British protective packaging distributor Macfarlane Packaging has opened a new 5,000ft² packaging ‘Innovation Lab’ to meet future packaging challenges.

The new lab is located at the company’s flagship Northwest Regional Distribution Centre in Heywood, near Manchester in England.

The development of the facility involved an investment of around £1.3m ($1.61m).

The site is equipped with various capabilities that will support the development of new solutions to address the ‘most demanding’ packaging challenges.

It will also allow the company to test their new packaging solutions to further ensure that it can survive the difficulties of supply chain handling.

The lab also includes an atmospheric conditioning chamber, augmented reality design tools, and a HoloLens mixed-reality headset.

It can support full design, digital print and CAD prototyping work to quickly create same-day packaging samples.

Other features of this lab include stretch wrapping, pallet load containment testing, ‘Packaging Optimiser’ software for minimising costs and measuring the packaging’s CO₂ impact equivalent, as well as a packaging automation showroom.

Furthermore, the facility has a dedicated network handling simulator to assess whether the packaging solutions abide by the International Safe Transport Association standards or not.

Macfarlane Packaging’s design head Richard Garratt said: “Ongoing investment in our Innovation Labs allows us to push forward with the latest tools and technology to deliver creative solutions that reduce cost, improve sustainability and enhance customer experience.

“The new centre offers market-leading testing capability, including technical offering[s] with ISTA testing, load containment and climatic conditioning, all accessible remotely through an advanced video conferencing system that connects UK and European operations together.”

This Heywood-based facility is Macfarlane’s second packaging lab that builds on the success of the previous facility located in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.

Opened in 2016, the first lab was built with an investment of approximately £300,000 to provide cost-effective packaging solutions to its customers.