Top Packaging Trends from PACK EXPO 2018
By Laura Foti
Every two years, packaging professionals from around the world gather in Chicago to discuss trends and innovation in packaging. This year’s PACK EXPO highlighted both existing trends, like eCommerce, SKU proliferation, automation, and the impact of increasing global standards, along with emerging trends such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
eCommerce and Packaging SKU Proliferation
While SKU proliferation is by no means a new trend, the continued rise of eCommerce across both B2C and B2B segments is compounding the problem and creating more of a need for specification management than ever before.
Attendees we spoke to talked about the importance of packaging that is shipped directly to the consumer instead of to a store where it’s then displayed. As a result, packaging has truly become the storefront in this new era and companies are trading in plain corrugated cartons for packaging that is delightful to open (just search for “unboxing” on YouTube) and reflects the company’s brand and aspiration. For example, Tieks, the online shoe retailer, has nailed eCommerce packaging. The aqua blue cartons highlight a key product feature (women’s ballet flats that can fold and travel easily) in a package that many consumers reuse, and is tied together with a collection of colorful flower bows that double as women’s headbands.
Continued Rise of Automation – and Why Robots Need Details
Walking the show at PACK EXPO is a unique experience, as the convention center is transformed into a giant manufacturing facility with the presence of giant bottling and packaging machines. While automation is nothing new to the packaging industry, the activities the machines are performing have come a long way. In addition to filling bottles, machines are now lifting and moving packages more dynamically than ever before. As the industry continues to move to automation, the need for having exact specifications for each product that a machine interacts with will be critical so they can automatically adjust to a changing line.
Managing Global Regulatory Requirements
Along with the continuous globalization of industry, proper packaging and labeling is becoming more of a focus when manufacturers are shipping internationally. A failure to meet country-specific standards can result in shipments being refused, translating into losses if packages moving across borders do not meet national standards.
To compete and comply on the international stage, companies will need to better manage these country-specific policies. For example, in Specright, when a country has a policy change, all finished goods connected to that country could be flagged and put on hold. Simultaneously, updated documents can be loaded into all affected finished goods so the documentation is ready when the user realizes a spec has been flagged for changes. This prevents interruptions in the supply chain because all stakeholders are informed of policy changes and affected products before they leave the plant.
Internet of Things and Connected Factories
In addition to advances in factory automation, another trend in full force at PACK EXPO 2018 was the rise of the connected factory. Harnessing the power of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), companies are now putting sensors on their equipment and using advanced analytics to predict failures and deploy predictive maintenance.
For manufacturers, proactive maintenance means less downtime, so goods producing companies can spend more time making goods and better manage the services related to their critical assets. As the Industrial Internet continues to take off, the need to know every part of every machine (and corresponding supplier and cost) will facilitate the replacement of parts and help manufacturers realize the value of proactive maintenance.
At the core of each of these trends is the need to better manage and control specs across the supply chain. Learn how Specright can help you navigate these new opportunities – and challenges – with our Specification Data Management platform.