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Packaging challenge for Swindon College students announced

Matt Dobson: Last Updated 16th February 2024
Posted In: Company News | Education xx 31179

Designers of the Future

GWP Packaging launch design competition for students of Swindon College

GWP joined forces with Swindon College to offer a solution to logistics for local charity Swindon Foodbank – and provide a packaging design challenge for engineering students to get their teeth into.

Education of students in packaging design is an area in which GWP are particularly interested, and is also one of the areas where recruiting talent can prove tricky.

Following the closure of the dedicated packaging design course which was run at the College – one of the leading courses nationwide – applicants for packaging design vacancies have dwindled. As a result, GWP are keen to promote the industry to students.

Packaging challenge for students
GWP Group CEO talks with students at Swindon College during the launch of the packaging competition

Helping a local charity

Another motivation behind the project was to help a deserving local charity.

It was discovered that Swindon Foodbank’s distribution centres, based in a number of locations around the town, were using donated second-hand boxes to move produce around their warehouse. This included into vans and onto distribution points.

Foodbank staff often found it a struggle to use the inappropriate and second-hand packaging, which, not having been designed for the purpose in which it’s being used, frequently became damaged. This in turn often led to food spillages and wastage.

On hearing of the Foodbank’s plight, GWP decided to team up with local college, Swindon College, and set the engineering students the challenge of creating a manual handling solution from corrugated cardboard.

Taking the form of a competition, and following an industry standard brief, the plan was to put the students’ winning structural design into production at GWP.

A package of help for Swindon Foodbank

Packaging competition launch event

The launch, held at Swindon College on Wednesday 6th February, was attended by Group CEO David Pedley, who gave an introduction to the company and packaging that is produced as well as presenting the brief and giving an overview of how the competition will be structured.

Initially, 40 students will be split into teams of 4, with each team creating conceptual designs and / or mock-ups.

Following this, the teams will be whittled down to 3 finalists, who will then pitch their designs – Dragons Den style – to a panel made up of GWP experts and the team at Swindon Foodbank.

The winning team will receive a cash prize and a certificate, as well as seeing their design being put into production at GWP. Besides this, following the competition GWP will also be offering work experience to two engineering students.

Ruth Cook, Managing Director at GWP Packaging, commented;

We think it’s really important for young people to have the opportunity to work closely with industry so they can bring their theoretical knowledge to life. We’re delighted to be working in partnership with Swindon College and Swindon Foodbank and are really looking forward to seeing the students’ ideas.

Kevin Eldin, Curriculum Area Manager for Swindon College, added;

This is a great opportunity for our students. They will be working in teams and will have the opportunity to attend a packaging design workshop run by GWP staff. It’s really important for students to gain experience of working with industry and we’re grateful to GWP for giving us this opportunity.

Press Coverage of the launch

As well as the local press being in attendance for the launch at Swindon College, BBC Radio Wiltshire also covered the event.

Having interviewed students, tutors, representatives from the Foodbank and members of the team at GWP Packaging, the excitement and interest that project generated was shared with thousands of listeners across the county.

Originally broadcast on Wednesday 6th February (2013) the shows were made available on the BBC iPlayer for 7 days from their original broadcast. However, you can also use the links below to download MP3 versions to listen to whenever you wish.

Please click here to listen to the Breakfast show coverage, or here for the Drivetime show.

Swindon College Workshops

Following the launch of the competition, the next stage of the project was a series of workshops at the Colleges’ North Star campus.

With the students already split into groups of 4, Steve Mann, a packaging designer at GWP and Jay Dagger, sales manager for the Packaging division, visited students at the college to provide guidance and an objective industry opinion on the conceptual designs and mock ups created to date.

Also showing students a range of samples of products that have already been in commercial production at GWP, as well as the different board types that the students may consider using, besides helping the students it also gave GWP the first glimpse of potential designs that may eventually be put into production at the end of the competition.

Steve Mann, Designer at GWP Packaging, commented;

We’ve seen some interesting designs today and the students seem genuinely interested and motivated to win the competition – which can of course only be good for GWP and the Foodbank.

First Round Judging

With designs submitted, GWP Packaging CEO David Pedley, Managing Director Ruth Cook and Head Designer Mike Poynter selected the 3 finalists from the original 10 groups who progressed to the next stage of the competition.

With many groups submitting more than one design prototype, and also providing a brief presentation and rationale for their designs, choosing the finalists proved very difficult.

Students pitch to packaging experts
Students pitched to packaging experts (from left) Lee Thompson, Ruth Cook, Mike Poynter and David Pedley

Following a rigorous appraisal process, with the designs being marked on their innovation, creativity, commercial potential and how well they satisfied the brief, it was quickly apparent that the students had put a lot of hard work, thought and effort into their proposals.

With the designs also being scrutinised in terms of how well they would stack, their usability, strength, how many uses they would last for and the incorporation of handles and grips, it ensured the commercial suitability for the chosen designs to actually be put into production once an overall winner has been chosen.

The general feedback from the judges at GWP was very positive, reflecting that the project had clearly engaged the students and motivated them to put in the hard work and research required to create a winning design.

Mike Poynter, Head Designer at GWP Packaging, said;

There was certainly a wide range of ideas, and it is nice to see the students producing original concepts and designs. Some of the thought processes and thinking are outside of what you may normally expect to see with corrugated packaging, but the result is innovative design, which is refreshing to see.

Finalists visit production and design facility at Cricklade

Having made it through to the final of the packaging design competition, the students and their tutors took part in a tour of the operations at the GWP Packaging division.

Based in Chelworth, Cricklade, and also home to the GWP Conductive, Correx® and Coatings divisions, students were able to see the entire process that their potential winning design will go through – from setting up in the CAD software all the way through the finished, printed box being produced.

Swindon College factory visit
Jay Daggar, Sales Manager at GWP Packaging, shows students around the GWP factory in Cricklade

The students initially started with a brief tour of the design studio. Steve Mann, the GWP designer that had offered help and tuition earlier in the competition, initially showed setting up various designs on the CAD screens, and the various techniques that the specialist software allows for (e.g. calculating weight loads, strength testing etc).

Following this, the students were also shown prototypes being made on the plotter (a process that allows for testing of new designs and sending samples to customers before production runs), before also showing them a range of the different styles of packaging that the GWP design have created over the past few years (including standard FEFCO layouts).

On the shop floor…

Following the conclusion of the tour, the students had the opportunity to discuss their designs in a questions and answers session with the team at GWP. This was their final chance to resolve any issues before submitting their final designs.

The students were also presented with certificates by Ruth Cook, Managing Director at GWP, to mark their progress to the finals and to keep as a record of their achievement to date.

To see who won the competition, plus additional information on both Swindon College and Swindon Foodbank, please use the relevant links below.

The competition hots up!

The next part of the visit saw students being guided around the production facility by Jay Daggar, Sales Manager for GWP Packaging.

This included seeing how jobs are planned in to the factory, the various machinery and processes utilised, plus the storage and stock handling of raw materials and finished products that are held in stock for customers using the GWP “Just in Time” service.

This meant that the students were able to visualise how the winning solution will eventually be produced, as well as highlighting additional considerations that they must bear in mind before submitting their revised designs at the next round of judging.

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About the Author

Matt Dobson, GWP Group Marketing Manager

Matt Dobson

Marketing Manager | GWP Group

Matt has worked in the packaging industry for approximately 9 years, having joined GWP Group as Marketing Executive in 2012. [Read full bio…]

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