The role of packaging has been evolving over the years. While protecting the goods is still the number one priority, it needs to be done sustainably often using thinner materials and more sophisticated design. With the rapid development of new retail formats (mainly e-commerce), the delivery mechanism of boxes is becoming more complex, and the packaging production needs to be done differently and faster with more productive and flexible machines while delivering the highest quality.
Brand owners use packaging to stand out on the shelf and appeal to customers. The recent trend requires shorter production runs, repeat orders, and flexibility, putting more pressure on converters to adjust their packaging production line capabilities.
As per a study report by Future Market Insights, the Packaging Design and Simulation Technology Market has led from constant innovation and evolution in various departments such as packaging development, optimization technology, and automated simulation. Simulation technology makes packaging more sustainable by helping in several ways, such as reducing costs, enabling secure shipment, and minimizing the environmental impacts.
Top Challenges Faced by Packaging Businesses
Packaging must overcome multiple challenges to create a secure container for the product while remaining aesthetically pleasing. The most pressing challenges include:
- Sustainability– Companies today must become more aware of how their packaging affects the environment. Sustainable packaging that uses fewer raw materials produces less waste and encourages recycling is the way of the future.
- Product protection– While sustainable packaging helps protect the planet, ultimately, your packaging must first protect the goods inside. Depending on the nature of your product, manufacturers may require more rigid containers compared to what other items need.
- Recognition- Brand recognition is also crucial in the packaging. Consistent branding increases a product’s worth by 20% compared to goods that do not maintain a recognizable brand.
- Distribution– Distribution considerations also play essential roles in designing food packaging. For temperature-sensitive products, not protecting the food inside can lead to spoiled foods or recalls once they arrive at the store.
- Freshness- Freshness is vital for the food industry. Though some foods remain safe to eat for months, they may have shorter shelf lives for optimal flavor and freshness. Packaging must account for keeping the goods at their peak until purchase.
- Impressions-The impression a consumer has at the point of sale significantly influences whether they will purchase a product. For 60% of shoppers, packaging encourages them to buy.
- E-commerce– One of the biggest problems consumers and companies face is the overabundance of packaging used for shipping goods ordered online. To avoid generating excessive waste from cushioning material, companies choose packaging that does not require additional shipping containers or use biodegradable packing materials.
- Rising costs– Some packaging may cost more due to special features like a 3D texture, but the boost in sales compared to less eye-catching goods may help recover the extra investment. Lower product packaging weights help cut shipping costs, which often tie closely to the volume or weight of the products sold.
- Shipping and Logistics– The packaging industry faces major operational issues concerning disruptions in the supply chain.
While all the above challenges are causing severe threats to the industry, shipping and logistics remain a significant concern for the packaging businesses. In recent times many tech companies are offering intelligent solutions for the same. Following are a few examples-
How advanced packaging technology can strengthen supply chains
Building a more resilient supply chain involves investing in new technologies and the interconnectivity of digital tools, physical infrastructure, and underlying data streams to move from descriptive to predictive supply chains.
Advanced technological tools will facilitate the enhancement and strengthening of supply chain efficiency. These tools include blockchain, digital twins, 3D printing, and autonomous mobile robots.
For instance, the blockchain implementation will change the shapes of food packaging, as the box can now be used to access every bit of information about its product’s journey. For example, Walmart is exploring new blockchain solutions to maintain food integrity.
Advanced processes will also be essential factors in enhancing the resilience of supply chains moving forward. Technologies like digital twins help through the manufacturing process simulation, providing a better understanding of pain points such as machine wear and tear and supply shortage with changing demand, helping reduce the upstream bullwhip effect.
Immersive reality allows for increased speed, efficiency, and safety
Immersive reality is the experience resulting from technologies that merge the physical world with a digital production of reality.
Virtual reality (VR) uses computer-generated information via a head-mounted display and input devices to provide the user with a sense of full immersion in a simulated reality, whereas augmented reality (AR) projects computer-generated information onto the user’s physical environment.
