How to Create Effective Specifications for Products and Packaging

By Laura Foti

How to Create Effective Specifications for Products and Packaging

Posted on March 23, 2021
  • March 23, 2021

How to Create Effective Specifications for Products and Packaging 1024 683 Specright Specright

Laura Foti PhotoHere at Specright, we talk about specs A LOT. 

Specifications include the data and instructions to create consistent products and packaging. This includes data points such as formulas, raw materials, packaging, ingredients, and so on. 

And the growing complexity of products as a result of eCommerce, consumer preferences, sustainability goals, and globalization has resulted in an explosion of specifications. 

But traditional methods of managing specs like spreadsheets, shared drives, and legacy systems aren’t designed to manage hundreds or thousands of specifications. 

The good news is, Specification Management software makes it easier than ever to create and manage specifications during your development process. 

So that leaves the question, “how do you actually create a spec?” 

Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to create specifications and accelerate your product development and packaging design process. 

1. Understand Your Product and Packaging Goals 

The first step is to determine the upfront requirements for the finished product and product packaging. 

After all, how can you write specifications if you don’t know what the goal is? 

The following questions can be used to gauge key product and packaging requirements:

  • Who is the target audience or target market?
  • What channels will it travel through? 
  • Does it need to be sustainable? 
  • What is the target pricing for the final product?  
  • Do we have a similar product today? 
  • Are there any specific requirements for retailers?
  • Are there any labeling requirements by regulatory bodies like the FDA? 

Oftentimes, this input will come from the marketing or product development teams. 

Taking the time to understand upfront requirements streamlines product development, packaging design, and production down the line. 

For many companies, this aspect of product development can be a fuzzy front end of innovation and hard to track. In Specright, you can easily manage new ideas through a new project request. 

New Project Specifications

Even if you’re creating a new product, you can find inspiration by easily searching your existing product portfolio.

In Specright, it’s easy to search through all of your existing products and packaging for ideas during the design process. More often than not, similar products already exist that can be easily cloned to speed up development. 

2. Select the Right Specification Templates

Once you understand your product and packaging goals, the next step is to identify what specification data you need to collect. 

In Specright, we have hundreds of specification templates based on different types of data: packaging, raw materials, ingredients, formulas – even machinery spec templates. 

Our specification templates were created based on industry best practices and remove the guesswork on what data to capture in a specification. Templates also standardize naming conventions, so you can make sure everyone is talking about the same thing.

You should also look back at your goals to make sure you’re capturing the right data. 

For example, if sustainability is important, you need to capture additional data such as percent recycled content in your packaging materials specification. If the product is designed for a specific retailer, noting any retailer requirements related to pallet builds or package design (hello, shelf height restrictions) is also key.

Making sure you capture enough information and the right information ensures your finished product meets the needs of your target audience. 

Here’s a glimpse of what that looks like in Specright.

Specification Template

3. Identify Which Stakeholders Need to Be Involved in the Development Process

Effective specifications keep everyone on the same page – both internally to your company and externally with your suppliers and even retail partners. 

In fact, we recently conducted the first-ever study on specification management and found that cross-department approvals are extremely common.

The Department a Spec Passes Through

As a best practice, most companies include packaging engineering, product development, quality assurance, suppliers as approvers. 

Once you identify who needs to be involved, you can create approval processes and workflows to make sure the right stakeholders are involved. 

One quick note: specifications can sometimes house sensitive information. With Specright, you can easily set up role-based permissions so the right people see the data they need – and don’t have access to data outside of their purview. 

4. Gather Specification Data Across Departments and Supply Chain Partners

The next step is to gather the data you need to create your specifications from all departments and suppliers. 

This step is typically challenging because for many companies, it involves hundreds or thousands of emails and spreadsheets to gather the required data.

How Specifications Are Communicated

In today’s world, data exchange via email is a serious bottleneck and even a potential security risk. 

With Specright, you can instantly request information from each stakeholder to build a complete specification. After all, much of this information will come from suppliers or other departments. 

You can also set up approvals to ensure data is accurate and up-to-date, and never have to worry about searching through your inbox for the latest version.

Spec Approval History

5. Link Your Specifications to Create Traceability 

Specifications are more than just requirements – they create a digital thread that connects your products through the supply chain.

In Specright, you can easily link specifications together to create interconnected bill of materials (BOM) and finished products. By linking specifications, you can also easily roll up pricing from the component to finished good level. 

Here’s an example.

For this frozen chicken sandwich food product, we’ve linked packaging, quality, and formula specifications to the finished product specification. 

Because these specifications are linked together, you can easily navigate through each product or packaging component and see where else it’s used in your product portfolio, who supplies it, or where it’s made. 

We recommend linking specifications between stakeholders, enabling automatic approvals, alterations, or updates. Implementing these practices also provides complete supply chain visibility. 

Create Digital Specifications with Specification Management Software

Specright created the first purpose-built software for Specification Management, replacing static documents like excel and word with live, cloud-based specifications. 

Our spec-first approach ensures you easily create, approve, and take action on specification data. 

Download our ebook now to see how Specification Management is accelerating product and packaging development and driving supplier collaboration.