Make no mistake: the $1.1 trillion packaging industry is in transition. Driven by forces such as shifting consumer preference and increasingly stringent governmental regulation, the massive packaging sector faces the daunting task of pivoting toward a sustainable future.
This trend has been increasingly evident, no more so than at the recent PACK EXPO Las Vegas show. Agility is critical. One leader in this movement has been Coesia and its GREENMATION initiative. Coesia is a group of companies specializing in highly innovative industrial and packaging solutions, headquartered in Bologna, Italy. It has a presence in 36 countries and 84 production facilities. Isabella Seràgnoli is the sole shareholder.
“We know for a fact consumers are even willing to pay a premium to get more sustainable packaging options. Recyclability is the number one feature they look for,” explained Giulia Maria Maspero when I visited the Coesia booth on the first morning of the show.
“With pressures coming both from consumers and retailers, as well as from legislators globally, brand owners are showing their commitment towards a more sustainable future. As Coesia, we are presented with many requests to deliver solutions that are compliant with what customers are asking and meeting government regulations” she continued.
Leading the Sustainable Shift: Coesia’s GREENMATION Initiative
Maspero, Coesia’s Marketing Communication Manager, explained that the group’s GREENMATION approach is Coesia’s innovative answer to emerging challenges. “It represents our efforts in revolutionizing the manufacturing industry by providing automation solutions that are also in line with a sustainable future”.
Coesia’s 20 companies are leaders in advanced automated machinery, industrial process solutions, and precision gears. The group’s customers are leaders in various market sectors, including aerospace, ceramics, consumer goods, electronics, healthcare, luxury goods, pharmaceuticals, and more.
At the show, Maspero showed me some of the 70 samples of sustainably minded consumer packaging it had curated for the exhibit. The shift is not straightforward. Introducing sustainable materials, including paper and mono-material plastic, poses a huge number of challenges.
For flexible pouches, for instance “ there are two important aspects to remember,” Maspero noted. “The mechanical properties of sustainable materials such as paper and monomaterials may differ from those of multi-layer materials traditionally employed,” she explained. When the material is stretched on a pouch machine, it can elongate and result in inconsistent pouch size. Sealing is also critical. When heated to seal packages, paper and monomaterials can be more sensitive to burning”
Coesia companies are intensively working on this transition, developing technologies ready to handle more sustainable materials. In 2018, Volpak opened the PouchLab, an R&D laboratory to test the behavior of different types of packaging materials on HFFS pouching equipment. Thanks to the collaboration with several customers and partners, Volpak equipment is now ready to work with 100% recyclable materials, and great results are being registered in the application of closing options.
R.A Jones also recently developed new material handling technology to run a variety of sustainable films on its PouchKing pouching solutions without impacting performance or output goals.
Tubes are also touched by the sealing challenge. Norden and Citus Kalix, specialized in tube filling solutions, are opening up their doors to allow partners and suppliers to test their mono-material tubes on tube filling equipment – and thus helping to determine machinability.
Plastic alternatives are another key front. Coesia displays notable packaging design capabilities, which come from a long-lasting experience with paper and carton-based containers. On display at the show was ACMA Ecoshell – a range of cardboard packaging with an original design that enable plastic to be replaced, while also innovating the dosage system for the product compared to traditional cases.
Innovative Solutions: Beyond Just Materials
Aside from running sustainable materials, Coesia solutions are designed to improve sustainability across the board. For example, inline printing solutions provided by companies like HAPA and Atlantic Zeiser – reduce the need for preprinted materials that typically result in waste and unnecessary – and often used – inventory.
Another consideration is packaging machinery footprint. A smaller machine footprint takes up less space and results in more productivity per square meter. A.J. Lee of Minnesota-based MGS, one of the many Coesia companies featured at the Coesia booth, reiterated the trend toward more compact equipment footprints. Lee, Sales Director – Pharma & Medical Device Automation, provided an overview of the Eclipse CT intermittent motion cartoner. It is highly effective in a small footprint, with rates up to 80 cartons per minute and a robust design allowing 24/7 operation. He said the line automates four different tasks that would take from four to 10 people to operate in a manual environment.
Packaging optimization is another area of great interest.
Paul Fisk, Sales Manager at Kentucky-based R.A Jones, one of the Coesia companies, provided an overview of the recently launched intelligent Flexible Transfer System (iFTS). This smart automated, customizable transfer system provides consumer packaged goods (CPGs) companies with a reliable and flexible solution for simple or complex automation challenges.
At PACK EXPO, the highly customizable solution was integrated with a four-axis robotic pick and place and fed into a cartoner machine. By rotating and collating products so more can fit in the carton, iFTS can help brands reduce overall carton volume by 10 to 20 percent. Greater product density reduces freight and storage requirements, lightening the associated climate footprint.
Charting a Greener Path Forward
Coesia, through its GREENMATION initiative, is demonstrating that profitability and sustainability can coexist in the packaging industry. The company is leading by example, focusing on comprehensive solutions – from materials and packaging, to machinery design and process solutions. As the industry continues to evolve, Coesia companies are combining proven and new technologies to ensure that the industry’s future is profitable and environmentally responsible.