The use of AR and VR headsets will allow consumers to see what’s inside packages without opening them. This technology is currently being implemented at major retailers such as Target, Walmart, and Home Depot.
Customized products can be easily made, which may help companies to tap into a new market. This can also reduce marketing costs and packaging costs, as the product’s specifications are readily available with the touch of a scan.
Hyperautomation can help address challenges and mitigate inefficiencies in the supply chain
Hyperautomation joins artificial intelligence (AI) tools and robotic process automation (RPA) to create an end-to-end solution that enables complex business processes, taking digitalization automation to the next level.
Deep learning software uses human-like intelligence to appreciate nuances like deviation and variation. Hyperautomation can help in packaging optical character recognition, packaging assembly verification, and packaging classification.
Packaging applications involving flexibility and the judgment-based decision-making of human inspectors can be accurately predicted and be defect-free with the help of hyperautomation.
Amazon has adopted hyperautomation to aid in its massive logistics operations. Different technologies enhance efficiency and transparency across the picking, packing, and shipping process.
Sun Automation is focused on the corrugated packaging industry, providing corrugated manufacturers access to insights into the performance of their machines and reportedly enabling minimized downtime, optimized maintenance schedules, and maximized profit.
Adopt smart packaging technology
Advancements in the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies have significantly reduced costs to implement tracking capabilities on parcels in transit.
Instead of paper labels, companies are producing personalized stickers and intelligent labels using technologies such as organic light-emitting diode (OLED) and e-ink printing which create less waste and can quickly provide real-time reports on the conditions of a package in transit.
A warning can be transmitted with the tags to allow any damaged items to be checked or replaced in the supply chain before it reaches the end customer, thus reducing transportation costs and the carbon emissions resulting from a wasted delivery.
Striking a balance between efficiency, costs, and the environmental impact of packaging can be challenging, but getting it right will unlock an exciting, revolutionary phase for supply chains across all industries.
Next steps for connected networks:
In addition to the technologies mentioned above, several other tools will be vital to building true supply chain resilience. These include truck collaboration software systems, robotic shuttle systems for automated storage and retrieval, and distributed inventory flow forecasting systems, to name a few.
At the center of all of these tools lies the connectivity factor. Following is a simplified roadmap to achieving such connectivity:
- Advancing the interconnected digital supply networks
- Automating operations
- Balancing the global supply chain footprint
- Re-examining the extended, multi-tier supplier network
- Optimizing inventory
- Re-architecting work for the future
Innovations to have the most significant influence on logistics
Packaging logistics has become a discipline in and of itself, improving package designs, increasing material choices, and leading to the development of smartAssembling a supply chain control tower can be invaluable for companies with multiple fulfillment centers and third-party logistics providers packaging. Also, real-time tracking has made it possible to follow a package from packing to delivery, alerting you to exceptions while allowing customers to check delivery progress online at any time.
Assembling a supply chain control tower can be invaluable for companies with multiple fulfillment centers and third-party logistics providers. A control tower oversees all aspects of the supply chain, automatically generating alerts on deliveries and exceptions while using machine learning to improve efficiency and reduce shipping costs.
Hence, upcoming technological innovations in packaging will play a key role in streamlining the supply chain and logistics. They will bring about process efficiency and reduce product wastage due to gaps in the supply chain.
Adoption of Intelligent Packaging across industries
These Intelligent Packaging Technologies are gaining steady commercialization: Excerpts from FMI’s recent talk show
Ismail Sutaria is Senior Consultant, Packaging at Future Market Insights (FMI), global market research and consulting firm. FMI is headquartered in Dubai, with offices in the US, UK, and India. . MarketNgage is the Market Research Subscription Platform from FMI that assists stakeholders in obtaining in-depth research across industries, markets, and niche segments. You can connect with Ismail on LinkedIn.
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