Bottle packaging for irradiation

Prize: 3.000 €

Status: completed


Our client is a leading manufacturer of liquid sterile solutions in the medical devices sector. In order to maintain high quality product it is essential to avoid any type of contamination as it may affect clients’ health.

Product quality is ensured during the manufacturing process using clean rooms. In addition packaging receives the right treatments to avoid contaminations. In fact, for liquids, plastic bottles are sourced from suppliers, and then treated by a third party with a BETA irradiation process to guarantee sterility.

The challenge

Our client wants to reduce the cost of the empty bottles packaging. This packaging follows a 3-process step:

1. Packaging of plastic bottles at supplier facilities.

This is a manual process. In fact, after the bottles are manufactured those are packed according to the following configuration (see sketch in attachment):

  • 231 bottles are wrapped into a double-bag to protect from dust.
  • Then, each double- bag is placed inside a 59x50x54 Box. Each Box total weight is 7.9 kg. Wight of the empty carton box is 0,96kg.
  • 16 boxes are palletized with an American pallet (1,20 x 1). 

2. Transportation and irradiation at a third party provider.

The irradiation process is performed for each pallet received at the third party facilities. This process is performed automatically with an equipment that projects Beta irradiation from the top over tray, size 1,20 x 1 meters, and with a total cost of 23,1 € per irradiation tray.

  • A robot takes 1 layer of 4 boxes and places them on the irradiation tray.
  • A first irradiation is performed.
  • A robot turns around the 4 boxes.
  • A second irradiation is then performed.
  • A robot takes 1 layer of 4 boxes and places them again on a pallet.

Robot uses a sucker system to pick up the 4 boxes from the top. This system requires that the packaging surface is smooth and uniform, i.e. all 4 boxes have the same height.

Increase of the cost per unit of the irradiation process should be considered if current packaging configuration is changed. Irradiation total cost per tray do not change if quantity of bottles per tray (today 231x4) is modified. In fact, this double irradiation ensures that the bottles in the mid layer inside each box receive a minimum irradiation dose and then are sterilized. If there were 2 layers of bottles instead of 3, double irradiation would be required anyway, and only if there were only 1 layer it would be feasible to do only 1 irradiation. However, this would increase irradiation costs and penalize potential savings in packaging costs.

Size of the current boxes is completely optimized to fill the maximum space in the tray with 4 boxes, and the maximum height of the beta ray.

Irradiation process damages materials and plastic materials more than others. Reduces its elasticity, increase fragility…. Polypropylene based materials are not recommended. 

Supplier’s experience set maximum uses of reusable materials for rigid and solid polyethylene materials at 30 uses, and carton materials maximum uses at 4 times.

The total mass of the bottom and top of the packaging should not exceed the current mass of carton (441 gr./m2). If that mass is increased then irradiation power should be increased to cross the packaging, and dispersion of the irradiating parameters would be above the current limits.

3. Final transportation and fill-up of bottles at our client facilities. 

When the pallets are received, an operator manually takes out the double-bag from each box and leaves in the pre-chamber. Finally, outer plastic bag is left in the pre-chamber and bottles inside the inner plastic bag are sent to the filling room.

  • Current cost of carton box is 0,882 Eur. and double-bag is 0,120 Eur.
  • Current total transportation cost is 180 Eur. / truck of 16 pallets from customer to irradiation supplier and 540 Eur. /truck of 16 pallets from bottle´s manufacturer to irradiation supplier.
  • Warehouse cost is 10 Eur./pallet/month.
  • Client consumption is 3.000.000 bottles a year. 

What the client is looking for

The challenge is to find a different way to pack the bottles (use different materials, use different boxes, use reusable packaging…) to reduce cost of bottle packaging.

Note that your solution might need to estimate additional costs, not available at the moment. For example if a reusable box is proposed, then additional transportation might be required. 

Participants’ submissions at each of the different rounds of this tournament should be:

First round

  • Brief description of the proposed solution, including a draft of the proposed packaging configuration and description of the overall process.
  • First estimated cost savings and feasibility evidence (e.g. proposed packaging is being used in another company, new packaging costs reference, etc.)

Second round

  • Detailed specification of the proposed packaging specification.
  • Detailed costs breakdown variance for the overall process, including packaging transportation, irradiation, etc.

Third round

  • Final clarifications.

Additionally, there is an opportunity to collaborate with our client in the final prototyping and testing of the solution to bring it to the market.

Evaluation criteria

The evaluation criteria in each of the rounds of the tournament for the proposed solutions are:

1. Solution cost

  • Total savings should be at least 6.000 Eur. / year

2. Feasibility

  • Solution should keep the irradiation process under requirements (see additional information provided).
  • Packaging feasibility evidence considering sourcing and safe handling/transportation, e.g. similar solutions existing in other industries, available suppliers…


The overall duration of the tournament will be 12 weeks distributed in the following way:

Fist round: 4 weeks + 1 week evaluation

Second round: 3 weeks + 1 week evaluation

Third round: 2 weeks + 1 week evaluation

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    Good Luck!