each. We could reduce the handling to 3 times if I had the manufacturer separate the lids and bottoms, and we had them printed on both the top and bottom.
- Putting the labels on the back took the most time. I was able to get the manufacturer to print on the front, but we didn’t have the ingredients list finalised when I put the order in back in February. So, we had to do the back label with stickers.
- It took over a minute each to unscrew the tins, fill, screw the lids back on and put the label on the back.
- I’m worried about the quality of the tins. By handling each one, we could notice if there were any dents or scratches, but this will be challenging if a machine was doing the filling.
- I also now realise that I need to order about 20,000 units of each design i.e. shampoo, conditioner etc. to get even close to the per unit cost I need to make this work financially.
Post Pilot Decisions
From this information, I know that there is no way that we can profitably do the post-pilot packing by hand. We absolutely must invest in proper machines.
We also had a bottle-neck issue with some of the ingredients even though they were coming from Sydney. Why in the world did it take 3 weeks despite many phone calls?
The packaging itself is an issue too as it’s coming from China since there are no manufacturers currently in Australia that make these. Having said that, if we have enough volume, we may be able to change that and even use recycled aluminum which would be great.
If we can do that, I also want to redesign the tins so that we don’t need the plastic liner that sits in the lid. This seals the container to prevent leaks and is standard for most liquid products regardless of whether it’s in plastic or aluminium. However, I feel like there has to be a better way.
Basically this means that if the hotel pilot is successful, and we are able to turn this into a proper contract, I’m going to have to get a lot of capital (either through banks and or investors) to scale quickly. Fingers crossed that all goes well, and that we have this problem!