Germany   |  2020

NIVEA launches first shower gel refill station

Entrant Company

Beiersdorf AG

Category

Packaging Design

Client's Name

Sub-Category

Technology

At a time characterized by severe environmental challenges, it is of the highest importance for Beiersdorf to take all possible steps to counteract climate change and limit global warming. Therefore, it is essential for us to minimize, slow down, reduce, and close our material cycles where possible. As one key global topic is plastic, and we at Beiersdorf use a lot of plastic for the packaging of our skin care products, we are working hard to find innovative solutions to refill, reuse or recycle our plastic packaging materials. For this reason, Beiersdorf’s biggest global brand NIVEA, in collaboration with DM, Germany's largest drugstore, just launched its first shower gel refill station. The prototype, aiming to investigate the concept of reusable bottles, was developed in just seven months by a cross-functional team within Beiersdorf’s Global Packaging and R&D functions. In this time frame, the whole machine was not only designed, also fully developed and engineered. “First, we had to understand and define the consumer and shopper experience to design a holistic solution” says Caroline Zia, Senior Formula Developer at Beiersdorf. “While the concept of refilling is not entirely new, the personal care category does not boast widespread use of this technology yet. We had to identify the best possible scenario for the consumer and for sustainability”. “Not all formulations are suitable for such a concept. The formulations need to withstand the additional burden of refilling and we had to carefully choose our products after extensive internal testing. Also the machine had to be programmed for additional cleaning protocols. This way we could guarantee multiple filling loops and still meet our safety and sustainability criteria.” she says. Referring to the design execution of the machine, Marta Suslow, Concept Designer at Beiersdorf’s packaging department, adds: “As the next step, the industrial design of the machine had to be sketched out. Here we successfully outlined possible routes and finetuned the winning concept according to the retailer’s interior requirements. Our main intention was to create a distinctive and easy user experience. Therefore, for example, we decided to use light as a visual support to guide the users. Whenever one of the dedicated refill-bottles has been filled or a bar code has been printed, the integrated LED lights give feedback to the consumer. Beyond the 3D design itself the machine also had to be engineered. Bernhard Felten, Beiersdorf’s Packaging Prototyping Expert explains further: “Due to restricted time and budget, we realised the minimum viable product and left out a lot of features we originally had in mind. Still we use a scale to control filling, a QR/Bar code reader to handle the batch coding, formula choice and refill cycles, as well as sophisticated pumps, colour changing lights, a label printer and a programmed micro controller to ensure we integrate all required functions in an aluminium structure covered with powder coated steel sheets. The lean concept end result, which we managed to get CE certified, will provide an easy and safe refill experience to our consumers.” The fast execution of this project was possible by adopting agile working and manufacturing processes. “I am especially excited about the fact that we made the step from prototyping to additive manufacturing with our in-house 3D printers” comments Felten. Suslow emphasizes an additional sustainability aspect: “With regard to sustainability we decided to use recycled PET for our refill-bottles. Therefore, the consumer will not only experience the idea of reusability when participating in our pilot project but will also be part of a recycling loop, as we will recycle the returned bottles again after the test phase”.

Credits

Senior Formulation Engineer / Beiersdorf AG
Caroline Zia
Packaging Expert / Beiersdorf AG
Bernhard Felten
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