Interview with Patricia Mirasol, Product Designer at DS Smith Tecnicarton

"To design a packaging you have to think about costs, logistics, delivering and, moreover, to be fast"

For thirteen years Patricia Mirasol has been working at DS Smith Tecnicarton. Her story is especially interesting because she started at the end of her studies of Technical Engineer in Industrial Design. Her entry in Tecnicarton was as a scholarship holder, and soon after, she became part of the formal team of the company.

In these years she has seen the evolution of the company from its initial headquarters in Riba-roja del Turia, to its current location in Almussafes. She has seen how the company has revalued itself with the different acquisitions through which it has passed and, from a personal point of view, the solidity and security of Tecnicarton has allowed to form its own family.

Question: Patricia, after all these years, what do you value most about Tecnicarton?

Patricia Mirasol: Of course, my professional projection and the security of belonging to a company with continuity, well managed and that offers security.

Q: Your beginnings at Tecnicarton date back 13 years. How did you get started?

PM: I finished my studies as a Technical Engineer in Industrial Design at the Polytechnic University of Valencia and I entered the company as a fellow in 2004. At this time Tecnicartón supplied industrial packaging in cardboard, although we always went a step further and offered different solutions to the clients. At that moment we were in Riba-roja del Túria. And in the apartment there were only two people. Little by little, this department became bigger, I entered to become part of the company as an employee and not as a fellow.

From that moment I began to work and to design in other materials, evolving my mind into multimaterial packaging. Also, attending fairs provided us with information about what our customers needed and what they could demand.

In these years I have also seen the change of location to Almussafes, in the Juan Carlos I Park of Almussafes, near Ford and the suppliers of automotive, which are one of our main sectors.

Q: And what aspects of Tecnicarton do you think make the company different?

P.M: I believe in the philosophy of the company. We are able to quickly cover any packaging need for a company  in this sector. The sooner you offer a solution, a prototype and a design, the sooner you can develop the project.

Q: As a designer, what support do you offer to the Packaging Engineers of the rest of the plants?

P.M: The design department to which I belong prepares the product sheets of the projects. They are the technical sheets that clients approve and pass to the factory. These tokens are the roadmap for colleagues who are on the manufacturing and assembly line. They must be very specific so that there are no manufacturing errors or doubts.

These tabs should show absolutely the entire process, from when the raw material is received until it is processed. If it is a multi-material packaging, it must include each of its elements, both to be processed by us and subcontractors to place in the packaging, clearly and legibly.

Q: And in your case, do you design for any material?

P.M: All the design department has integrated all the materials. When the customer has a problem, we offer different solutions of packaging. We offer the best option whether you want a reusable or single use packaging, always taking into account the use of materials that guarantee the best positioning and protection of the product in its handling and transportation... that is our function. Then, once the packaging has been validated by the customer, it is necessary to make the product sheets, plans and operational standards of manufacture so then we can manufacture it with total reliability.

Q.: Tecnicarton has several plants. Do you design for all of them?

P.M: Yes, the design department is at the Almussafes plant, and from here we support all DS Smith Tecnicarton plants. At the level of DS Smith Group, we also participate in both national and international projects whenever required.

Q: Throughout your years in the company, the business concept has changed. Now the company is synonymous of innovation and packaging engineering.

P.M: Yes, we differentiate ourselves because we can offer innovation and multimaterial design. We know deeply about sectors such as the automobile industry. In addition, as we work directly for the OEMs, we know their needs and preferences in terms of packaging, which helps us to provide the most appropriate solutions to our suppliers, who are also our customers.

But not only with the industrial theme, we also have, among others, packaging for agriculture and large bulk which we incorporate novelties and improvements in each edition.

Throughout my years I have also participated in other packaging for porcelain and tile companies. In this case, tertiary packaging where smaller packs fit.

Q: What benefits do you see in your ability to think in a multi-material way when designing?

P.M: We can offer an optimal solution because we are not restricted to any material. We can propose to the customer the use of any material or combination of different materials in the same packaging. We look for the optimum packaging to protect the contents, to transport it and, of course, not forgetting the lowest processing cost and its subsequent recycling.

Q: What has been the biggest design challenge for the packaging you faced?

P.M: Well there are enough. By size and weight we can highlight the packaging for components of the wind towers (electric cabinets and mechanical elements), packaging for spindles, with a length of 12.5 m, packaging for motors and bumpers of agricultural tractors, etc ...

And one of the packaging that we are most proud of, being pioneers in its development, has been the high-end automotive projectors. The difficulty of this project is that they are very fragile and with very delicate surfaces, they have many areas that can not have contact with anything that can damage it. So you have to fit it into the packaging thinking where you can hold it, what material you can use that does not scratch the piece and at the same time is tough. And resist transport, of course. For these projects we make all the necessary industrial tests to obtain a total guarantee of face to the client.

Q: And in these cases, how much time do you have?

P.M: As I said before, speed is fundamental in this sector and in our customers, especially when it comes to automotive. Sometimes the client wants that in three days. For example, we propose already an idea, a concept, and in that idea we can not lose sight of the machinery and tools we have. We can not propose anything that we can not develop in our facilities and with our machinery, obviously.

Q: You talked about speed and now about tools. What other factors influence the design of a packaging?

P.M: On the one hand, we must take into account to be able to offer a response quickly, effectively and that can be developed in our facilities. In addition, the final packaging that we propose meets the technical specifications set forth by the customer, which has a competitive price and can be produced in time adjusted to the needs of the customer. For this, we also have to take into account the materials we are going to use, their availability, etc. And, in addition to all that, the packaging is robust for the transport that will be used, stackable, recyclable or reusable, depending on its use.

The issue of logistics is fundamental because if we get packaging that reduces size and fit more in a container, our customer will save on logistics costs and that is already a competitive advantage that we offer.

Q: Patricia tells us about many variables, how do you get to meet them all?

PM: In Tecnicarton, we reach everything precisely because of our identity is innovation and also cause the constant investment in machinery; And in teams that allow us to continue being pioneers in different solutions.

Tecnicarton is a company that values the investment as a value to improve and to offer better products to its customers, so we count with the necessary tools to develop our work.

Q: After so many years, do you still see your future in Tecnicarton?

P.M: The truth is that yes. From the personal point of view I have learnt a lot in these years. And as each project is different you do not have the feeling of boredom or stagnation. On the contrary, every day is a challenge. And from the labor point of view, we perceive a good management of the company that makes us all committed to the project. Precisely because we see that from management, everyone is involved in doing things right. The team is involved in the company and vice versa.