Syngenta’s Package Testing Lab in Greensboro, NC, makes certain that all of the company’s products are contained in one of the ag chemical industry’s best packaging.
“Syngenta is the only ag chemical company in the U.S. with its own in-house full-testing lab,” said Tim Cotter, global head of packaging at Syngenta. “Having some of the best products in the industry won’t do us any good if they aren’t packaged safely and efficiently for our customers.”
Before a product is approved for sale, Syngenta packaging engineers and lab technicians, such as Josh House, rigorously test the package with many different factors in mind.
“Our No. 1 goal is safety,” said House. “But we also have to balance cost, requirements from regulators like the Environmental Protection Agency, storage, transport, ergonomics, customer experience, environmental impacts and disposal.”
The Syngenta Package Testing Lab is authorized by the U.S. Department of Transportation and International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) to self-UN (United Nations) certify packaging for Syngenta products, meaning engineers in the lab can approve packaging themselves. According to Cotter, such capabilities increase efficiency, allow for instant testing feedback, reduce costs for Syngenta and its customers, and ensure superior packaging through state-of-the-art testing technology.
Package testing can take anywhere from three to 12 months and can be an expensive process. Having the full testing lab in-house greatly reduces package development time. If conducted by a third-party test lab, each test can cost more than $3,000, estimated Brent Weber, a Syngenta packaging engineer. Conducting an average of about 60 packaging UN tests each year, Syngenta engineers are able to maximize cost savings for customers by doing those — and many other types of tests — themselves.
Depending on its type and size, a package may undergo many different types of tests that allow engineers to measure package performance and make refinements accordingly. The most common are the compression, vibration and drop tests, all of which simulate real-life environments. The compression test simulates stacking packages on top of each other, as in a warehouse, while the vibration test replicates what products undergo when transported by truck or air. Finally, the drop test establishes the height from which a package can fall without breaking.
Packaging engineers also conduct tests in the field, studying how farmers actually use products. Together, these tests help them design superior packages that balance safety and ease of use.
“Customers expect products to ship quickly and in good condition,” said Linda Johnson, Syngenta distribution manager. “The package a product comes in is part of the Syngenta brand, so we don’t want to send out something with a bent corner or broken seal — that’s not acceptable to us.”