Innovation and keeping one eye on the future are essential
As we move past the ‘Happy New Year’ phase of 2023, so much about what this year has in store is uncertain. Between a murky economic outlook, the war in Ukraine, and several unprecedented pieces of landmark sustainability legislation about to come into force, supply chains are on shaky ground. New solutions are needed to overcome rapidly changing problems.
It means this year’s Packaging Innovations & Empack, Featuring Contract Pack & Fulfilment, held next week at the Birmingham NEC, UK could not arrive at a more opportune time. With over 350 exhibitors from across the world, the machinery and automation solutions on show at the event will have an even bigger role to play than ever.
Register to attend here.
More than anything, Packaging Innovations is a show about the future. Below is a glimpse of that future before it arrives on the show floor next week.
Essential automation solutions
In the current economic climate, the cost of any mistakes is amplified by a factor of thousands. When raw materials cost more than ever, being able to account for simple human error is no longer enough – these errors must be eliminated wherever possible. Automation will cease to be a way for businesses to get ahead – in 2023, it will become essential for businesses to keep up.
The automated palletising, shrink wrapping, and auto-bagging solutions, such as those offered by Adpak Machinery, are set to draw significant interest to the Empack Zone at the NEC because of how vital they will become over the next few years. These next-generation solutions will service a wide range of sectors as they can cope with packs of all shapes and sizes to ensure minimal disruption through the supply chain.
Automation will be augmented by next-generation AI, which has turbocharged more than just production machinery and robotics. They have greatly enhanced quality control in the print and finishing sector, too. Software like Esko’s Automation Engine facilitates a smooth prepress process for printing artwork on everything from folding cartons to flexible pouches. This software can deliver packaging projects to the press up to 50% faster by automating time-consuming quality control tasks like bleed management, image resolutions, and so on.
ESG policies get real
Today’s consumers – especially Gen Z consumers, who are rapidly maturing into the world’s spending superpower – are increasingly socially conscious and environmentally aware. It means all three letters in ESG are set to become even more important in 2023.
Having a firm Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) policy that is publicly accessible is only a small part of the puzzle. Placing the operational frameworks in place to make that ESG policy more than a box-ticking exercise is arguably the key challenge facing the packaging industry in 2023.
One way to respond to this trend is to future-proof machinery investments by making sure they can easily be modified to be compatible with a wide range of materials. A folder-gluer that can switch between different substrates and box styles with only a short make-ready, for example, could pay for itself many times over at a time when research and development in sustainable substrates and packaging materials have never been faster.
This will allow converters and manufacturers to offer their customers more sustainable solutions – perhaps even ones that are yet to make it to market.
While the Environmental part of ESG tends to get most of the spotlight due to the global drive for sustainability, a good ESG policy should be more holistic in nature. It must consider things like employee safety and wellbeing in order to meet the demands of today’s consumers. Asset and people safety, utilising safekeeping services like Houweling Group, will also be key exhibitors in the Empack Zone for precisely this reason.
New technology and a pioneering spirit
Economic uncertainty, evolving consumer behaviour, and increased pressure to become more sustainable mean businesses are faced with a puzzle. The only solution to this puzzle is innovation.
Innovative thinking allows businesses to streamline their packaging operations with minimal extra cost. It also ensures any costs that are incurred lead to enhanced productivity and profitability in the future. Packaging technology is a constantly evolving field that can enhance productivity in a variety of ways, some of which are obvious – a more efficient slitter, for example, means less waste is produced during label making – while others are less obvious.
One example of this outside-the-box innovation is vacuum lifting technology from TAWI, part of the global Piab Group. Vacuum lifters use suction to create a hermetic seal that can lift sheets, cartons, and boxes and move them at high speed, offering improved productivity and safety compared to existing material handling solutions.
Whatever problems the industry faces in 2023, it is likely the solution will be on the show floor at Packaging Innovations & Empack, Featuring Contract Pack & Fulfilment where attendees will be able to explore the leading edge of packing and filling technology for themselves.
The event is free for attendees and takes place at the Birmingham NEC next week, on 15 & 16 February. To book your attendance now, visit www.packagingbirmingham.com.