Oak Brook, Ill. — David Smith, vice president of global packaging development at Johnson & Johnson, said J&J has been "very transactional" when it comes to buying packaging — but now the company wants to work more closely with suppliers.
"When innovation's out there, historically, you suppliers — you guys — haven't come to J&J. We haven't been the partner of choice," Smith said in an Oct. 3 keynote speech at the Society of Plastics Engineers' Annual Blow Molding Conference in Oak Brook.
J&J is trying to change that. The health care and consumer products giant has created a packaging center of excellence.
Much of the effort is centered on the company's $14 billion consumer products business — well-known brands like Johnson's baby lotion, Band-Aids, Neosporin, Listerine and Aveeno.
Before joining J&J in 2015, Smith worked at several major food packaging companies on some iconic products like Oreo cookies, Goldfish crackers and Hot Pockets.
Food packaging emphasizes speed and consumer focus, but J&J consumer products are much slower to adopt new packaging, Smith said.
But Johnson & Johnson is streamlining its efforts, he said.
"One thing I'm really trying to bring to J&J is that we have a much better level of engagement with our suppliers, and with our suppliers' suppliers, because that not been our history at packaging at J&J. It's been very transactional, and that's something I'm working really hard to change," Smith said.
By "suppliers' suppliers," he means, for example, blow molders and resin manufacturers.
"We're really trying to change that and go deeper into our supply chain" he said. "Because that's where the innovation happens. That's where the science happens."
Smith told the SPE audience that J&J wants a global presence for its blow molded packaging to match its global business.
Smith also said that J&J's dedicated packaging innovation team is now much more aligned with the procurement people — the ones who hold the purse strings. He said J&J is starting to get packaging design more involved in the early stages of product development.
"Part of our strategy is making packaging part of our growth strategy," Smith said.