Summary 

P&G aims to be a leader in the region of inclusive package design for its products. Affecting and improving lives is not just a slogan for P&G and its people; it is a core understanding that they all share. With this in mind, P&G continuously enables inclusive packaging design into its portfolios to further improve its consumers’ lives.

Fast facts

  • P&G serves nearly 5 billion people worldwide, with a robust portfolio of trusted, quality, leadership brands. The P&G community is built up of 99,000 employees in around 70 countries worldwide.
  • It is expected that 10% of all adults in the US have a visual impairment, for whom simple tasks, such as distinguishing between personal care products during use, can be confused.
  • The National Federation of the Blind reports a ‘Braille literacy crisis in the United States. Less than 10% of those who recorded legally blind in the US are Braille readers, and only 10% of blind children are learning to read the tactile writing system.

Project background – Tactile Labelling

While one of the world’s biggest and most trusted suppliers of consumer and personal care products Procter and Gamble (P&G) recognizes the significance of ensuring that products and services can be used and experienced by everyone.

Easy tasks can be an original challenge for those living with a visual impairment, similar telling the distinction between personal care products, such as bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Even for consumers with poor or decreased sight, it can be hard to classify products while in the shower stall or bath where sight aids, such as glasses, contact lenses, or magnifiers, are not typically used. P&G recognized this problem and set out to locate a solution. 

“Most maximum shampoo and conditioner bottles are designed to look and feel the same,” declares the P&G’s most Special Consultant for Inclusive Design, Sumaira Latif, which is registered blind herself. “We understood that we have an enormous opportunity to improve the lives of those with a visual impairment by developing our products and packaging and encouraging other businesses to do the same.”

“It may seem similar to a small thing, but there are hundreds of these little items that visually injured people like myself have to spend time reviewing and rechecking every day,” maintains Latif. “If you need to be independent, if you need to be confident, you do not need to do asking your brother, your mother, your sister and your husband, your children ‘What bottle is this?’ particularly in such a secret location as a shower.”

Why Tactile Labelling not braille

Exercising Braille may seem like a solution here, but Latif acknowledged that a minimum number of blind or visually impaired people are Braille users.

“Largest people with visual impairments cannot read Braille. It holds months, if not years, to learn, and you have to begin young to develop your sensitivity. Most utmost people develop visual impairments in later life, and Braille is no longer an alternative,” says Latif. “It was necessary that we invent a feature which could be universally acknowledged and would work for people who could not learn Braille.”

By allowing a simple, more universal approach to distinguish the bottles, P&G expects to make the bottle extra convenient, not just to those with a visual impairment but for anyone who may fight to tell the products apart throughout use.

Herbal Essences bio: renew

With her co-workers at P&G, Latif came up with the innovative approach of adding tactile notches on the bottles to be distinguished by touch. P&G set out to explore with a unique tactile-coded design for the Herbal Essences bio: renew the line of shampoos and conditioners.

“We require to help the world see with their hands,” explains Latif. “A single differentiator does not just help people with low or no vision, and it also encourages people who do not have English as a first language or those who commonly wear corrective glasses or contact lenses. You would be amazed by the number of non-disabled, sighted people who tell me that they join up shampoo and conditioner in the shower.

First steps

To keep design costs and production influences to a minimum, Latif and her P&G colleagues attempted a solution capable of putting tactile markers onto its existing bottles rather than producing the bottles with the tags already in place. Utilizing a laser coder to etch the characteristics during production seemed like an optimal solution. The team understood there would be complexities involved in marking the bottles without compromising the packaging or significantly affecting production time.

tactile labeling, braille, tactile printing

“While the objective is worthy, we realized that to be victorious, the new method need not impact productivity. We process hundreds of bottles in a minute on each bottling line; changing a manufacturing process is difficult when you are dealing with those kinds of quantities,” says Latif. “We wanted a solution which could fit into our existent production lines without making a significant impact on production line activities.”

Partnership with Domino

“We addressed several various coding and marking suppliers with the brief, and Domino stood out as the unique supplier dedicated to working truly collaboratively with us to find the most suitable design and solution for organizing the markers,” says Kevin Higgins, Engineer at P&G.

The decisive factor was Domino’s accurate expertise and extraordinarily collaborative and iterative design testing to reveal the most suitable clarification for the whole bottle design. The P&G team was encouraged to visit Domino’s experts’ laser testing labs in Hamburg initially to analyze the requirements for the project and then again for a two-day working session to realize the tremendous possible solution.

tactile labeling, braille

“The initial declaration of P&G was for coding the bottles beside triangle, circle, and square symbols,” remarks Dr. Stefan Stadler, Team Lead at the Laser Academy. “From first testing, it was decided that these symbols would be tough to recognize by touch, so we performed some various options which could be more clearly differentiated.”

The accepted design features a row of increased lines on the bottom of the shampoo bottles with two rows of upraised dots in the same place on conditioner bottles.

