Collaboration for Future Metal Packaging Innovation

Brunel Design Challenge participants with a Reset Re-Jar concept
Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Crown has pushed the envelope when it comes to innovation since day one. In 1892, our founder, William Painter, changed the trajectory of the beverage industry with the invention of the bottle cap (also known as the crown cork) and ultimately set the stage for a corporate culture focused on innovation. That focus still permeates throughout the Company today and drives various initiatives to keep us at the forefront of the metal packaging industry. 

Our commitment to augment internal expertise with that of external partners, including industry groups, associations and universities, is a critical factor in our success. We seek partners that share a common interest in challenging the status quo, advancing the industry’s offerings and creating technologies that enhance our everyday lives and improve sustainability. We are firm believers that true innovation does not originate from one idea, person or department, but rather from various sources of inspiration, including external partnerships. 

Making the Grade

We actively collaborate with several universities and other organizations to gain access to cutting edge talent, new ideas and methodologies, while exposing students to the inner workings of the metal packaging industry.

  • At Swansea University, we participate in a professorship program involving Finite Element Modeling (FEM) – a computerized method for predicting how a product will behave in the real world in a virtual environment – as part of Crown’s strategy to drive innovation and sustainability through lightweighting our products. This lectureship augments our internal computer modelling program. We anticipate that the partnership will help further reduce the amount of material used in our packaging, improving sustainability, as well as increase speed to market by decreasing the evaluation and testing of new products in the physical world.

  • We are also collaborating with UK-based Cranfield University to explore advanced manufacturing processes such as the use of lasers in manufacturing.  In addition, we are participating with Cranfield in a new multi-party collaboration called LightForm to understand how the metal packaging industry can increase its sustainability by reducing the weight of its products.  This program aims to increase both manufacturability and material performance whilst simplifying processing and reducing cost with other industrial partners including Airbus, Rolls Royce, Jaguar-Land Rover, Novelis and academic partners including Manchester University, Cambridge University and Imperial College London.

  • We partnered with Brunel University in London, UK, and the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) to host a metal packaging design challenge for post-graduate students. As part of the challenge, the students were divided into teams and tasked with proposing and designing new electronic packaging concepts manufactured from metal. The students were given three months to develop their packaging concepts and ultimately a winner was selected. The results are indicative of the exciting possibilities in store for packaging, some of which we are actively exploring to commercialize and bring to store shelves in the future.

  • We are also looking to industry professionals at Manchester University for inspiration to improve our products. For example, two Manchester professors won a Noble Prize for Chemistry for developing a novel coating material, called Graphene, which we are exploring for applications in metal packaging. This project is co-funded by the UK government. 

  • In order to understand how package design affects consumer behavior, we worked with Clemson University to execute an eye-tracking study in a virtual retail environment for McCall Farms. The goal was to verify whether different package designs had an impact on consumers on the store shelf and could therefore influence purchasing decisions. The results of the study allowed McCall Farms to better understand that certain designs, such as food cans with lithographic ends, drew more consumer attention on retail shelves>

Clemson University eye tracking retail research study participant in a grocery store aisle

  • We have been a member of the Manufacturing Technology Centre, a part UK government/ part industry funded organization, for roughly five years and utilize its resources to advance manufacturing technology such as flexible manufacturing. Additionally, we are exploring the development of new lean manufacturing equipment in this space.

Generating Brand Power

In today’s digital age, brands are becoming more participatory with consumers in an effort to create distinctiveness and add value to their products with “experiential content.” As such, we partnered with Zappar , the Augmented Reality specialists, to develop CrownConnect™, a technology that allows brands to gain an edge with the end user and access unrivaled consumer data through the use of augmented reality technologies.

We also teamed up with EVRYTHNG, the Internet of Things (IoT) Smart Products Platform pioneer, to help food and beverage brand owners harness the power of IoT technology by embedding real-time, connected digital intelligence into billions of everyday consumer packaged goods. As a result, our metal packaging is now able to embrace IoT and enables brand owners to deliver breakthrough experiences to better understand their customers through digital platforms.

At Crown, our pioneering mindset and spirit of curiosity are what drives us. Whether we are seeking to advance our processes, products or the overall experience consumers have with metal packaging, we look forward to continuing to deliver innovations that respond to the evolving needs and values of brand owners and consumers. We thank our external partners for collaborating with us in our journey to further evolve what is possible with metal packaging.