A Sustainable Company Starts with
Sustainable companies can only exist with individuals who care deeply about conserving natural resources. Conscientious individuals concerned with preserving the environment and possessing technological prowess are essential for TOTO to carry out its Global Environmental Vision and sustainability initiatives.
Core components of TOTO’s corporate vision are sustainable manufacturing practices and environmentally friendly products and packaging design and development.
“Why packaging?” you may ask. Packaging is a significant component of a company’s sustainable practices. Importantly, since TOTO sells millions of products each year, the impact of packaging design for our company is profound.
For over 20 years, TOTO has packaged its products in environmentally friendly renewable cardboard packaging. Our packaging designers have developed containers that ensure the products’ protection and use minimal material.
To illustrate this, we adapted the following article from TOTO, Ltd.’s “GREEN STORY” in-house magazine that shares the stories of environmentally committed TOTO technology experts.
This first-person narrative by award-winning package design engineer Kentaro Kirino details the surprisingly creative development process behind two key products’ packaging: the Warmlet (a warm toilet seat not sold in the US) and one of the most beloved bathroom products in the world – our WASHLET bidet seat.
TOTO has sold over 60 million WASHLET products globally. As Kirino points out, this fact highlights the importance of designing WASHLET packaging that protects its contents and uses minimal resources, as it will significantly impact the environment.
The Wonderful World of Packaging Design: Fruits of Wisdom and Passion
“I want to design the ultimate people- and environment-friendly packaging,” Kentaro Kirino says.
“Packaging is a waste, after all. By cutting packaging materials, we can reduce the environmental load of a product. So, we must figure out how to protect each product using minimal material.' These words, spoken by my boss, Mr. Okazaki*, opened my eyes to the fun of my job as a package designer.
WARMLET Package Design
“For example, the Warmlet’s (TOTO’s warm toilet seat not sold in the US) packaging uses a double layer at the bottom, so cushioning is unnecessary. The inspiration for this hit me when I was looking at a paper carton of eggs. The shape of the packaging itself works as cushioning.
"However, there is a limit to which we can enlarge the inner layer at the bottom of a carton. Therefore, even if I wanted to enlarge it by just a few millimeters more, it is impossible.
The Importance of Easily Wrappable Packaging
"There is a reason I kept sticking to creating a simple package. Even when developing, it is that I want to make easily wrappable packaging. A complicated packaging process or additional cushioning creates difficulty for the people who wrap the products. Our "cushioning-free" package has 20 stages, far less than the 52 stages for the conventional package. This means the time needed to assemble it is only 21 seconds per piece. That’s a savings of about 70 hours for the entire packaging assembly line.
"Our 'cushioning-free' package also reduced the resources required to make it by 50%. It has been lauded in Japan and overseas, but I was happiest to hear that people on the assembly line liked it very much.
WASHLET Packaging Design
"The packaging for the WASHLET model with a water tank is another example. Previously, the WASHLET had to be lifted out of its package, so many installers injured their backs. Then, Mr. Okazaki devised an innovative package. Just by removing the paper joints, the package can be pulled away from the top, and the product remains. This joint system package has been patented, and it drastically reduces the installer’s back pain. We were assigned to improve it further recently, so we cut the two-process action of twisting and pulling the joint out into just one step.
"In addition, by improving how the accessories are stored in the box, we have eliminated the action of taking them out. At a commercial site where hundreds of toilets are installed, this one step causes a significant burden for installers. So we conducted unannounced inspections to measure vibration and shock during transportation dozens of times to arrive at our innovation.
"We wondered if installers would allow such a big product to tumble sideways or head-first and discovered that no such incidents had occurred. Therefore, we focused on strengthening the bottom of the package and, in the process, were able to reduce material usage by 48% and weight by nearly 2 kg (about 4.4 pounds).
"Thus, coming up with new ideas is essential in package design, and a designer's character is clearly shown in the design. Although packaging design is a “background job,” we should always consider the needs of others in our designs, so we can make many people happy. By reducing packaging waste, we can help reduce CO2 emissions, too. As you can see, the world of packaging design is really profound. My dream is to share the know-how we have created in Japan with the world.”
*Yoshikazu Okazaki is a senior engineer and experienced packaging designer with a career of more than 25 years. His unparalleled devotion to improving package designs by eliminating waste in conventional packaging was introduced on NHK's popular television program "Professional: The Way of Work."