The key to the project’s progress was ensuring that the laser did not puncture the bottles or weaken the barrier energy of the substrate. The Laser team classified the bottom of the bottle, where the plastic is thickest, as the most suitable location for the tactile labeling. It would be simply identifiable without discrediting the integrity of the packaging. 

Sample testing

In the first sample tests, Domino’s D-Series CO2 Laser coders approved the initial scientific analysis. They, fortunately, etched the needed vertical line and circle markers, leaving a tactile mark externally conciliating the substrate.

Domino’s D-Series

The Domino’s Laser team used a 3D microscope to examine the processing depth across nine various painted PET bottles (the Herbal Essences bottle substrate) with two separate coding modes: running and stationary. The absorption price of the colored bottles was calibrated using an FT-IR spectrometer to decide whether there was a relationship between coding depth and plastic color.

“We determined that laser absorption at the tested wavelengths is independent of the color of the bottle,” replies Stadler. “The similar solution could be replicated using another colored PET, which means that a full range of product brands could choose this, despite the color of their bottles. This implies that it could be a simplistic step for other manufacturers to follow P&G’s lead and allow the very marking method.”

To assure that the laser solution would not arbitrate the product packaging Domino’s Laser team stopped longer than a week, testing the parameters of the laser to create the most appropriate designations. A 3D-profiling statement describing the testing process reassured the P&G team that this additional labeling would not harm the integrity of the product at any point, ultimately the supply chain.

“In P&G, our goal is to delight the customer throughout the entire acquiring process. From first viewing the bottles on the shelf finished squeezing out the most profound drop of product from the bottle, the consumer must be delighted with their purchase throughout the process,” says Higgins.

“Bottle integrity is of the highest consequence to us because this is the first thing the customer sees and the last thing they touch. The bottle not only has to look great, but it also has to work throughout its entire life, and compromising its honor was a matter for us. Through computations and modeling, we were able to find parameters that not only delivered the tactile feel we wanted but also did not negotiate bottle integrity.”

Validating the solution

To ensure the new stripes and circles approach would work for consumers, P&G presented the newly-coded Herbal Essences bio: renew bottles to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in the UK for consumer testing. A follow-up focus group with visually impaired consumers overwhelmingly approved of the new inclusive bottle design.

Following successful consumer feedback, P&G began using Domino’s laser solution to mark Herbal Essences bio: renew shampoo and conditioner bottles at various manufacturing plants in the US and selected contract packers from January 2019.

tactile labeling, braille

The inclusive bottle design was a hit, receiving many positive reviews from those living with partial or complete sight loss, with active bloggers and spokespersons for the blind community sharing their experiences online.

“I always have difficulty figuring out what I’m grabbing in the shower,” says Holly Bonner, Owner of BlindMotherhood.com. “These bottles are identical, but I don’t have to use a bump dot or a rubber band to differentiate what I’m going to be using… So, I think that this is an amazing idea.”

“While [P&G] are doing this with the visually impaired community in mind, this could also be great for little kids…[and]…people who are losing their vision later on in life…this is going to be very useful for them,” she continues.

“The best part about this whole thing is that a blind woman designed it. A blind woman who has worked for the company for 18 years designed it. So, it is not some sighted person that came up with this idea. This is somebody who is blind, who understands, who gets it. It’s amazing. I think that Herbal Essences has done a great job.”

Based on the success of the initial trial, P&G rolled out the new inclusive design across all its US range of Herbal Essences bio: renew shampoos and conditioners.

Driving industry change – P&G’s goal for the beauty industry

On 4th May 2020, Latif took part in a webinar hosted by the people behind BE MY EYES, an innovative web-based application for blind or visually impaired people, enabling users to be connected to volunteers via video call who can assist with visual tasks. As part of the webinar, Latif spoke about the challenges faced by blind and visually impaired people at home and in the workplace and how more companies are working to make their products accessible to those with disabilities – including P&G with their new coded bottles.

“I was happy to hear about the new-and-improved, tactile shampoo and conditioner bottles,” writes Blogger and BE MY EYES user Tia Wojciechowski, who sat in on the webinar.

“Almost all shampoos and conditioners are in matchy-matchy twin bottles. I guess people like it better that way because it looks cuter in their bathrooms. Now some bottles are cute and tactile!” she continues.

“Herbal Essences…have added tactile lines on the backs of the bottles… Nothing that should inconvenience hair care product companies into spending a lot of extra money, and make them have to jack up the price.”

The long-term aim of P&G’s project is to encourage more manufacturers to create inclusive packaging designs for beauty and personal care products, which are often used by visually impaired consumers when they are unable to rely on glasses or contact lenses. The simple icon approach applied to Herbal Essences bio: could provide a global way of allowing differentiation, bringing freedom and confidence to millions of blind and visually impaired consumers in the US and elsewhere.

Domino supports your needs and can test your specific products to provide recommendations for these markings. Domino welcomes visits to the Laser Academy and other advanced testing facilities to understand Domino technologies and their capabilities better.

Know How ? RFID – Radio-Frequency Identification

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